In the past, fashion brands could tightly control their perception with carefully managed public relations and marketing campaigns. Today, a brand’s image is largely in the hands of consumers who augment, challenge and reframe a brand’s narrative in real time online.

This presents an opportunity for growth if customers mirror the communications of the brand when they post about it on social media. On the flip side, if customers present a different image, the brand risks misleading other customers and diluting long-term brand equity. Consider Burberry’s recent efforts to expand beyond tartan and trenchcoats to luxury-priced handbags, which has confused customers who see the brand primarily as a purveyor of premium outerwear. In contrast, Parisian fashion house Balmain conveys a consistent image of bold empowerment and rebellion and tells its customers they are joining a fashion movement when they shop the collection — and customers agree. Creative director Olivier Rousteing has even gone so far as to dub the brand’s customers the “Balmain Army.” These customers share content online that mirrors Balmain’s own, allowing the brand to expand its sharp image via its customers’ feeds.

Which fashion brands are the most in tune with their customers, and how do they achieve it?

Measuring Alignment in The BoF Brand Magic Index

The BoF Brand Magic Index is a rigorous brand measurement tool that aims to provide marketers with a data-backed answer to the question of what makes a powerful brand. The Alignment metric measures how closely content from audiences on social media matches the content created by the brand itself.

We measure Alignment in three steps.

First, we assess the values that a brand conveys on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube, classifying content according to Carl Jung’s 12 archetypes. We detect archetypes using proprietary AI models created by Quilt.AI, which have been trained on over one billion cultural expressions to accurately evaluate images and videos for their underlying emotions.

Second, we analyse which archetypes customers express when they share content about a brand on the same platforms.

Third, we compare the archetypes from the brand with the archetypes conveyed by customers. The brands with the most similar archetype expressions to their customers rank highest on Alignment. Our thesis is that the most aligned brands have a clear identity that resonates with customers, and will outperform over the long term.

The Alignment metric in The BoF Brand Magic Index classifies content according to the 12 archetypes developed by Carl Jung.
The Alignment metric in The BoF Brand Magic Index classifies content according to the 12 archetypes developed by Carl Jung.

Who Topped the Ranking

Dior, Balmain and Tod’s led the ranking in Alignment in the top three positions. Each portrayed strong, focused identities that had the greatest similarities to their customers.

The Alignment metric in The BoF Brand Magic Index analyses the strength of the brand-customer relationship as measured by brand and user-generated content on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube between October 2023 and March 2024.
The Alignment metric in The BoF Brand Magic Index analyses the strength of the brand-customer relationship as measured by brand and user-generated content on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube between October 2023 and March 2024.

How They Did It

1. Maintain a Consistent Identity Across Product Categories

Dior took the No. 1 rank in Alignment, with an image of glamour and couture excellence that is clearly understood and played back by customers. Dior and its customers’ content came to life primarily via Ruler and Explorer archetypes, associated with themes of leadership, power and travel. For example, images from Dior’s Autumn/Winter 2024/2025 show projected Ruler, with models walking around an installation of cane sculptures representing armoured warriors heading into battle. Audiences played this back in content featuring Dior’s elegant looks balanced with commanding poses.

Dior’s strong Alignment is also no accident. Under creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri, the brand overhauled its product offer and communications to increase consistency across lines from high-end eveningwear to more accessible beauty, a strategy known internally as “One Dior.” For example, an Instagram post in October for Dior’s prestige skincare line includes visuals of a pillow and blanket featuring the same Toile de Jouy print that also features on Dior’s handbags, creating visual alignment and a sense of glamour and detailed craftsmanship across Dior’s product categories and price points.

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Other brands with a wide range of product lines, such as Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren, ranked lower in Alignment (46th and 48th, respectively). While these brands are able to generate a large portion of revenues from outlets and low-priced lines, their decision to play in the low end comes at a cost to their image as high-status brands. Both have invested in elevating their image in recent years, including raising prices and returning to the runway in the case of Tommy Hilfiger. Getting audiences to play back this elevated image, while holding onto lucrative low-priced lines, may be the next challenge.

2. Stay True to Brand Archetypes Even Amid Changing Trends

Even amid the quiet luxury boom, Parisian fashion house Balmain has stayed true to its aesthetics with its trademark powerful shoulders, loud textures and body-hugging curves, presented by models in powerful poses and direct gazes. Balmain customers played back this identity in their social media posts about the brand, many of which included their own power stances, exerting leadership and control. As a result, Balmain and its customers primarily align on the Ruler archetype.

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3. Blend New Codes With Archetypal Ones

Fashion brands must, however, adapt to stay fresh, which can present challenges for Alignment. For example, Gucci ranked 45th in Alignment, but also transitioned creative directors from Alessandro Michele to Sabato De Sarno during the assessment period. It may take some time for customers to adjust from Michele’s maximalist take on Gucci to De Sarno’s more subdued, timeless looks.

On the other hand, Louis Vuitton managed to uphold relatively high alignment at No. 15, even whilst welcoming a new creative director for menswear in Pharrell. This may come down to Pharrell’s ability to weave Louis Vuitton archetypes throughout his collections. Louis Vuitton’s dominant archetypes were Ruler, Explorer and Sage, characterised by authority, adventure and contemplation. For example, a post featuring Pharrell’s Louis Vuitton collaboration with Tyler, The Creator maintains Louis Vuitton’s archetypes of Explorer with an adventurous, travel-related setting, and Sage with a contemplative expression.

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4. Balance Brand Consistency With Cultural Engagement

It’s possible for a brand to be highly aligned, but not driving much in the way of cultural conversation. Alignment measures how customers embody a brand’s identity, whereas the Brand Magic Engagement metric looks at how effective brands are at driving buzz, as measured by customer behaviour on Instagram and TikTok. We plotted brands’ scores for Alignment against their scores for Engagement to identify brands that are both well understood and leading the cultural conversation, since the most magical brands have clear identities while managing to consistently be at the forefront of culture. They balance the timelessness of their identity with the timeliness of the culture. That balance is exactly what Brand Magic measures.

Plotting BoF’s Brand Magic metrics of Alignment versus Engagement reveals which brands are able to lead on both.
Plotting BoF’s Brand Magic metrics of Alignment versus Engagement reveals which brands are able to lead on both.

For example, Dior’s high score on both Engagement and Alignment places the brand in the top right “Magical Brands” quadrant, suggesting that Dior maintains a consistent brand identity whilst also generating buzz.

On the other hand, Tod’s, which ranked No. 2 in Alignment but No. 34 in Engagement, drives less buzz online, showing how the brand flies under the radar with a brand identity that is straightforward but muted. Growth may require considering how to drive more engagement without losing the clear identity Tod’s has built with its audiences.

BoF Insights and Quilt.AI work directly with brands on bespoke engagements to measure Brand Magic in detail and over time, enabling brands to identify positioning opportunities, deeply understand their customers and measure their marketing impact. Contact our team if you are interested in learning how we can work with you.

This article is part of a series that unpacks the three assessment metrics in the second volume of The BoF Brand Magic Index, which assessed 50 of fashion and luxury’s largest brands over a six-month period from October 2023 to March 2024.

A sample of The BoF Brand Magic Index featuring more information about the methodology is available for download here.

Full access to The BoF Brand Magic Index is for Executive members. For unlimited access to this and all future editions, become an Executive Member now.

Note that Balmain does not reveal the number of Instagram likes its posts receive, so we were not able to allocate it an Engagement score.



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