Before the advent of social media, if you wanted to show that you liked Mercedes Benz cars, Dom Perignon champagne or Burberry trench coats then you had to buy one, or at least buy something endorsed with that brands name. Nowadays you can simply click “like” on the brands Facebook page.
Luxury brands were initially reluctant to adopt social media into their marketing mix, but 69% of luxury brands* have now fully embraced social and are allocating increasingly significant levels of their marketing budget to build their social media presence.
Burberry committed 60%** of its marketing budget to digital advertising over the last year and have seen a 29%* increase in revenue as a result.Half a million of Burberrys 14 million+ Facebook fans were invited to preview their new fragrance, Burberry body. The category saw a 96%*** increase in sales.
“To anyone who is sceptical at all: you have to be totally connected with everyone who touches your brand. You have to. You have to create a social enterprise today. If you don’t do that, I don’t know what your business model is in 5 years.” – Angela Ahrendts, Burberry CEO
- There is a wealth of compelling statistics available to support Angela Ahrendts’ statement:
Households earning over $100k spend 23 hours a week online, with 6 of those hours being spent on Facebook (Bernie Brennan, co-author of “Branded: How Retailers Engage Consumers with Social Media and Mobility.”)
- 67% of EU consumers and 50% of American consumers say that they research luxury items online before they buy them – which implies that if you can influence those consumers online, it can have a positive effect on sales. (Digital IQ report)
- 28% of affluent consumers share information about luxury purchases on blogs. Twitter, Facebook or other social media websites. (Empathica)
So what about the 31% that aren’t yet on social media, surely it’s a no brainer?
There seems to be a common misconception amongst marketers for those brands that have yet to embrace social, that luxury brands do not belong there. Luxury brands, by their very nature, are about exclusivity whereas social media is about engaging with the largest audience possible.
However, the key issue that is being overlooked is that evoking desirability is crucial to keeping luxury alive. Luxury brands need aspirational customers in order to maintain the status of the brand.
The actual customers of a luxury brand tend to be cash rich but time poor, so aspirational consumers will be more engaged with your luxury brand on social platforms. Having a large social base of these aspirational consumers who can only covet but cannot actually purchase helps to establish your products as exclusive. This automatically elevates your actual consumers to a higher status, whether that’s socially, financially or both.
The aspirational consumer could eventually become an actual customer, when they have the means to do so. And even if they never have the means to purchase one of your “halo” products, i.e. a Gucci handbag, a bottle of l’essence de Courvoisier or a BMW M series car, they are likely to purchase a more attainable entry level product such as a Gucci keyring, or perhaps they’ll order a measure of Courvoisier VS at the bar or even purchase a car from BMWs more basic 1 series.
Creating products with a lower barrier to entry for aspirational consumers not only adds a higher volume of sales to your bottom line, it also allows a larger number of consumers to become your brand ambassadors. Once a consumer has tried your product there is a higher chance that they will continue to purchase and recommend your brand.
A brilliant example from Gucci on engaging consumers, both aspirational and actual, as well as promoting products and driving awareness through social media: The Cut and Craft FB app:
Facebook users could select from a choice of 3 handbag pattern templates, print them out and decorate them. They were then encouraged to upload a photo of their creation to the voting section for a chance to win.
Printing, decorating and photographing a bag is asking a lot from a user, but Gucci only needed a handful of beautifully designed paper bags to drive awareness of the campaign via sharing on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Flickr.
Live from Hyde Park: An example of how Burberry provide their fans with exclusive content.
Fashionistas had more access to the show than ever before via their mobiles as Burberry allowed them to connect to the show via Facebook and Twitter for exclusive content and to share what they liked with friends.
Fans that watched the show online were then able to purchase the runway collection exclusively for one week immediately after the show, before the products went on sale globally eight weeks later.
Tiffany & co have created an immersive online experience centred around love. The integrated online campaign for its www.whatmakeslovetrue.com launch that, along with its corresponding iPhone app, was designed to be a go-to resource for soon to be wed couples:
- Real –life love stories (told in film & with photographs)
- Short film by Edward Burns ‘will you marry me?’
- Relationship advice
- Love song playlist
- Themed destination recommendations
The key thing that all of the above examples are striving to create is emotion. Whether it’s via engaging consumers, providing exclusive content or a unique experience, the end goal is to evoke an emotion.
Consumers that buy Burberry do so because they want to feel “authentic” and “timeless.” They buy Gucci to feel “stylish.” They see Tiffany’s as the ultimate declaration of “love.”
The target consumer of a luxury brand can buy almost any material item that they want. The physical product is therefore secondary to the emotion attached to it.
The primary product is actually the elusive and intangible emotion that the consumer associates with the luxury brand. The physical products are simply mediums through which consumers attain that emotion.
Our challenge with luxury brands is to utilise social and digital technology to address both the aspirational and the actual consumer, in a way that expresses the specific emotion that we want consumers to associate with the brand.
(Source: *digital IQ index 2012 **Marketing Week,*** Brand Republic)