It’s Time for Luxury Brands to Get Social

Bombardier Lear Jet 85

Some legacy luxury brands have been holding out against social media for a long, long time. Somehow, it just seemed so declassé. But that mindset is beginning to change as the traditionalists are finally realizing those luxury brands that have “gone social” are winning big. Most high-end brands are now accepting that social media is where their customers research, review, and discuss products — and that they may have to give up some measure of control to meet them there. This is music to my ears having had some rather surreal conversations with local marketers here in the Middle East from some of the largest luxury brand groups in the world.

Luxury is about desirability and a brand promise of product excellence and exemplary service, of course — but it must also be about shareholder value, or it won’t be a brand for long. While there remains a fear of attracting too many “looky-loos” crowding out genuine buyers and devaluing the brand, in the world of social you never know who might recommend what to whom — and who has more disposable income than you might think.

Today’s luxury brand buyers are increasingly social and share their opinions about their preferred brands like a badge of honor. They’re flocking to private, invitation-only social media sites like Gilt Groupe (a Groupon-type site for luxury products), Rue La La, Ideel (now part of Groupon), and HauteLook (recently purchased by Nordstrom).

Broader-based social media are, of course, also still a big part of the landscape. Louis Vuitton has amassed over 18 million followers on Facebook alone, and livestreams fashion events on Snapchat. Balmain designer and Karsdashian favourite Olivier Rousteing has two million Instagram followers. And British fashion house Burberry earned the title of top digital fashion brand by L2 by embracing the same social channels its customers do. It’s a lesson all brands should be heeding.

So what’s all the fuss about?

In a word, numbers. According to Mc Kinsey, 44% of all luxury sales are influenced by internet research or social media buzz. According to a recent ASSOCHAM study, high-income group consumers from India spend over 40 percent of their monthly income on luxury brands, but even middle-income consumers spend eight to 10 percent on luxury products. L2 reported that leading video bloggers in the luxury beauty space generate more than 700 million views on YouTube per month.

Luxury Beauty Products

But numbers are just numbers without that all-important engaging content. According to a study by content marketing and management provider Upfluence, 45% of people trust the content written in a specialized blog. Recognizing that more than 99% of social conversations are being driven by the consumer, successful luxury brands are carefully curating edgy and engaging content that pushes the proverbial envelope and challenges the accepted norms of supply and demand.

The proof is in the posting

By creating environments that embrace on- and offline communities and conversations, luxury brands really can have the best of both worlds:

Gucci owned Milan Fashion Week when they hired top social media influencer and graffiti artist Trouble Andrew to take over Instagram and Snapchat. Japanese fashion influencers authenticated Hermes’ 2015–2016 FW Collection with consumers via Instagram.

Graziashop, an early Instagram advertiser, used shared storytelling as part of its Label Lust campaign, building a campaign around quirky, fun, images and videos targeting 22–45 year old females in the UK with an interest in designer shoes, bags, fashion tips and blogging. Over a six-week period, the Grazia character showcased selected products by recreating the world of the Graziashopper.

1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder — Price $18,210,080

Even though an iconic brand like Ferrari is unlikely to sell many cars to its 16 million Facebook fans, the company needs to be present on social media to nurture and protect its brand value. With fans posting millions of pictures the company needs to be part of the conversation to showcase the best of their brands in the way they want to be seen.

Harley Davidson is a company with a passionate supporter base, so it focuses its social media efforts on shared experiences. Straddling the line between luxury and accessibility, the company boosts its brand image by enabling fans to form strong on- and offline bonds and collaborate with specialist magazines, influencers, and hog enthusiasts to bolster their brandspace. Simply put, it’s cost-effective customer acquisition that leverages brand lust.

The rewards are there for the taking

There’s no doubt that building a brand online is hard work for luxury brands that must create a fine line between exposure and exceptionality. But with the right mix of content and desirability, those brands can protect their image and reinforce their exclusivity with existing customers while keeping the welcome mat out for new members of the club.

If you’d like to explore how social media can help you enhance your luxury brand, get in touch — I’ll be happy to help you begin the journey.