Managing a luxurious reputation – social media to amplify brand identity

I recently contributed the article below to Utalk Marketing, a UK based digital marketing news site on managing reputation for luxury brands in social. If you’ve read some of the posts on my blog, you’ll recognise the themes I’ve covered off in this article.

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In a world as elitist as the luxury market, the question of how to use social media presents a real conundrum. Social media success is defined by the quality of the conversations, followers and fans for a brand and ultimately the spread of content. Meanwhile, luxury brands by their very definition are about exclusivity. The two don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand.

The ubiquitous nature of social media, however, means that in order for luxury brands to remain relevant to their existing consumers, it is essential that they have a presence on new digital platforms.  To create a successful online presence, luxury brands must develop adaptable communication strategies with content that works well across both traditional and digital platforms. By adopting this approach at a strategic level, luxury brands are more likely 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.

Luxury brands have long been built on their reputation to tell a story, and social media offers a unique opportunity to tell their brand stories in a multi-visual way. Twitter and Facebook content has a shorter lifecycle, compared to Pinterest and Tumblr, which are driven by searches for specific interests and topics. This means that content that was posted six months ago can suddenly find a raft of new repins, reblogs, likes and comments. During their Autumn/Winter 2012 digital campaign, Gucci unveiled a banner ad with a small ‘Pin it’ button on the bottom left-hand corner. Clicking on this brought up two images to share on Pinterest: a full-size image of the ad, and a product shot of the shoes being advertised. On Pinterest, both pins linked directly to Gucci’s e-commerce site. This proactive use of the social content sharing website helped to boost the brand’s mentions on the network to 9,000 (up 166%) during the last quarter of 2012.

Conversely, the real time nature of Twitter offers luxury brands a way to share real-time events, such as fashion shows and product launches. This year’s London Fashion Week (LFW) saw the British Fashion Council (BFC) partnering with YouTube to live-stream 21 catwalk shows via the LFW channel. The BFC also worked closely with Twitter to promote conversation around London Fashion Week using the #LFW and by mentioning the official YouTube channel. Social media has transformed LFW into a global event and plays a central role for luxury marketers looking to engage their audience with the shows. Now regarded as one of the key components of the shows production, social media extends these offline events into digital campaigns.

Luxury brands must be mindful of ensuring they use social in a way that fits with their communication strategy. If, for example, their approach has previously been to avoid having direct conversations with their consumers in public forums, then they should apply this principle to how they communicate on social platforms. Just because brands can have a two-way conversation with consumers doesn’t necessarily mean that they should. According to a report by Unmetric, only three out of nine luxury brands examined (Burberry, Ralph Lauren and Dolce & Gabbana) allowed fans to post on their Facebook page. And none of the brands publicly replied to a Facebook post during the time period of the report.

A further consideration for luxury brands is how their communities on these owned platforms will grow. On the whole, they have rich archives of content, some of it never seen before by the public. This content is built into an editorial schedule with a good cadence and is optimised based on what people respond to, then a community will grow organically and the brand should never have to pay to acquire fans or followers. In 2010 luxury French firm LVMH launched an online magazine, ‘Nowness,’ to inspire its audience. The editorial platform offers a daily multimedia story in a stylish minimalist way and has blurred the lines between editorial and promotional content. A Chinese-language version of the ‘Nowness’ is also available to reach the rapidly-expanding Chinese market.

A luxury brand can quickly damage its reputation by being inauthentic and not staying true to the image it has carefully crafted over the lifetime of the brand. Consistency is key. By staying true to a brands’ existing communication strategy and principles, potential opportunities to damage the brand are minimised.  In today’s digital world, social has become an intricate part of people’s lives and luxury brands need to respond in kind.

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