We love stories, and nothing gets us more interested in a brand than a compelling one. Cartier’s recent epic advert L’Odyssée, clocking in at just over three-and-a-half minutes and two years in the making, shows the brand as more than just a dream come true, but as a maker of dreams. Take a look for yourself.
Cartier joins the likes of Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld as a fully-fledged creator of content. The vignette is rich and sweeping, and just as sparkling to look at as the jeweller’s normal fare, but what story does this actually tell us about the brand?
Cartier takes us around the world, from its Paris home to the Far East and back again, touching on the brand’s rich international heritage. One part explorer, one part magician, the iconic character of the panther is the embodiment of the Cartier woman as “elegant, free-spirited and independent.” It meanders through a fantasy world that is a bit The Secret Garden meets The Golden Compass meets Hugo and Tin Tin. Like these fantasies, L’Odyssée delivers on adventure, but without really going anywhere. We first encounter the panther encased in crystal, from which it breaks free, bursting through a glass ceiling, but rather than exploring the world anew, the panther prowls through the glory of its own past, only to end up encased again, this time in a jewellery box.
While the sprawling scope of the advert allows Cartier to include many elements of the brand’s heritage, it also comes across as a bit imperial. There’s an element of the conqueror in the grandiosity of the vistas, the positioning of the panther on top of mountains, buildings (and even aeroplanes) and in the brooding, though beautiful, original score. We’re quite certain this will play in emerging markets like China and India where the muscle of luxury juggernauts like Louis Vuitton still equal big status. We’re less certain about markets like France and the UK where luxury cues tend to be more subtle and nuanced. It could easily be seen as luxury conquest. The panther is still a predator, after all. And in a market like the US where luxury stories are often told with a boot-strapping sense of arrival through effort, this feels a bit too old-money to connect.
We might expect a campaign on this scale to set the benchmark for the category, but actually we’re not so sure it resonates in today’s society. For all its majesty, L’Odyssée seems stuck in Cartier’s past. Tie-ins with social media like the iPhone and Instagram have Tiffany’s delivering on ‘now’ much more effectively and becoming a must have luxury brand for today’s young while Cartier seems to be re-enforcing what we know about it, namely that it’s only for the long-moneyed uber-rich. We can see a future with Tiffany’s while the scarlet box seems closed on Cartier.
Anti-imperialism aside however, this does feel like a daring move for the brand. In a branding world that is increasingly about the experience, the stunning mini-movie with accompanying behind-the-scenes content had us spending more time with Cartier than we ever have before. This could be a great way for Cartier to leverage its long history as a purveyor of international style and assert itself as the luxury brand for the really really rich and, to be honest, if someone did send us one of those sparkly panther things we probably wouldn’t say no (although we might cash it in on eBay).