Every luxury brand is as unique as its founder, but they all have shared values. Quality, authenticity and exclusivity are written in their DNA, giving products and services tangible depth and value. It’s that same brand DNA that seems to make an uncomfortable fit with Social Media, where the immediacy of mainstream culture drives the majority of content and engagement. It’s where we think the belief comes from, that social and high end brands just don’t fit.
Add anxiety from brand managers about a loss of control and increased vulnerability to reputation –and there’s seemingly a raft of rational reasons why high end brands shouldn’t bother investing in social.
But there’s also one simple and very compelling reason why you should and must, and that’s customers. Future customers.
A recent report from The Luxury Institute shows that wealthy millennials with high earning potential are “extremely digital” with two thirds of them following luxury brands on social networks – exactly the opposite of an older audience where the vast majority follow none. High end brand customers are active on social networks – it’s just that not all of them are.
With heritage a key component of many high end brands’ marketing narrative – securing attention of future markets is critical. Social media is already a key mechanism for communicating this to younger customers, and it will soon be the only way if you want to keep your brand relevant.
So we’ve looked at a selection of practical tactics to entice, engage and commercialise current and future customers for your high end brand.
1. Exclusivity Works
Scarcity and exclusivity are a critical part of most luxury brand’s strategy and that approach works in digital as much as it does offline. There’s a strong pull for high end customers to feel like they belong – especially in the company of their favoured brands and there’s a variety of simple strategies you can use to leverage this in social.
On Facebook, growing the right audience is key. Your audience may have already grown organically, but use highly targeted and contextualised audience growth ads to ensure you’ve reached all your genuine prospects on the network.
Then create carefully thought out promotions that bring your brand and product experience to life with graceful games or entry mechanisms that require genuine knowledge of your products.
Further exclusivity comes from offering the right incentives for participation in any promotion. Offer rewards that augment your customer’s experience of the brand, like VIP party invites for a product launch, or spending a day with the creators of the brand at a photo-shoot or similar. Offering what they could buy is not going to work.
Extend that sense of exclusivity in other channels too. Simple tactics on Twitter and Instagram might be simply following the right people, or being very specific about whose comments you respond to or posts you like. By focusing on a select group, you emphasise their importance and if managed properly, any community becomes self-selecting with the right audience “fitting in” and those that don’t moving on, or simply becoming passive observers.
The ultimate approach here is the brand selecting members itself – handpicking the right people and inviting them to join a closed community. Mercedes’ Generation Y was a bold example of this approach. Members were handpicked to support the launch of their CLA car and whilst it delivered low numbers in terms of participation (a common trait for high end, high quality brand communities), members where highly influential and provided the luxury car giant with invaluable customer insights that have shaped future developments.
In short: Use exclusivity, favoured engagement and privileged access as key tools to bind your most important customers to your brand in any community and ensure success of promotions.
2. Quality data is valuable
With high end customers clearly active in social, there’s significant potential for gathering valuable customer data with the right approach.
Again Facebook is a rich area to focus on here. Our experience show that leveraging strong product related exclusivity, money can’t buy experiences and limited editions is a proven tactic for harvesting high quality data. Twitter can be a fruitful source of prospects too and their highly effective Twitter cards ad product has a proven track record too.
Segment the data you’ve gathered to re-target the prospects you engaged through the promotion with highly tailoured and bespoke messaging and offers related to the promotion you ran. We’ve found this approach is very effective with older customers especially.
In short: Gather data using bespoke promotions and highly targeted ads, then make specific email offers that focus on the product or service at the heart of the original promotion
3. Influence a key to reach & engagement
Instagram has become a hugely important network for high end brands. Some young affluent and mobile customers have incredible lifestyles and their experiences come to life on the photo sharing network. Tight groups of highly engaged super-users are currently the only effective way to deliver and amplify brand and product messages in the network – without a very significant media investment. There are plenty of these influencers in the high end market place.
For outreach, leverage privileged access as a calling card to gain their participation and ensure you have a program of content ready to supply these insta-influencers (or Igers) once you have them on board. Subtle and on brand in every respect, the images they share of your products being used tell part of the story of your brand and will be far more powerful than any advert.
The same Institute of Luxury insights quoted above, underline the importance of influence in the Luxury digital sphere. The report specifically highlighted the value of fashion bloggers in effecting all areas of the buying cycle for High End brands in digital. Campaigns we’ve run, prove the same approach works for travel, lifestyle and design blogs too, where there is a rich trail of influencers to work with.
Carefully planned and contextualised articles, features and reviews can showcase your product in the best possible way, carrying huge dividends with a wide age range of high end customers. This includes older users, many of whom will extensively research online opinion prior to purchase.
Handle your influential bloggers with care and you’ll have the beginnings of your very own network of brand advocates too.
In short: Leverage influencers at the heart of high end lifestyle content and conversations to deliver highly impactful and authentic coverage and drive engagement in your most active communities.
4. Commerce with care
With all the above tactics in play, you will have a significant potential to start to commercialise your social media activity – but the approach should be handled with care on a test and learn basis.
A key role for high end brand marketers is telling the brand’s story and over-emphasis on commerce can potentially hurt the customer experience.
Using targeted emails is a commonly accepted commercial strategy, but another approach is possible if your brand is being widely shared on Twitter and Instagram especially. New technology enables you to create your own branded hubs that capture the stream of images and video of your brand from these channels. These hubs enable you to republish the best content and editorialise the inbound stream to highlight and feature key content – like pictures from influencers. It’s also possible to add “Shop now” buy buttons to select images too, driving traffic direct to your ecommerce site.
We’re really excited at the potential for blending this approach with an ongoing network of influential blog advocates, delivering your high end brand a subtle and sophisticated selection of social tools to increase sales and influence purchasing decisions ongoing.
In fact, we’re so excited at this “future of social selling” – we’ll clear our diaries to come and present it to you, wherever and whenever suits you – just click here and give us a convenient time!
In short: Aim to commercialise your social media activity carefully with influencers and content hubs that enable you to use the best user generated content to influence key customers and drive sales.
Social media can work for high end brands, in fact it can work very powerfully with the right approach.
An approach that recognises that every Luxury brand is different, but the values they share can be used to attract and ultimately engage highly sophisticated and potentially influential younger customers, who are the future lifeblood of high end brands. The customers who will help you author the heritage of your brand long into the future.
Take the journey to socialising your luxury brand with us and call +44 (0)1179 111 420.