8 February 2022
Author: Gursharan Panesar and Lavinia Fasano
Image: Gucci and The North Face with Highsnobiety, Photography by Ronan Gallagher
As pop culture pundits become stars in their own right, luxury brands have the opportunity to use a new generation of earnest influencers. The rise of TikTok and its eclectic algorithm has allowed more human and heartfelt creators to gain attention. One such influencer is Francis Bourgeois, a 20-year-old British trainspotter whose endearing videos have earned him a cult following. Cementing his status as an unlikely style icon, Italian luxury house Gucci recently featured Bourgeois in a campaign for its collaboration with The North Face.
Bourgeois – whose real name is Luke Nicholson – previously had the authenticity of his gawky trainspotting persona and passion questioned when old images of the creator decked out in a standard Gen Z garb surfaced online. The harsh accusations faced by Bourgeois highlight the ethical perils of the vigilante culture on which cringecore marketing depends. It might be that this very ambiguity is what captured the attention of Gucci when it was seeking a protagonist who symbolised the intersection of authenticity, luxury and streetwear.
For companies wanting to engage with cringecore marketing, it’s important to understand that brand perception is ultimately uncontrollable. By handing the reins to niche communities and digital commentators, businesses can insert themselves into the cultural conversation. But they must be prepared for any outcome, recognising how the loss of a carefully choreographed narrative can fuel online conversation and heighten consumer engagement. It’s here that luxury brands can successfully contribute to the digital zeitgeist.
Gursharan Panesar is a junior futures analyst at The Future Laboratory
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