[This blog post is first of a series of posts I intend to write about social media for luxury brands. You can bookmark this post or subscribe to the blog to keep on getting regular updates]
In the last few months several luxury brands have started using social media more actively. I am getting to see this up and close due to ESSEC’s world-class MBA-Lux program. Our students have to work as strategy consultants for top notch luxury brands for 2-3 months before they graduate. I was supervising two such projects, which involved digital and social media strategies for two luxury brands. (I am not disclosing the names. The image of LVMH has nothing to do with these projects either.) In this post I am documenting a few observations from my experience in working on these projects.
Luxury brands have been ambivalent about joining social media. On one hand, social media gives them great visibility, opportunity to engage with their customers, and share the brand’s values with them. On the other hand, it exposes luxury brand to mass market, thereby overriding the exclusivity which defines luxury. In addition luxury brands are understandably more sensitive to reputational risks. As I have written earlier, social media also amplify the risk of brand dilution, something that no brand would like least of all luxury brands. It is therefore interesting to know how luxury brands have overcome this fear of social media.
I must admit that the managers at both the companies were extremely confident that they wanted to go digital route. In one case they were also confident that social media marketing was the way to go. Our students recommended using social media in either case. They gave a few great suggestions. The following two are my ex post recommendations –
1) In luxury business, social media are more about enhancing the experience of the consumers. This is a tough ask for current platforms. How can anyone create a seamless luxury experience on Facebook, Twitter, etc.? These platforms are for mass consumption. At the same time, many luxury buyers are already using these tools. One potential solution to overcome this problem is to create the luxury brand’s own social network, membership of which will be by invitation only. And while you are at it, why not create it for mobile usage? An app that is exclusively available to only a select few in itself is a great idea! This app will then link to common social networks. Imagine a luxury buyer sharing a picture of an LVMH purse visible only from this app to her friends on Facebook to get their feedback.
2) Try gamification because who doesn’t love rewards? It is an excellent way to keep customers engaged with your brand. Even luxury customers like to score some points, free gifts, or special treatment. Again a luxury retailer can introduce gamification in its own mobile app by tying up with FourSqaure. For example, a “Luxury Mayor” will get a special treatment every time he or she visits the outlet. The special treatment can be tailored to the previous purchases by the customer, thereby making it more relevant.