Read this post in: French
When it comes to luxury, the words “exclusive” and “premium-priced” often come to mind, magnifying the fact that luxury brands are, with many reasons, cautious to market themselves on channels where they might lose control on the perception of their image or on their relationships with customers. But driving them with this kind of vision is somehow reductive in regard of the potential offered by the immaterial assets of luxury brands. And social media might be one of the best places to capitalize on these aspects of the brands.
What’s in a brand
Defining what a luxury brand is has always been tricky, but they all share some constant values:
- They are global, maintaining a consistent image throughout the world
- They are status brands, which means that acquiring an item gives some sense of privilege to the owner
- Their brand value is tangible through a distinctive universe. Luxury branding is in large part story-telling.
How can social media help to reach out customers while keeping a brand’s distinctive identity, avoiding the risks inherent to a broad exposure?
Answer local issues while staying global
One of the most desirable aspects of social media is the possibility to engage with customers to enhance customer service. Paradoxically, while luxury brands have hard time staying exclusive, they are all about service – premium service – and the web is a great place for them to enhance their customers’ experience. Staying global while taking into account customers’ cultural differences is probably one of the main challenges these brands have to face. While Europeans, for instance, value singularity, Japanese won’t mind being thousands to wear the same bag; they will still find some uniqueness to it.
There is no obvious solution, of course. Louis Vuitton, for instance has taken the option to create a Twitter for American customers, therefore assuming the risk to fragment its brand image, which is not in my opinion the right strategy. One better way to engage with customers on Twitter would be to create a global account to interact with them and redirect them later on more intimate and personalized channels, like email or a phone service. In that way, you can at the same time improve and value your global online presence, while answering accordingly to more focused, local audiences.
Luxury brands do have fans
The assumption that luxury brands are reserved to high-end customers, with a large amount of money available, is part of their DNA, and conveyed by their image, but totally inaccurate. Besides Christian Dior Haute Couture, millions of “Dior j’adore” tee-shirts have been sold throughout the world. Louis Vuitton clutch bags are among most popular items in French popular suburbs. Luxury brands do have fans, engaging them through Facebook fan pages or Flickr groups will help them keep your brand in top of mind notoriety, along with driving sales. In the long term, ignoring your fans might generate much more backlash than engaging them.
Let your consumers tell your story
Story telling is another crucial part of luxury brands territory. Whether by focusing on their own history (like Aston Martin’s Heritage, celebrating history of racing excellence), funding cultural events (like Fondation Cartier), or even personifying a symbol (Hermès orange, for instance, is a unique identifiable color), they all describe a story which appeal to most of us. Entering social media, building communities around these unique stories, while time consuming, is a powerful way to make your brand shine and strengthen its immaterial assets. Even in the luxury world, best brands are moving brands.