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22,552 $m

With the launch of a new line of handbags (with an individual pricetag of USD $40,000) and the opening of two new retail spaces in Venice and Munich, Louis Vuitton, one of the world's most famously counterfeited brands, has repositioned to protect and elevate its legendary status. This strategy signifies a move to resolve the tensions between high volumes versus authentic craftsmanship, and ubiquitous presence versus understated exclusivity by raising the bar higher. Over the past few years, Louis Vuitton has placed greater emphasis on higher-end products and enhancing its retail experience. Not surprisingly, the brand's "quest for excellence" and "creative momentum" have been driving forces behind its sustained success.

Reflecting its strength in the physical world, Louis Vuitton also maintains a sizable digital presence with almost 18 million Facebook fans, 3.8 million Twitter followers and almost 70 million YouTube views-sparked by the "L'Invitation au Voyage" campaign starring David Bowie. With its mix of iconic luggage and high-end fashion, Louis Vuitton is well differentiated and yet consistent across all touchpoints, including corporate sponsorships such as the America's Cup. However, the brand originally inspired by "the spirit of travel" is affected both by fluctuating exchange rates in the global economy and the impact of political and economic climates on key consumers, such as Russian and Chinese travelers. It faces a tough, but fascinating, challenge: preserve demand as well as its allure while shifting the very nature of its demand drivers. In order to retain strong brand loyalty with global consumers-especially those in the vital Asia-Pacific market-Louis Vuitton must leverage its core strengths in extraordinary design, technical innovation, style, and authenticity. Its recent agreement with online Chinese giant, Alibaba, to prevent the sale of 'knockoffs' should help boost sales in a space where web transactions outnumber those of both Amazon and eBay combined. This fall will be a defining season, with the launch of the Frank Gehry-designed Fondation Louis Vuitton, and the new collection of Marc Jacobs' successor, Nicolas Guesquière, hitting stores. Parent company LVMH-and brandwatchers-wait with bated breath.

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