The presence of luxury brands online has always stirred debate, especially when it comes to social media! Definitely, the controversy surrounding this topic revolves around the fact that luxury brands aim to communicate an image of exclusivity whereas social media is all about being accessible and open to everyone. Plus, one of the key elements in being a high-end brand is developing unique user experience for the consumer.

One of the main reasons why so many luxury brands have been reluctant towards social media is that the brand image can easily be damaged if social media marketing is not used properly. However, it’s now clear that not being present at all on social media networks can also be dangerous. According to a survey conducted by Luxury Interactive this year, 85% of luxury brand marketers plan to increase their spending on digital channels in 2013 and 72% intend to invest more in social media.

Also, until recently luxury brands have been hesitant to engage with “high net worth individuals” on social media thinking that they are not active users of social media. However, research has shown that among the top 20% of earners in the UK, France and Germany, there are groups that enjoy engaging with brands on social media (The Guardian, June 2013).

There are four key elements that personify luxury brands: design (the aesthetic of the stores), user experience (offer the user a unique experience online), customer service (provide irreproachable and friendly customer service), and in-store experience (provide an experience for the customer reflecting the image of the brand). So how do you convey this online?

Most popular social media platforms for luxury brandsAccording to Luxury Interactive (2013), among the brands that have a strong online marketing strategy, the most effective strategies on social networks, are posting pictures of products (81%) followed by video to engage fans and followers (75%) and 60% found value in generating new ideas for product launches. Today, Facebook is clearly the most popular medium for high-end brands. Indeed, 95% of the marketers who participated in the study claim they actively engage customers on Facebook. Twitter is second, used by 85%, followed by Pinterest (60%). The majority of marketers have been very satisfied with their online campaign results that ran on these networks and plan to invest more in their mobile marketing strategies.

So what is the key for a successful social media strategy for high-end brands? In order to be successful online, it isrecommended that luxury brands develop adaptable communication strategies, meaning that the content of their communications should work well across both traditional and digital platforms. It is also crucial to create social media content that will be relevant to existing fans and followers and at the same time attract desirable new consumers to the brand.

Social media is all about engaging with the fans and consumers and creating /maintaining a long-lasting relationship. Some success stories in the luxury industry include Burberry in 2009. Burberry was one of the first brands to really embrace the “cognitive surplus” of social media. The term “cognitive surplus” was found by a theorist named Clay Shirky. The term refers to social digital media empowering users to produce and share content without seeking personal gain.

According to Prelini Udayan-Chiechi (2013), customers do not care about relationships. What matters to them is the experience, “it’s experiences, and the sharing of those experiences, that are the real drivers of social media”. Also customers are more likely to trust other customers than the brands themselves.

In 2009, Burberry felt the pressure of the economic crisis and decided to stand out and invest in social media. A campaign named “the Art of the Trench” was thus launched. The aim of the campaign was to encourage existing customers to share photos of themselves wearing their Burberry trench coats. This enabled the brand to engage with customers and offer them their 15mins of fame. The pictures could be liked, shared and commented via various social media platforms. The campaign was a great success and enabled the brand to have a younger looking image and reach a fresher clientele.

Porsche also prospered on Facebook last year and reached 5M Facebook likes by allowing fans to partake in the design a special model of the 911 Carrera.

Even though the majority of fans on Facebook are aspirationals, this doesn’t mean that they won’t be able to afford luxury brand products at some point in their lives. By establishing a relationship with these individuals, there are greater chances that these individuals will purchase products in the future from brands that engaged with them. This is why it is important for high-end brands to convey the dream and share their story to these potential future customers.

These examples are proof that social media can increase recognition of luxury brands and reinforce the relationship between consumers and these brands. The “exclusiveness” of the brands remains unharmed as they still convey sophistication, quality and excellence. The key thing to remember is to stay true to the image of the brand and engage with consumers to keep them interested in the brand.

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