Gucci was founded almost 100 years ago, but it has found a new lease on life in recent years. Never far from the spotlight, the Italian luxury brand has managed to turn a brand plateau into a mountain peak experience. Operating income rose 21.9% last year. Impressive for any company, that’s almost earth-shattering for a seemingly mature brand like Gucci. Chalk it up to new management and a willingness to abandon the past.

In many ways, Gucci’s natural brand identity seems in perpetual step with modernity. One look at Gucci’s product range will tell you that this is not a company that is afraid to be flashy. But Gucci’s brand is more than flashy. There are plenty of luxury brands that offer pomp and excess, but few do it with the sense of humor that makes Gucci seem so of-the-moment.

Gucci has also embraced social media full bore. They’ve invited people to take their brand into unknown territory, encouraging image creation from all corners of the social media world that would have more than a few century-old brands quaking in their technicolor jodphur boots.

In fact, you can distill quite a few insights from Gucci, about reinvention and relentless relevance. Here are some of them that we think would be helpful to brands of all types.

  • Don’t Let the Past Dictate the Future. The Gucci of the 90’s wouldn’t work today. Gucci could choose to stay out of the Zeitgeist, instead relying on its enduring star power and name recognition. But that’s no way to cross new boundaries. Gucci has fiddled with their brand almost to the point of sacrilege, and to great effect. The company financials tell the story.
  • Be Free With Your Brand. Gucci strikes the perfect balance between careful brand curation and anarchy. They just outsource the anarchy. When you’re a brand whose logo has been tossed about on pirated goods, and used to name Atlanta rappers, you can’t be too much of a control freak. Where Bill Watterson apparently grimaces every time he sees unlicensed images of Calvin and Hobbes, you can’t help but feel that Gucci loves seeing people use their brand with abandon.
  • Be Distinct. While so many designers of high end footwear, watches, and clothes try to be somewhat subdued, no one could say that of Gucci. For good or ill, the company is bursting at the seems with color and design ideas. When you see someone wearing Gucci, there’s no question. It’s self-evident brandwear, and that’s a great way to build an empire.
  • Be Expensive. Sometimes you sell the most when most can’t afford your clothes. Of course, this doesn’t stop the masses from buying Gucci in some markets. There may be little room at the top when it comes to luxury wear, but Gucci proves that you can continue to make your mark, even years after your supposed prime.

Gucci is a famous brand; Gucci is a great brand; Gucci is a changing brand. We’re interested in their ongoing story.

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