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It could be a disaster or a match made in heaven. The truth is that the digital age can be a boon to luxury brands if they utilize the tools available in the right way to reach the right audience at the right time.
Think exclusivity means staying offline? Think again. According to McKinsey, 50% of luxury goods buying decisions are influenced by what consumers hear or see online. And, top luxury brands such as Burberry, Rolls-Royce, and Johnnie Walker are all catching on.
As head of a digital marketing agency that works with high-end luxury brands, here are some of the key lessons I’ve learned and the four rules you can apply to grow your own brand.
1) Brand Narrative Matters.
Today’s consumer is simultaneously a curator and a virtual artist. A luxury brand offers him or her an opportunity to showcase a lifestyle and a value system. It’s important for luxury brands to both understand what ideas and things are most desirable and how they can ally their products with them. For example, maybe the target demographic of a men’s luxury watch brand is inspired by the impact of and images surrounding the concept of “legacy.” The brand’s job, then, is to create a tie-in. That tie-in could be a video featuring fathers and sons that emphasizes the high quality and longevity of the watch, or a campaign that frames the gifting of the watch as a tradition that marks a son or grandson’s coming of age.
Another resonant brand narrative for luxury brands is the blending of heritage and modern style. Burberry has had great success bringing its rich history together with modern icons and influencers to leverage the best of both worlds.
However a brand shapes its narrative, the important thing to remember is that consumers won’t just be buying a product; they’ll be claiming a means of self-expression.
2) Balance Exclusivity with Visibility.
Once a brand narrative is established, It’s critical that brands don’t get stuck in a zero sum game between exclusivity and visibility. One at the expense of another is useless. The ideal relationship between the two is one of mutual benefit. For example, an Instagram campaign of the hottest high fashion models donning your luxury brand’s designer sunglasses or silk scarves capitalizes on both an inclusive, far reaching social platform and the exclusivity of being associated with figures that feel larger than life.
While working with Emaar, a luxury developer in Dubai, the main take-away for all of us was that their exclusivity wasn’t going to stem from their being inaccessible. Rather, and somewhat obviously, it would be sourced in what they actually stood for – excellence and a fine lifestyle. The natural next step was to highlight the fact that conveying that message to the public wasn’t just an afterthought or add on, but something that needed to be integrated in every aspect of how the company was run.
3) Inspire a Sense of Belonging.
What luxury brands have in common with all brands is that their success depends on inspiring a sense of ownership in their target demographic. All brands, to some extent, are blank canvases, or rather templates, through which consumers express their own interests and convictions. The more engagement a brand can elicit from its target demographic, the better.
Where luxury brands diverge from all brands is in the kind of engagement they might elicit. Whereas Target might solicit back to school pictures from its target demographic of families with kids, a luxury brand might gather polaroid-style snapshots from a MET gala or celebrity studded benefit. The key, in any instance, is to enable consumers to be playful and create memories.
As consumers and customers interact with your brand, it’s important to direct and amplify their social media shoutouts. Part of the fun and enjoyment of any social media marketing strategy is that it both plants seeds for engagement and capitalizes on the trends and viral content already present and being circulated. This requires both vigilance and anticipation. For example, before a fashion show or big event, maybe your creative team creates a hashtag that, through posts and promotional materials, comes to be associated with the event. That hashtag then allows your brand to harvest all the different photos, updates, and tweets participants generated to promote your brand and event.
Some luxury brands, such as Saks, even use a percentage rule (70% internally generated content/ 30% customer generated content) to ensure that a significant amount of their content is sourced from their customer base’s positive posts on social media.
In conclusion, luxury brands should not be shy about using social media if they want to remain relevant and vibrant. Their task, rather, is to tailor the many possibilities of social media to flatter and frame their own unique value propositions and aspirational cues.
As originally posted on Shama Hyder’s column for Forbes
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