Lately people are talking about luxury brands and digital marketing. I can’t count the number of times this week I’ve seen tweets asking, “Is Digital Killing the Luxury Brand?” Invariably, these discussions evaluate the dangers of leveraging a wholly democratic platform in order to promote a wholly exclusive industry. But, as usual, the discussion misses the point.
The question is not if luxury brands can safely leverage digital media. The question is how. With that in mind, here are five commandments for marketing luxury brands using the most democratic media in the world.
Thou Shalt Democratize, But Not Downgrade
Luxury brands obsess over losing exclusivity in the digital space, but this concern puts the cart in front of the horse. A luxury brand generates exclusivity by cultivating a block of consumers who wish they could buy the brandʼs products, but cannot afford them. Simply, if luxury brands want to remain luxurious, they have to engage not only their paying customers, but also people who want but canʼt have.
This is where the democratizing power of social and new media comes into play. Social media enables luxury brands to build tremendous clout among the aspirational set. In some cases, social media may be the only place aspiring consumers can reach the brand at all. This, in turn, builds tremendous prestige among the affluent set.
In order to democratize without downgrading, luxury brands must maintain the digital conversation by engaging more aspirational consumers and including them in a controlled brand dialogue. On the other hand, the brand must prevent brand downgrading by embracing cleverness and avoiding mimicry, by ensuring innovation and not stealing from their traditional campaigns, and by treating digital media like the marketing powerhouse that it is. All the while, luxury brands must strive toward the highest creativity, elegance and production quality. Only in this way can luxury brands both cultivate desire and maintain exclusivity, and thus, grow in the digital world safely.
Thou Shalt Not Kill The Conversation
Luxury brands worry that if they allow interactivity or user-generated content, if they initiate a conversation between brand and buyer, they will lose control of the brand image. This is simply not true.
There are many ways to encourage interactivity while still maintaining control of the brand. Look at Burberryʼs
“Art of the Trench,” a photo-sharing destination that primarily features Burberry-commissioned, high-end photography of models in the brandʼs seminal trench coats. What’s more, it also allows consumers inside access if they upload their own pictures (which are vetted and selected by the brand). Therefore, Burberry successfully reaches a significant audience while maintaining brand control.
Like Burberry, luxury brands must learn that they can create digital campaigns with embedded brand control. Killing the conversation outright is not the answer.
Thou Shalt Honor Digital Media
If luxury brands indeed fear brand dilution, they must first stop diluting the quality of their digital media. Time and again my own luxury clients say, “But itʼs just a behind-the-scenes video for Facebook and YouTube! Do we really need to spend that much on production?” The answer is always “yes.” Digital luxury marketing is only as luxurious as the brands are willing to make it.
Just like the luxury products and services themselves, the quality of luxury digital marketing relies on ideation and execution. A dress is not inherently luxurious; the difference lies in its design and high-quality manufacture. The same is true of digital marketing media. Luxury brands must decide whether their digital marketing is luxurious or commonplace, and they must commit to making their digital messaging more beautiful, more innovative and more elegant than anything else out there. Only then can they preserve their up-market brand values.
Thou Shalt Not Steal From Old Media
The primary reason luxury brands fail at social and new media is because they haven’t bothered to understand it. Luxury brands, more often than not, suffer from what I call the “Paper Pixel Syndrome.” They take media developed and produced for traditional deployment and force it onto their social and new media platforms.
For instance, they digitize a traditional TV spot by compressing and uploading to YouTube, or they post a print ad to Facebook. This blanket strategy weakens the perception of luxury brands. Just as one wouldnʼt put a 30-second static print ad on TV, so should one avoid stealing traditional media by hawking it in the digital space. Luxury digital media requires a development, production and deployment strategy specific to its digital channels. Nothing less will do.
Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Media Channels
Just because one luxury brand is successfully utilizing a particular digital approach does not mean another luxury brand should follow the same strategy.
As an example, take Vera Wangʼs Weddings app, or Tiffanyʼs Engagement Ring Finder app. Both are directly motivated by a core brand value or consumer need.
“There is a sense of urgency associated with digital platforms,” says Vera Wang president Mario Grauso, but luxury brands must be careful not to embrace a platform just because itʼs hot. Only those platforms that spring directly from a core brand ideal or customer need can succeed without diluting the brand itself.
Read the full article on Mashable: http://mashable.com/2011/10/11/digital-marketing-luxury-brands/