#FirstWorldProblems: Should Luxury Brands Use Social Media?

#FirstWorldProblems: Should Luxury Brands Use Social Media?

In the last half-decade, the global market has seen a dramatic shift in social media and digital marketing, creating new ways for brands to connect with and engage consumers. Yet, the majority of luxury brands are still missing the wave, with many high-end companies still on shore, a long distance from the vast digital ocean created by social media’s “Big 3” – Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Luxury brand CMOs are staying out of the water and on dry land. However, in 2014, many social media strategists have asked, should luxury brands adopt social media?

Well, the decision is difficult to settle on – similar to having to decide between which 4” stiletto pump from Jimmy Choo or Christian Louboutin will best match your Herve Leger dress for the winter gala. Although no luxury brand is made alike, there are several justifications to including social media to any luxury brand’s marketing strategy.

Numbers Don’t Lie.

The Digital Think Tank L2 reported that 78% of the affluent participate on social networking sites, with more than half using social media to connect with a brand. Moreover, 65% of wealthy consumers believe that brands that have no social presence on social networking sites are out of touch.

Additionally, an estimated 10 million additional consumers yearly enter the luxury market to reach an estimated 400 million luxury consumers worldwide by 2020, and an estimated 500 million luxury consumers by 2030, according to Bain and Company.

You’re Not That Different Anymore.

Historically, a luxury brand is commonly identified by its heritage and legacy, craftsmanship, personalized service and on-demand distribution or product customization, which has quickly become more common as digital tools evolve. Private drivers are now available via a singular swipe and click with Uber and Lyft. Price-conscious consumers can experience a celebrity moment in high-end designer wear with RentTheRunway.com; Atlanta-based resell shop, Bella Bag offers Hermes, Celine and Prada bags without the boutique price; and The Fat Cork Club offers hard-to-find champagnes to your door with their direct-to-consumer membership service.

The characteristics that luxe brands have come to hold as primary selling points are now available from up-and-coming designers, brands and lifestyle companies that not only offer exemplary quality and design, but are attuned to the pulse of social culture and on-demand expectations – without sacrificing its pricing point or perceived prestige.

“Make It Worth My Money.”

Conspicuous consumption is long gone. Replaced by conscientious spending, companies need to reinforce their value proposition to ensure their products and services are “worth the money.”

Four Dimension to Luxury Value | Blueprint

High-end shoppers define luxury value in a different interpretation than general market shoppers.  Value is not a stand-alone characteristic; it is multi-dimensional depending on the social, individual, function and financial values of the buyer.

“These Buyers Ain’t Loyal”

Not only does social media give an outlet to engage with consumers, but it’s also an opportunity to illuminate brand values to connect with the varying levels of value interest in the minds of diverse consumer networks in an economy with diminishing brand loyalty.

Let’s explore more on how luxury brands can capture the evolving luxury consumer market and gain control and leverage of social assets.

1. Controlling Brand Messaging

As with any company, luxury or discount, both have the necessity to create consistent brand messaging that directly relates to their overall marketing and PR strategies. Ignoring social media in a “we are a cultural icon” mind-state leaves the social space wide open to be defined by imitators and competitors rather than brand managers.

Porsche is doing an excellent job capturing its brand message in reminding social fans that Porsche is a performance vehicle. Despite what you will discover on a general hashtag search, which is relatable to organic lifestyle branding, the Porsche social media assets focus on superior manufacturing, precision and design. Seen above is an excellent example of how Porsche is leading its brand messaging with images and videos that focus on the facts that matter.

Use social pages to turn the lights on what’s important for your company.

2. Connect With Next-Gen Luxury Consumers

The allure that many luxury brands like to preserve is the perception of “mystique” or unattainability, yet with today’s modern millennials, connecting with brands in a meaningful way is how to gain these potential consumers’ purchases – and hearts. A prominent group of consumers discovered by research from BBMG and Globescan called “Aspirationals” is the largest group of consumers who “purchase products that are socially and environmentally responsible and that connect them to a community of peers who share similar values and priorities.” This group represents 39% of the global, 2-billion population. Not only are Aspirationals concerned about style, but are also passionate about sustainability and purpose beyond mindless materialism. Luxury brands can use social media to share ideas and engage in conversations about sustainability and environmentalism, values that most luxe brands such as Gucci, Manolo Blahnik, Donna Karan and Stella McCartney (pictured) have already have adopted within their collections. Stella McCartney | Blueprint

3. Create Brand Enthusiasts

Social media fans and followers are typically brand enthusiasts and will be long-term brand ambassadors when engaged with appropriate content. Although many have argued the purpose of connecting with fans who “may never own a Mercedes-Benz,” a smart and forward-thinking luxury company should connect fans to exclusive events and special previews, sharing technical expertise and knowledge as well as creating a network of supporters that further influence brand recognition and awareness.

Post by Mercedes-Benz USA.

4. Define Your Own “Cool”

Social media is the home for what users deem as cool, trendy and current. Users enjoy the perception of affluence and success that luxe brands offer, and most buyers don’t pass up an opportunity to showcase their own brand experiences by social flaunting done with a humble-brag mention or #RetailTherapy post to show off their attainment of certain luxury goods.

Comparatively, consumers increasingly look to social media for context cues on what to purchase, as well as find smug satisfaction in sharing those purchases with friends for added validation for and inclusion in current or desired social circles. The affluent are indeed Twitter users, with 36% of affluent on the site, a number up dramatically since 2011. Below are 2 examples of luxury brands using social media to imprint their style among the Twitter community.

French haute-couture design house Balmain, focuses on celebrity sightings and mass media references for its Twitter page. Balmain successfully aligns PR with social media marketing to share its brand message. In consequence, this luxury brand is creating social cues for potential buyers to relate to in conjunction with buyers’ favorite celebrities as it showcases which pop-culture stars are wearing Balmain around the world.

Another power Twitter user is BMW, who is leading a pro-active approach to defining cool, offering lifestyle representations of their brand in desired settings. BMW focuses their Twitter content on more than being “the ultimate driving machine”, but also in trendy style.

Stay In Your Lane.

These advantages are not all-inclusive for every high-end company. Every luxury brand is may not necessarily a “social brand,” but in some way should find its own niche among the distinct offerings of varying social media assets. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram each have their own special functionalities, influential demographics and consumer behaviors as it pertains to users and engagement; therefore, careful consideration is necessary for a congruent fit between brand and social.

Any opportunity to heighten brand equity and bond with consumers is a win-win for the long-term success of the luxury industry as digital and mobile marketing evolves into 2015 and beyond.

By: Chuniq Inpower
  • Rebekah Faucette

    Though luxury brands might be skeptical about taking the social media plunge, one thing they should consider is the ability to be tagged in a post. Having an Instagram or Twitter account allows consumers to show off their gear while tagging the brand. Not only is this free advertising for the brand, it gives the personal touch that consumers crave.

  • Joshua Bains

    World E-commerce is growing this year to $1.500 trillion, according to e-Marketer. In 2013, the Bain Luxury Goods Worldwide Market Study reported that a “new baby boom sized generation” of rising middle-class from emerging countries are eligible for marketing by luxury dealers. Riding tandem is that huge group’s use of e-commerce, and expectation that it be a solid part of their shopping experience. This places a strain on luxury companies, because their patrons demand perfection in service. Look to luxury brands to set the curve for e-commerce marketing and content.

  • Nathan Taitt

    This is fantastic insight! I’ve experienced a lot of social resistance from industrial & manufacturing companies as well. There’s no doubt after reading this article though. Carefully crafted social strategy is critical to continued success for luxury brands. Excellent work. Truly.

  • LilitM

    It is true that luxury brands hardly need social media for advertising purposes. Yet, they still need to attract audiences. Whether it is attracting direct customers or spreading knowledge of their products, they intend to engage masses. I believe social media platforms have something very valuable to offer to luxe brands. They give them opportunity to interact with masses that aren’t necessarily interested in purchasing their product. This minimizes the gap between the classes in seemgly simple but important way. Well done 🙂

  • Adam Baxter

    This is a really neat topic. I like how you showed the different ways in which certain luxury brands display themselves. Good read. 🙂

  • John

    I thought it was interesting how you mentioned that luxury brands can’t afford to ignore socialmedia with a “we are a cultural icon” mindset, because it leaves that sphere wide open for imitators. It makes you pause to think how much mobile and digital tech in general has and is continuing to revolutionize marketing.

    • An interesting story hit this morning where Michael Kors and other luxury watch brands sending cease and desist letters to smartwatch developers that are creating digital watchfaces that resemble their luxury watch brands.

      Just like with social media, if luxury brands sit off to the side and lets others dictate and/or imitate their brand, their brand value will diminish.

      • Chuniq Inpower

        Thank you Erik for adding that piece of information into the discussion! Counterfeiters are very aware of current trends and are quick to make goods similar to their luxury counterparts.

        By sharing more product information online, luxury brand managers have the unparalleled opportunity to educate consumers on authenticity, helping them identify false products, as well as show consumers what their products look like, before the counterfeiters reel them in.

        Hilariously enough, there is an Instagram page dedicated to exposing counterfeit watches on entertainers and rappers. http://instagram.com/fakewatchbusta 🙂

  • Another interesting way to use social media is monitor brand reputation. There’s a great article highlighting the use of social media in the fight again counterfeiting luxury goods.

    http://blog.talkwalker.com/en/luxury-brands-combatting-the-counterfeit-crisis-with-social-media-monitoring/

  • Blair Sanders

    I like how you mentioned the dilemma of luxury brands to maintain the unattainable status, while also establishing a connection with the next generation. Social media is absolutely necessary to sustain the balance. This marketing reminds customers that these brands are still the best for a reason and that they should still pay top-dollar for the “cool” factor.

  • Naima

    It is very interesting that even well known brands need social media.You did a great job explaining how luxury brands would combine PR and social media to engage and communicate with not only clients, but also other people who are just curious about the brand.
    You made a great point about picking different social platforms and how important it is to find the targeted audience before wasting time in social platforms won’t provide any results.

  • This reminds me of a company called the Red Dress Boutique that appeared on Shark Tank a couple of years ago. Diana, the owner, wanted to offer an affordable luxury experience to her customers without breaking the bank for that one time look. Diana used social media to engage with her customers to determine their needs and must haves. Her company is now worth over a million dollars because she utilized social media and offered the affordable luxury lifestyle for a fraction of the price.

    Great job with this article. Excellent use of reference materials.

  • Samantha Torres

    Current technology has certainly reshaped the amount of service and personalization that everyday consumers can afford. It’s vital that luxury brands and other long-standing companies recognize that social media is where their consumers are going, so naturally, they should be there too.

    I also wholeheartedly agree with Rebekah’s callout that consumers want to connect with brands and they want to tag their own luxury products on social media. Our generation and younger shares so many details of our lives with everyone else (sometimes a little too much!) that top brands will need to learn how to leverage that for continued success