eyes on the U.S.

Is Apple Still A Luxury Brand?

Jean-Noël Kapferer and Vincent Bastien

PARIS - So Yves Saint Laurent"s CEO has been named vice president at Apple. We don't know much yet about what Paul Deneve's role will be beyond the company's mention of "special projects" and his reporting to Apple chief Tim Cook, but let's try to analyze the move from the perspective of luxury strategy.

We all know that luxury brands in particular prefer managers who have worked in the mass consumption arena. But they also have to unlearn some of their strategies to avoid killing the luxury brand. Indeed, luxury marketing is ruled by a set of "anti rules," diktats that are completely different from traditional consumer marketing guidelines.

In Apple's case, the strategy is different: The company is clearly and unapologetically recruiting a luxury expert. And not just any luxury expert: someone from an iconic and exclusive global fashion brand. The hire came as a surprise to most Apple watchers even though, since Steve Jobs' return to the company in 1997, Apple has committed to the sort of strategy directly inspired by the most famous French luxury brands.

This kind of blueprint is rarely executed outside the traditional luxury area. But Apple's success turned out to be as enormous as the challenge itself.

Swimming in the iPool - Photo: JD Hancock

Consider the fact that not all luxury brands actually adopt a corresponding luxury strategy. Actually, only the best brands do. The others are managed as fashion brands, or premium brands, without explicitly communicating that to consumers -- ostensibly to retain their "luxury" prestige. If luxury is a subjective concept, the luxury strategy is a very specific and extremely profitable business model. Key elements include:

- a founding myth, a kind of utopia forming the brand's dream;

- a creator that embodies the myth;

- a social status dimension that transcends pure function;

- a brand rich in art and design that imposes certain standards;

- no marketing: the brand is not chasing consumers, but the consumers desire the brand;

- the possibility for consumers to customize the products through accessories;

- the will to control 100% of distribution;

- and finally, a sale price well north of the factory price.

Steve Jobs' Apple had all these elements. Although this strategy can be very effective, it is difficult to maintain when sales increase too much. So limiting sales -- as Hermès and Rolex do -- is the natural solution. But to keep growing, the luxury strategy must ultimately be abandoned in favor of a premium strategy (like the one Mercedes adopted) or a fashion strategy (in the case of Louis Vuitton a few years ago). The major risks of the latter two strategies are precipitous declines in demand and profitability.

Since Steve Jobs' death, it's fair to wonder whether Apple is at risk. Jobs embodied Apple's dream, introducing the revolutionary iPod, iPhone and iPad. But then a series of events have led some to question whether we're witnessing the end of an era, the end of a myth: the all-but-innovative launch of the iPhone 5, the decision to allow Google Maps back into the Apple universe, the public discussions about the brand's strategies for tax optimization, and the drop of the Apple stock price, to name the biggest ones. If Apple doesn't want to continue the luxury strategy anymore and doesn't think it can adopt the premium strategy because of competitor Samsung's leading position, choosing a third option makes sense. A fashion strategy is logical, and so is the recruitment of an Yves Saint Laurent director.

Retreating from the luxury strategy will cost Apple significantly. One of the beauties of this approach is the freedom to set its own prices. Apple is losing that advantage, and the impact on both profitability and the value of the brand will become obvious quickly.

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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