In June 2008, I presented at a conference in Southern California where I debuted The Essential Guide to Social Media. While it seems like a lifetime ago, I remember this event distinctly because a couple of the questions at the end of conference addressed luxury brands specifically. And, they're questions that many ask or have yet to ask today.
What's role do luxury brands take on the social web and what is the corresponding voice and personality associated with the activity. When do luxury brands engage and does interaction take away from the stature and prestige of the brand?
The answer I gave then, I stand by today. The personality and tone of the brand should already exist as part of an overall brand design, captured and articulated in the brand style guide. The key word here is "should." In my experience, whether it's a luxury brand or any brand, stature, persona, and essence must be defined or redefined for the Social Web. This is different than merely humanizing the brand. What I'm referring to is bringing a brand to life. If the brand was a person, who would it emulate. What's the tenor/tone of the voice? What is the personality of the brand? Can the brand be many things to many different varieties of customers?
For example, the brand essence of Nike is "authentic athletic performance." Zappos is built upon "delivering happiness. Starbucks conveys the comfort of "rewarding everyday moments." The essence of Disney is "Fun family entertainment," although for Disney I would add that the brand essence is "making childhood dreams come true."
In the case of Disney, its brand is brought to life through the personality of its characters, in the real world and in traditional mediums. How would you bring to life the Disney brand in social networks? If we gave it the "essence" and personality of the characters or their characteristics, we might have something different than what exists today.
The point is that bringing a brand to life for the social web is a deliberate exercise. Whether it's a luxury, consumer, B2B brand, organization, etc.
I recently stumbled across the Ipsos Mendelsohn Affluent Survey that studied the media habits, lifestyles, and attitudes of the affluent and luxury marketplaces in the U.S. The report states that most wealthy Internet users, with wealth defined as households with income levels of over $100,000, are optimistic about the economy. As these attractive consumers focus their attention to social networks, retailers and also luxury brands are either already following them or considering extending their reach to connect with them directly.
A new study from Unity Marketing however, reveals just how affluent consumers are engaging in social networks.
It's clear from this particular study, that the top uses for social networking is purely that...social. For affluent consumers, connecting with friends and family and sharing news and pictures are at the top of the list. Concurrently, you can see where the opportunity lies for luxury brands. While less than 10% today report activities associated with brands and products, including research, deals, and referrals, everyday consumers, depending on the source of research, paint a different picture.
According to research conducted by Performics and ROI Research, about half of Twitter users who were introduced to a brand on Twitter were compelled to search for additional information. This particular study found that 48% of those who came into contact with a brand name on Twitter went on to search for additional information on search engines compared to 34% on other social networks. 30% claimed they wish to learn more about a product, service, or brand. Just under one-third (27%), reported that they were receptive to receiving invitations for events, special offers or promotions. 25% stated that they visited a site after learning about a product on their social network of preference.
The Unity study to the contrary, shows that affluent consumer, for the moment, maintain a different relationship with brands within social networks. They visit brand pages, but do not always take the next step of "liking" the brand in Facebook. Of those well-off consumers, only 25% of brand page visitors actually liked the page.
If we look at Coach, Inc., which I consider a luxury brand, they seem to embracing social and also engaging a large group of stakeholders. On Twitter, for example, Coach currently maintains a following of almost 270,000 followers. On Facebook, Coach is currently interacting with a community of over 760,000. Circling back to the earlier part of the discussion, Coach has certainly found its voice as well as brought the persona of the brand to life.
Social marketing, as exciting as it is, is one part of an integrated marketing strategy. The most effective marketers and brand managers will ensure that their brand is celebrated in the mediums where their consumers are active however consumers expect to engage and be engaged.
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