Louis Packs It In

Louis Vuitton

Today is the birthday of Louis Vuitton, born in 1821.  What can we learn about marketing from Louis Vuitton? Let’s just say Louis packs it in. Here are just a few:

Louis was born in Anchay France in 1821.  At age 14, he ran 292 miles away from home to get away from a strict stepmother. He found himself an apprentice to a box maker. He was so skilled at his craft, he found himself packing wares for Paris’ upper-class citizens, including the Empress of France. He soon opened his own shop.

The first thing we notice is how carefully Louis positioned his product. Well ahead of his time, the sign outside his shop read “Securely packs the most fragile objects. Specializing in packing fashions”. Louis was careful to differentiate his box from every other “common” box. His box was different.

The second thing we can learn from Louis is to keep an eye open for problems to solve, because common problems present opportunities. Soon after opening his store, he invented a solution to radically improve the common storage trunk. Most luggage in 1821 consisted of round-topped trunks, which could not be stacked when carried on boats, trains, or horse-drawn carriages. These round-topped trunks were treated roughly, and valuable items were frequently broken in transit.  Louis created a strong flat trunk that could be stacked. Both advantages were of great value to wealthy travelers, who were in need of many pieces of luggage and needed to protect their valuable items in transport.  In 1886, Georges Vuitton, Louis’s son, revolutionized the lock, turning a travel trunk into a treasure chest, and improving its value again.

The third thing we can learn? If you have a valuable product, you can bet that competitors will emerge wanting a piece of your pie. If you have competitors who want to be just like you? Take it as a compliment. It adds to your product value. Remember the Louis Vuitton conglomerate is one of the world’s most valuable fashion brands, yet Louis Vuitton knockoffs abound.

Learn from Louis. He was an inventor, yes. But Louis’s most amazing invention was how to position his products in the minds of the most wealthy and fashion conscious patrons in Paris.

That’s this week’s Imagination Hat.

Image Louis Vuitton Autumn 2012 Fashion Campaign.