Companies in the luxury sector have shown the ability to adapt to the digital era and are increasingly taking social media initiatives to reach out to their clientele.
Given that luxury brands earn their status by positioning themselves close to the elite, what use can they make of digital and social media in their customer communication?
FullSIX, an independent specialist communication group, asked this very question in a
recent TrendWatch, which focuses on the apparent paradox of luxury-plus-digital. According
to Virgile Brodziak, Group Head of Strategic Planning, “although until recently brands
were still rather hesitant about social networks, many of them have now realised that it is
important to communicate through these channels.” They have also understood that their
initiatives need to be more and innovative if they are to appeal to their ‘connected’ customers,
even if this sometimes appears to run counter to the essential nature of their brands. FullSIX
highlights the sector trends, pointing out company initiatives which link the various
characteristics of luxury on the one hand and digital on the other - characteristics which you
would normally think were diametrically opposed to one another.
Overcoming the paradoxes...
Broadly speaking, the concept of luxury is a synonym for rarity. Social media, on the other
hand, are everywhere. However, a campaign by Louis Vuitton proves that the two can be
combined. On their site they use a 360° camera to give online visitors a front row seat at
their fashion show. Other brands have found similar ways to use both the timelessness of the
brand itself and the instantaneous quality of the Internet, two aspects which might be seen
as opposites. It’s clear that Burberry for instance has worked out how to fuse the two. The
brand offers backstage photos of its fashion shows – basically providing a preview of its
latest creations – using the Instagram photo sharing app. And if luxury indicates tradition,
social media means technology. This is why brands such as Jaeger LeCoultre allow access
to their manufacturing secrets (here, making a watch), providing an app that enables the
online visitor to ‘dismantle’ its products. FullSIX illustrates how ‘elitist versus open to all’
and ‘authoritative versus collaborative’ can actually be combined by pointing to a temporary
exhibition from Prada which is physically closed to the public but open to all on its website.
Another example is the latest Louis Vuitton fashion show, which was open for comments on
… and continuing to innovate
FullSIX stresses that once a company has overcome these barriers it should then invest
in further enhancing the consumer experience. It might, for instance, call on artists for an
advertising campaign - as does Hermes with its campaign based on ‘fingerskating’, or offer
product-telling (again Hermes on its site Les mains d'Hermes – ‘The Hands of Hermes’). We
also find 3D stores such as Zegna and The Watch Avenue, though these are not particularly
attractive at the moment due to problems with graphics. Finally, FullSIX encourages brands to
get their online visitors to participate, particularly through gaming, as Mercedes Benz did with
the Tweet Race (“The World’s First Ever Twitter-Fuelled Race”). Or simply to bring out the
human dimension of the brand as Tiffany does with its Whatmakeslovetrue.com site.