#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.”
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.
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.
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.
— Balmain (@Balmain) November 14, 2014
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.
— BMW (@bmw) November 18, 2014
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.