How did “meme marketing” make Balenciaga the most powerful brand today?

“I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to create the most expensive trash bag in the world because – who doesn’t love a fashion scandal?” said Demna Gvasalia, creative director of the luxury brand Balenciaga, when presenting the latest creation, the Trash Bag Large Pouch, and that’s probably all that we should know about his marketing and advertising strategy.

Priced at just under two thousand dollars, and without exaggeration inspired by the trash bags we use every day, this bag made the internet “burn” with comments – which, at the end of the day, was the point. Although there were users who discovered that they really wanted a bag like this, there were also those who felt that all those who buy it should end up in it, alluding to its connection with trash.

Photo: Instagram / HIGHSNOBIETY

Following the work of the French brand in the last seven years that Demna has been at the head of the creative sector, it is clear to us that this is not the first time that Balenciaga wanted to create a “fashion scandal”. Let’s remember destroyed sneakers, seven-layer jackets, bags modeled after the famous IKEA bags, earrings that are actually shoelaces, t-shirts… The brand presented so many bizarre pieces, at the same time not at all cheap, that everyone rightly wondered how the essence luxury turned upside down and how much fun in fashion is actually too much fun?

It is undeniable that Balenciaga has this superpower to make modern even what is not at all, and that their “trash” is someone’s treasure. In fact, that is the secret of success. Although the comments on their “fashion trips” are not always positive, this brand seems to confirm the old rule that all marketing is good marketing.

What is this really about? Demna also understands that people need to talk about a brand in order for it to be popular, and the way he achieves this is actually quite ingenious. Think about it – how much looping is needed to present a product that is known in advance to be harshly criticized, what for the design, what for the price? However, the fact that this approach is worth the risk is proven by the fact that from 2015 until today, the brand has become more and more popular, and that annual sales reportedly exceed the amount of 1.54 billion dollars.

Photo: Instagram / Diet Prada

When the Trash Bag was introduced to the public, Balenciaga was mentioned in over 54 thousand tweets representing two million dollars worth of media influence (a measure of media mentions). Perfectly achieved free marketing? Oh yes. And the presentation of Kim Kardashian as the face of the brand from February of this year until today brought almost 90 million dollars worth of media influence, and the collaboration with the famous game Fortnite and the appearance in the cult sitcom “The Simpsons” confirmed the influence that Balenciaga has on pop culture.

The strength of the brand is reflected in the fact that Balenciaga knows who it is talking to. The focus is on generation Z and although many consider it not a smart move since many representatives of this generation are too young to be able to afford their pieces, this kind of advertising strategy obviously works. In the long term, the younger generations are crucial for this brand because it is during adolescence that self-esteem and self-actualization develop, which will contribute to strengthening the status that Balenciaga wants to provide to its customers. When we think about it a little more, Balenciaga is everything that the “jeans” want from a brand – it is present on social networks, it can be perceived as a brand with an anti-fashion view, and besides, it honestly advocates for sustainability.

This brand understands its consumers, the ways in which trends develop and recognize opportunities when they can start one themselves. Using the so-called pull strategy, Balenciaga has positioned itself on the market as an authentic, inclusive brand that knows how to get close to people, that has a wide range of products and that, despite being considered luxurious, is essentially not that expensive compared to the competition.

“Balenciaga is actually a perfect example of what is missing in the performance of many companies when we talk about communications”, believes Veljko Davidović, PR consultant of the Smartpoint Adria agency and adds: “The very fact that Balenciaga addresses a generation that is almost completely different from all the previous ones and that completely it perceives brands differently, and it has to perform differently, in a way that many companies dealing with communications in a traditional way would not even consider.”

Photo: Instagram / Balenciaga

When you think of this brand, you probably think of all those inexplicable creations, but Balenciaga is far from offering its customers only that. The bottom line is that the brand has its own tactic thanks to which it attracts so much attention, which is meme marketing. And, in their case, meme marketing is smart marketing because people will always remember what they see rather than what they hear, and if we add to that the fact that visuals affect the human mind and emotions in a special way, the hit is achieved.

Balenciaga creates products, not visuals, and these products are so extraordinary that the audience simply has to comment on them. Those products in themselves are so “meme worthy” that it is impossible not to use them for the purposes of creating probably the most popular and most loved content on the Internet.

With the help of certain products, obviously wisely designed, and meme marketing, the audience develops a “love-hate relationship”, which arouses curiosity, and therefore encourages engagement. In this way, attention is drawn to the brand and its reach increases. And, once you get people to follow and have an attitude towards what you do, you can later present and promote it all in a variety of ways, with the inevitable achievement of the desired effect.

Photo: Instagram / HIGHSNOBIETY

The approach that the brand has in terms of design and marketing can also be understood as a social experiment. Although we will probably never know exactly what Demna had in mind when he designed certain pieces, someone will assume that they are metaphors that show what kind of society we live in, what our consumer habits are or attitudes about certain issues that affect us all. One can also speak of a kind of fashion parody, since rich individuals spend large sums of money to look – poor. In the minds of average customers, many things in this story may seem illogical, but as long as we think “what the writer wanted to say”, we bring this brand exactly what he wanted – attention.

Once simple and elegant, Balenciaga is now provocative and unconventional, pushing boundaries and indulging in new extremes. Her creative approach blurs the lines between fashion, art and current social issues and phenomena, rightly making her one of the most powerful brands today.

No matter how much PR, communications and marketing are viewed as modern industries that listen to trends and feel the pulse of the audience they are addressing, it seems that they are still a bit conservative when it comes to certain topics that would actually connect the brand even more and on a deeper level with to his “followers”. It’s true: Balenciaga may not be everyone’s “cup of tea”, but it cannot be denied that it still knows what it’s doing and that its marketing strategies can be useful to marketers – only, it’s important to be open to a somewhat different approach, points out Veljko Davidović , PR consultant of the Smartpoint Adria agency. “Balenciaga may be an extreme example, but it is also an example that can motivate us to get rid of the fear of negative comments because we really miss many opportunities because of it,” concludes Davidović.

Photo: Veljko Davidović, PR consultant, Smartpoint Adria

For the Marketing network, the text was written by: Ivana Tomić, Brand Specialist, SmartPoint Adria

Source: Marketing Mreža by

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