With its pre-destroyed sneakers, is Balenciaga instrumenting our indignation?

As usual, the French luxury house Balenciaga is once again causing scandal. After Tati bags and jogging tucked into kiffeur-style socks, its art director Demna Gvasalia is launching pre-destroyed sneakers, dubbed Paris. Can the indignation aroused serve your marketing?

Demna Gvasalia is used to shock. In 2015, with her clothing brand of hers, she presented her fall winter 2015-2016 collection at the Depot, a gay sex club in the capital, attracting a lot of media coverage, half offended and half excited. Few remember the clothes from the show, but everyone remembers her name and her brand, so much so that François-Henri Pinault (CEO of the luxury group Kering) appoints him as head of the illustrious Balenciaga family, queen of architectural constructions.

From there, Demna Gvasalia connects scandalous performances, which make these creations hyper-commented, visible, which translate almost mechanically into commercial successes. After Crocs with stiletto heels, minimalist five-pointed shoes, large Tati shopping bags and joggers tucked into socks, Balenciaga returns to glamorize another sartorial detail of the hottest social classes: really worn sneakers.

Balenciaga’s new pre-destroyed sneakers, from € 395 to € 1450

Count € 495 for the mule versions, € 495 for the high tops and € 1450 for the pre-destroyed high tops of Balenciaga’s Paris sneakers. © Screenshot of the eshop.

Indeed, the French luxury house has just released new pairs of sneakers, called Paris. They look like Converse, and are available in different shapes: in open mules on heels for € 395, or high, for € 495. In both cases they show some signs of wear, as if they had been roughly cut with scissors for the low models, or rubbed back against walls for the high ones.

But this is another version that is upsetting social media since the official release, on May 9, 2022, of the Paris sneakers by Balenciaga by Demna Gvasalia. Because the ad campaign features much more worn variants, full of holes and dirt. Officially, the brand explains it this announcement is intended to show that these new sneakers are made to be worn for life, even when worn.

And to better mark the spirits (goal of a successful advertising campaign), the house even sells 100 extremely worn pieces, at € 1450 the pair of sneakers pre-dirty, pre-punched, pre-shredded, and then ready to be imported (but Demna Gvasalia would surely reply that it is a tribute to Marcel Duchamp’s ready-mades, which must be seen as an artistic gesture that calls our society into question, and not as vulgar prêt-à-porter sneakers).

A provocative advertising campaign, already viral thanks to the indignation of the networks

It was therefore enough for internet users to protest and re-share the images of the most destroyed and dirty sneakers, scandalized by their price. Some messages appear to be a form of ostentatious virtue (also called virtual reporting). Others enjoy themselves, reading in Demna Gvasalia’s gesture in Balenciaga a form of social experimentation worth seeing how much luxury customers are willing to pay to dress up as poor people.

Disguising as a poor fellow by buying several hundred euros for pre-worn clothes and sneakers is just what the Abbé Pierre foundation is urging. who also reacted on Twitter:

A bad buzz remains a buzz, of course, but at what cost?

Trying to provoke outrage and re-share part of Balenciaga’s marketing strategy with this new campaign for these pre-worn Parisian sneakers? We can ask ourselves the question when we see surprised or offended by the virality of these massively shared images on Twitter, Instagram and many media outlets.

In trending topic for a few hours on the social network with the blue bird just bought by Elon Musk, the French luxury maison would not be the first to exploit the indignation that promotes virality on social networks. Because generating engagement and conversations is literally part of the key performance indicators (the so-called KPIs, in English: Key Performance Indicator) of an advertising campaign.

That so many people and the media talk, even badly, about the latest Balenciaga sneakers mechanically improves the SEO of the eshop of the brand – already the most cited and sought after online in the last quarter of 2021 – as well as reminding people who appreciate it that it exists and that it offers new products. It is a possible technique growth hacking, as marketers say, is growth hacking. Maybe someday, The internet will understand that re-sharing a brand’s latest ad to be indignant about it takes more than it does. But not now, we want likes and RT.


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Title photo credit: Balenciaga.

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