Today’s Wall Street Journal reported that French luxury-goods company, Christian Dior, is launching its new line of mobile phones. Yes, you read that right. Now you can buy a Dior cell phone. And this is not the first high-fashion luxury designer to make the leap from couture to cell phones. Dior is following in the footsteps of Prada, Giorgio Armani and Dolce & Gabbana each of which has turned their luxury phones into considerable business. But, you won’t find these phones in the U.S. – in fact, you won’t even find them in Europe. While the phones will work globally (except for Japan and Korea), they will only be available in emerging markets like China and Russia where consumers are hungry for big brands and cell phones are not viewed as disposable commodities.
The Dior phone will feature a slim clamshell design, complete with crystals along the top cover. The phone comes with all the regular features of a cell phone – touchscreen, camera, ringtones – but offers one addition: a remote control. Called the “My Dior,” the remote is for women who don’t want to rummage through their big designer bags to find their phones. The My Dior clips to the outside of a bag for easier access. Through Bluetooth technology, it communicates with the main phone, so users can perform basic functions with it, such as placing and answering calls. But at $5,000 a pop, will consumers actually buy this phone? Dior’s phone is significantly pricier than that of its rivals. Prada and D&G’s phones are priced at a much lower, though still unreasonable, $600.
So, why cell phones? In light of the grim economy and declining retail sales, luxury fashion houses are looking for additional ways to boost sales and make money. But are they sacrificing the brand in exchange for retail gain? This is risky business. As branding experts, we advise our clients to choose line extensions that support and strengthen the brand. Choosing a new product or extension with the intention of increasing short term growth or sales, almost always is a detriment to the brand’s reputation. When consumers think of Dior they think of high-end luxury fashion. They don’t think of cell phones – nor should they. Line extensions like these can risk cheapening the brand name, causing it to lose its exclusivity and distinctiveness. These designers should stick to what they know – and that’s couture, not phones.