PARIS – Silicon Valley, meet Luxury Tech Riviera.
The Mediterranean city of Cannes aims to leverage its image as a magnet for entertainment and jet-setters to become a global hub for research and innovation in the field of fashion and luxury, via a new partnership with the Côte d’Azur University, data research and insights company Launchmetrics and social networking platform TikTok.
The brainchild of Michael Jaïs, chief executive officer of Launchmetrics and a native of Cannes, the project will consist of a research arm, focused on studying affluent Millennials that are influential on social media, and the launch of a master’s degree and start-up studio to foster local entrepreneurship in the luxury sector.
“For this to be ambitious and to work, we need to create a complete structure with an academic arm, and a private portion with startups that can obtain financing and flourish in this ecosystem. We needed to recreate the ecosystem that exists in Silicon Valley,” Jaïs told WWD.
“Our sector has seen more changes in the last six months than in the 10 previous years. Coming out of the COVID-19 crisis, I think it’s the right time to try to develop a new hub and to give it all the resources it needs,” he added.
Industry heavyweights, including LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Clarins, are already on board. The master’s program, launching in October, will take on 30 students who will work in teams of three on field projects and research collaborations, at the initiative of the partner companies, with the aim of launching 10 startups in 2022.
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Jaïs hopes the location of the city, combined with the presence of high-end luxury consumers and wealthy investors, will attract top-flight talent. “Since the Côte d’Azur University is connected with big universities worldwide, the idea is to bring together people who are highly qualified and motivated, to become the entrepreneurs of tomorrow,” he said.
The research division, meanwhile, will analyze consumer trends using a combination of artificial intelligence, deep learning, predictive analysis, nowcasting, semantic web, customer analysis, behavioral economics and emotions.
On the one hand, data scientists will create algorithms to track trends among people below the age of 35 earning more than $100,000 per year and with more than 5,000 followers on social networks, known as affluencers.
“There are 100 million people that fall into this category,” Jaïs said. “The objective is to understand the consumer of 2025 and beyond.”
The second lab will use neuroscience to analyze emotion by monitoring facial expressions using eye tracking, facial recognition, and even dermal reactions.
“One of the big challenges today, as marketing and communication become increasingly virtual, is that you don’t know what emotions people feel when they are watching videos,” said Jaïs. “This allows you to know the intensity of their emotions, and also to measure concepts like authenticity.”
A first study, conducted in partnership with TikTok and the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, French fashion’s organizing body, will seek to measure Millennials’ reactions to online content posted during Paris Fashion Week. Results should be available this summer, Jaïs said.
The research division will be funded through a mix of public and private funds, but as a public institution, it will share its findings with the industry at large, he said.
Launchmetrics is particularly interested in advancing this field of study in order to finetune its AI-driven and proprietary Media Impact Value tool, which allows customers to benchmark their performance against 2,000 competitors worldwide.
“For social networks, there is very little feedback in terms of emotional performance. They count the number of likes, and that’s pretty much it, even though everyone knows that in this sector, the challenge is really to connect with customers on an emotional level,” Jaïs said.
“We really want to invest strongly to ensure that these research programs we’re supporting translate in our solutions into KPIs and indicators that can really measure emotion in a more structured way,” he added.
Eric Garandeau, director of public policy and government relationships for TikTok France, said it was a natural fit for the platform.
“As a home of creativity and self-expression, TikTok has also naturally become a new catwalk for luxury brands, accompanying their digital transformation and allowing them to reach and connect with a highly engaged and diverse community,” he said in a statement. “Inclusion and diversity being among our core values, TikTok will also sponsor access to the master’s program.”
Four years in development, the project benefits from the support of local authorities, who hope that once travel restrictions are lifted and physical events return, Luxury Tech Riviera will complement the city’s conference activities, from the MAPIC real estate trade fair to the TFWA duty-free and travel-retail summit and the Cannes International Series Festival.
“Cannes is becoming the epicenter for avant-garde innovation, research and higher education,” David Lisnard, mayor of Cannes, said in the statement.
“Thanks to our collaboration, we will enrich the academic and research programs offered in the region, with innovative fields of study based on how new purchasing behaviors are linked to the use of social networks. This project reinforces the positioning of Cannes as a city of creative industries, a source of new attractiveness, prosperity and jobs for our youth,” he added.
Jeanick Brisswalter, president of Côte d’Azur University, said the Master of Science in Luxury Tech Entrepreneurship and Affluencers Management will provide a unique combination of skills, with masterclasses taught by leading industry professionals.
“The luxury industry, emblematic of French know-how and of our territory, poses exciting challenges in research and innovation that are now being renewed by the growing importance of digital approaches, particularly artificial intelligence,” said Brisswalter.
“These new approaches imply the need for new training programs that combine artificial intelligence, economics, and consumer behavior. We are bringing to this partnership all of our research potential not only in these fields, but also in training,” he added.
The Côte d’Azur University won the Initiative d’Excellence (Idex) label in 2016, positioning it among the nine best French research-intensive universities.
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