Should Luxury Brands Use Hashtags In Paid Advertising?

In the blink of an eye, hashtags have gone from a way of expressing sarcasm on Twitter to a serious marketing tool. Going beyond Twitter, hashtags are now seen on multiple platforms from Facebook to Foursquare to Instagram to Google+.

Hashtags have made their way onto everything from tv, print, outdoor and digital display advertising to Tumblr blog titles to movie titles. For those of you not familiar with hashtags and what they are, Mindshare have written a great summary that can be read here.

So, with the proliferation of the hashtag into pop culture, what do they mean for luxury brands? What is the right usage of hashtags for luxury brands?

Beyond their usage on Twitter, which I’ll come back to in another post, there are already a few examples that I’ve seen of luxury / upmarket brands incorporating hashtags into their paid media advertising.

Cole Haan, the footwear brand has incorporated the #DontGoHome hashtag as a focal point of its latest New York focused campaign.

These ads click through to a Facebook tab, created to support this campaign, which does what it says on the tin  – it gives you ways to avoid going home in New York, by connecting you with the latest information on the New York nightlife scene.

Another luxury advertiser incorporating hashtags into their advertising is Emporio Armani. They recently ran a campaign, which used #EmporioArmaniLive in the digital display to promote the opening of their new New York flagship store.

When the ads are clicked on, you got taken to a great landing page with a customised Spotify playlist, which has some really great tracks on it, from some of the bands performing at the event.

What’s great about both of these campaigns is that the hashtag has become a campaign device and not just a means of tracking conversations online. The #EmporioArmaniLive hashtag is short-term and tactical and can be used again not only for other events, like fashion shows or exhibitions, but also in other cities for other store launches & events.  The Cole Haan #DontGoHome hashtag is something that is internationally relevant (who doesn’t sometimes want to stretch the night out longer?) and could be used again in other cities with vibrant nightlife, such as London, Paris, Milan or Miami.

Beyond these great, tactical examples, there are several questions a luxury brand should ask itself before incorporating hashtags into its paid advertising activity. As I’ve talked about before, something that creates desire for a luxury brand and its products is that intangible, emotional element, the near-inaccessibility of the brand. Luxury brands should be careful not to ‘lift the hood’ too much on their brand and be too accessible. Being ‘social’ without having a direct conversation with consumers is one way to do this.

Questions To Ask Before Incorporating Hashtags Into Paid Communication

1. Is the hashtag easy to remember? Is it an existing catchphrase or brand name?

Don’t make people work too hard to remember something that is effectively a tagline. Equally, avoid anything that strays into gimmicky territory.

2. If you’re using a hashtag to spark or harness conversation, are you actually monitoring the conversation to check consumer reaction?

There’s zero point in incorporating a hashtag in your communications if you don’t have a solid social listening programme to track the conversations the hashtag is generating.

3. If the hashtag isn’t about creating or harnessing conversation, are you clear about what you want people to do with the hashtag once they’ve seen it in your ads?

Be clear about what you want people to do and where you want them to go. Do you have a hashtag, as well as a URL,  Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest logos in your paid media creative? If so, you need to start asking yourself how much is too much in terms of number of points of communication.

4. Does the hashtag work creatively?

Think carefully about how you use the hashtag. There’s no point in slapping a hashtag in the middle of a six-sheet. Arguably, that would be surprising, but would negate the luxury element of the advertising. Equally, there’s not really much point in hiding it away in the bottom right-hand side of the creative.

5. Are you prepared if the hashtag gets hijacked?

Are you in control enough of the rest of your communications to be able to handle if this element gets used by spambots or people looking to promote themselves on your hashtag, especially if it starts trending? What are your contingency plans if the hashtag gets hijacked? Here’s what happened to a few other brands.

6. Have you thought about what next? How can you build learnings from this activity into your next campaign?

What do you think? Do hashtags have a place in luxury brand advertising?

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