We all know these inspiring lyrics by Cat Stevens in his sublime "Father and Son":
"It's now time, to make a change, just relax, take it easy, You're still young, that's your fault, there's so much you have to know"
And his advice could very well apply to us, digital or social media professionals, when it comes to luxury brands online. Despite a great history to root our strategies, we're still at the very early stage of what needs to be set up for French Maisons.
We might live in the prehistory of digital luxury marketing, but new affluent consumers from BRIC and new elites are in a hurry to buy high-end products and services. Let's face it, for many top players of the luxury industry, the social media relationships they maintain with top-class clients are still very disappointing.
Here are few digital trends that could rise in the coming months:
#1: Luxury brands are not fashion brands. Let's stop comparing supermarkets and boutiques in the future.
It's a statement that Thomas Bucaille recently tweeted: "Don't mix fashion and luxury for a start. They will not move in the same way." And that's a good point to bear in mind as a lot of luxury brands try to copy less premium lifestyle or fashion brands. Luxury brands tend to have a very similar strategy online:
An inspiring film which is supposed to go viral.
Qualitative and very well executed materials ready to be shared online.
An interactive site with digital fireworks everywhere, HD videos etc.
Sounds familiar right? I think it's a conceptual mistake. Affluent people don't have time for the same old tactics; if everything's available to anyone online, why would they care about sharing on their own social channels when they are already are the luxury influencers?
You don't make luxury consumers dream the same way as H&M or a Zara do for theirs.
#2: Luxury brands will fine tune the different cultural streams of communities they want to work with.
It's not new but cultures cross like ships in the night online.
It means that luxury brands need to re-understand what the diverse cultural territories they belong to are. They will have to understand who the influencers are within these streams. mb! by Mercedes Benz is a very interesting case study. It features creative people, the latest in fashion and design, current events and cool places to visit around the globe. It very explicitly works a stream of consumers that are not the old clichés of a Mercedes Benz car-buyer. It is not about bankers, conservative imagery of a serious businessman; it's about world-class architects who have a skateboard in their open space, about the new generation of decision-makers. Mercedes-Benz just had a good reaction to a key insight: in London, spare offices are not rented to new banks, they are rented to start-ups and VCs. And they have money.
More recently, a very original Chanel Métiers d'Art show in Dallas happened. It had a "local" social media program with international and local influencers, which could not have been acceptable few years ago. When Coco becomes a cowboy icon to reach a specific audience...
Not so many luxury brands challenged their understanding of their real consumers. They nonetheless need to accept this change, in order to re-create demand, dream, and manage scarcity.
#3: Social Media for luxury brands will be secretly accessible.
The same Chanel used to refuse to have an instagram account, whereas it was one of the most shared brands on the visual sharing platform. Luxury brands have the right and the duty to be...inaccessible online to the crowd. My bet is that we're going to experience again a rise of invitation-only platforms, or insiders' circle, dedicated only to a happy few. And too bad if technological evangelists criticize the absence of a brand on the next hype network: it's good to be snob and to not follow the buzz when you're a luxury brand.
#4: Luxury brands will have a purpose in Social Media
Mikel Chertudi, Senior Director of Marketing at Adobe, mentions that "companies that do good while doing business are far more profitable than those that simply sell themselves." And when it comes to luxury brands online, a lot of marketers want to control the visual assets of the brands and only focus on this dimension. But you can't control people online. Remember when Louis Vuitton tried to censor Danish artist Nadia Plesner for Darfurnika? It simply did not work because people know how to gather and want to be free when it comes to expressing ideas.
So luxury brands will need to think about a "purpose." If you can't control the way people are going to play with your images, you can more or less predict that if you have legitimate purpose, people will want to take part to that effort.
#5: Luxury brands will implement luxury digital services.
For many luxury digital marketers, the competitors are the other luxury brands. But that's wrong. The true opponents are now Nike, Starbucks, top banks. These stakeholders fight for the exact same resource: the attention of decision-makers, affluent people, influencers. Nike provides luxury and bespoke digital services to a lot of luxury brands' clients. Luxury brands need at least to align, or even better, imagine new digital services that can be accessible through a luxury product. Luxury brands need to think about how to "unlock" new territories, never done before, through the products they see.