Elegant, but not distant: telling luxury brands’ story from an interactive point of view
Burberry, Tiffany, Chanel… How do these luxury brands make you feel? For many decades, these names have been famous for their delicate craftsmanship, unique design, and highly personalised services at brick and mortar stores. These brands have been tightly associated with high-ended customers, which, in turn, strengthened the impression that luxury brands are distant from most ordinary people.
However, The luxury market is undergoing social changes. On the one hand, the luxury customers have become younger and richer; On the other hand, the development of technology(especially the prevalence of social media)has reduced the gap between luxury brands and common people to an unprecedented level. Customers’ needs have changed as well: while premium quality remains as the “must-have” for customers, the essence of luxury is shifting to digital experience: how luxury makes you feel?
Now those once aloof luxury brands are in a slightly awkward position: How can they approach to young, digital-savvy customers without losing their luxury brand value?
One possible answer would be social media. According to the research by Office of Communications, three in four internet users have at least one social media account, and 76% of social media users would interact by liking, commenting and sharing.
I therefore selected two social media campaigns, one by Tiffany on Instagram, the other by Burberry on China’s biggest social media platform WeChat, both aimed to promote brand awareness on Valentine’s day. In the rest of the article, I will analyze the user experience these two campaigns from three different angles: usability clarity; user participation and effectiveness. Through my analysis, I hope to shed some light on how luxury brands might tell their stories via social media from these three angles.
In this part, I will briefly describe the design of Tiffany and Burberry’s social media campaigns, and see whether their design is clear/easy for users to understand.
Let’s first take a look at the Tiffany one. The company created a mini website, where users can select and customize a “tattoo” that can be used as a sticker on pictures. After customizing the color and text, users are reminded to share it with the “#BelieveInLove” hashtag on Instagram.
Overall, there isn’t much text guidance, but the interface is intuitive and very easy to understand. From selecting the sticker, to changing the color, adding the text, and sharing the final result, the tattoo changes simultaneously according to users’ choices, a clear “Next Step” button guides the user throughout the experience, so users have a clear expectation of what is happening. All interaction happens within this mini site, which again, helps avoid jumping elsewhere or causing confusion.
Let’s then take a look at the Burberry one. Burberry created a mobile website on China’s biggest social media platform, WeChat. This mobile project is called “Gosha Messenger”, which allows the users to send their Valentine voice messages to friends via “Gosha”, a famous product line of Burberry.
Here’s a page-by-page explanation of the project for non-Chinese readers:
- After loading the first page, a text guidance appears on the screen: “this is a project on Burberry Gosha messengers. You will see a bridge which is made of numerous Valentine letters. Click on each letter, and listen to everybody’s best wishes.”
- The second page is a bridge of bubbles, which is a visualization of sounds. The users can choose, click on and listen to other people’s voice messages. A selection of young idols’ voices has been pre-installed, so users can first try it out and understand how does this website work. Also, since the voice messages are from the most influential idols in China, people, especially young audiences, are likely to click and listen to what their idols say.
- On the bottom of the page, there is a “record your own Valentine’s wishes” button. After clicking the button, users will be presented with a list of “Goshas”(Burberry’s Gosha products), which will be the messenger for your voice message.
- After choosing the Gosha, users will be able to record their messages, listen to their recordings, and choose whether to share it on the “bridge”, or send it privately to someone.
Overall, users will be able to understand how this project works, but compared to the Tiffany one, Burberry’s interface is a bit complicated and disconnected. What I mean by “complicated” is that users will not understand what they should do if they don’t read the guidance; What I mean by “disconnected” is that the text guidance and the interface visually do not correspond to each other. For example, the guidance says there will be a bridge, but the bubbles have no visual connection to a bridge.
To sum up my discussion on the usability part, both projects are understandable. A tip for luxury brands is that it is important to select a visual element which represents the brand, and keep both visual and verbal consistency throughout the experience.
The key of success of social media campaigns lies in users’ participation. I classified different levels of participation for case analysis:
- viewing the project;
- contributing to the content(whether it being customizing a tattoo or recording a voice message);
- sharing the final work(tattoo or voice message) onto the social media.
As we can see, the more people participate in the project, and the higher level of their participation, the more influence will campaigns have on social media— which is the ultimate goal of project designers. So the key questions would be: How to encourage users to participate and contribute to the content? And at the same time, how to keep the consistency of the content?
Let’s tackle the first question. What motivates people to contribute to the content of these social media campaigns?
Whether it is customizing a sticker, or recording a voice message, personalization is a key motivation. Why? Because everyone loves something that is personal and unique, and a personalized creation or message makes us feel valued. It therefore increases our favorability to the brand as well as the chance to engage with the brand. According to the research conducted by Hanley-Wood Business Media, 78% of consumers are interested in building relationships with brands which allows them to create personalized content. Another well known example is Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign, which allowed people to have a coke with their names on it. Launched in the UK back in April 2013, Coca-Cola saw a grow its Facebook community by 3.5% and globally by 6.8%.
The more people participate, the more content will be created, therefore the more difficult it is to remain the consistency of the content. What I mean by consistency is that, first, the content itself must be created around on the same topic; For example in the Burberry case, the voice message should be about “best wishes on Chinese Valentine’s day”, not “wishes for New Year” or even worse, cursing someone. To achieve this, the project producer must set clear rules of participation so users will understand what they can do and cannot do; Besides, constant monitoring is required to prevent people from messing it up.
The second rule of consistency is that, the look/feel of the project should keep the same tone, no matter how many participants are there. This is a really challenging task. Let’s zoom out from branding for now and look at the media field in general, those who have tried to use user-generated-content(UGC), whether it being news photos or documentary footage, will know how painful it is to put UGC together with the rest of the piece: the UGC does not look professional at all, and people create UGC on all kinds of devices in different formats. Even if the producer has set out the rules in advance, it is still unlikely to make a perfectly consistent piece — people are not professionals anyway, and too many rules might harm their motivation to participate. Some documentary makers, such as Gerda Cammaer, said on I-docs 2018 conference that she opted for “peer engagement”, asking people she can trust to contribute to her collaborative film project, instead of opening the door for everyone.
Zooming in to branding social media campaigns, I find both Tiffany and Burberry projects are surprisingly consistent in their look/feel. The reason is that both projects keep tight control of the layout/design, leaving users with limited“freedom of creation”. In the Burberry case, the users’ “freedom” is limited to voices — a simple activity which does not require any professional knowledge. Compared to photo/video, the risk of aesthetic inconsistency is greatly reduced.
As for the Tiffany case, although the whole project is photo based, people’s creation works still remain consistent. Because the creation process and the tattoo patterns have been decided by designers in advance, the users’ freedom is limited to make minor changes, such as font, color, and text. Therefore, no matter how “creative” users can be, their output will still be aesthetically consistent and reflect the feeling of the brand.
Therefore, in order to keep the consistency of the content, brands may need to sacrifice some “freedom of creation” of users, without losing too much fun. Just like Burberry and Tiffany, they have built the house in advance and only ask the users to decorate the rooms. This is a safer way than asking users to create everything.
Effectiveness of the experience
Social media campaigns, no matter how interesting they are, would not be successful if the users don’t get anything out of it. In this case, how effective are these two campaigns? Did they achieve their ultimate goal, which is to increase brand awareness and possible sales? Why or why not?
I don’t have access to any metrics data of these campaigns, so I will just analyze whether these experiences can change participants’ impression of the brands.
For Tiffany project participants, not only do they have a fun experience with the brand, but they also take their little creation with them. As a person who has never bought any Tiffany products before, these tattoos are cute, stylish, and will remind me of Tiffany’s look/feel whenever I look at them.
For Burberry participants, they have sent their Valentine’s wishes to their friends via “Gosha messenger”, but what can they learn about the brand? I would say very little, because “listening/sending a voice message” has very little connection with “a luxury brand”. And participants can send their voice messages via anything other than a “Gosha”. For me as a user, putting out “Gosha messenger” is only for the sake of it.
But is there anything that can be done to improve Burberry project’s effectiveness?
Interactive location project, The Rider Spoke, might be an inspiration. In this project, participants first ride the bicycle, find a place which is special to them, and share their views about this place by recording themselves in voices. Then they can choose to listen to the stories of other people who happened to choose the same location. Listening to other people’s stories is like adding an additional layer to the space, and will change the participants’ original feeling of the place. Now the place has become a “place holder of a story”.
So for the Burberry case, I have been thinking that, instead of just asking participants about Chinese Valentine’s Day, additional “layers” could also be added to enrich the story experience. For example, what did you know about Chinese Valentine’s day before? After interacting with Burberry’s “Gosha messenger” , how do you feel about Chinese Valentine’s Day now?
Through analyzing two luxury brands’ social media campaigns, here are my three tips for telling luxury brands’ stories via social media:
- Design the visual layout based on the brand value, and keep both visual and verbal consistency throughout the experience;
- Keep control of the content, interaction does not mean free creation;
- Examine how effective the experiences are, will they change users’ mind towards the brand?
About the author: Bowen Sun is currently studying M.A. in Digital and Interactive Storytelling Lab at University of Westminster. Determined to transform digital insights into tangible solutions. Welcome to find more about me through Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bowen-sun/
N. Clark (2014). The New Luxury Buyer: Younger, Richer and Well-Wired. Available from https://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/02/fashion/the-new-luxury-buyer-younger-richer-and-well-wired.html [Accessed 27th March, 2018].
Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (2017). Global Powers of Luxury Goods 2017. Available from https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/global/Documents/consumer-industrial-products/gx-cip-global-powers-luxury-2017.pdf [Accessed 30th March, 2018].
The Office of Communications (2017). Adult’s Media Use and Attitudes. Available from https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/102755/adults-media-use-attitudes-2017.pdf [Accessed 28th March, 2018].
L. Roderick (2015). Personalisation: a short-term fad or long-term engagement strategy? Available from https://www.marketingweek.com/2015/11/10/personalisation-a-short-term-fad-or-long-term-engagement-strategy/ [Accessed 30th March, 2018].
S. Gaudenzi (2013). The Living Documentary: from representing reality to co-creating reality in digital interactive documentary. Available from https://research.gold.ac.uk/7997/1/Cultural_thesis_Gaudenzi.pdf [Accessed 1st April, 2018].