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.


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.


The Future of The Fashion Show – Can Luxury Brands Learn From Topshop?

I’m a little bit obsessed with the Topshop / Google+ partnership for Topshop Unique’s Autumn / Winter Show.  And I never thought I’d ever write obsessed and Google+ in the same sentence.

This video has a great summary of what they did:


I love the digital and real-world integration – Google Hangouts online to find out more about the clothes, make-up and the models and a Google+ video booth at the show.

What’s also interesting is a quote from Justin Cooke, Topshop’s CMO about this partnership – after the Facebook partnership last year this is something that is built in Topshop’s DNA – we’re going to be seeing more great stuff them in future shows:

“We already have a great reputation, it’s not like we need to change anything. It’s all about protecting that position of always being an innovator. You’ve got to keep moving. You can’t stop.”

This is something that many luxury brands would do well to keep in mind. Innovation for the sake of it is pointless, but experimentation with clear KPIs and objectives that is balanced with the ultimate goal of preserving the brand’s equity will keep brands moving forward.

What Topshop and Burberry are doing is the future of luxury and fashion marketing  – they are harnessing the behaviours of the under 25s in a interesting way.  As a luxury brand, if you’re not already doing this or developing a strategy on how these platforms and digital content can integrate into your wider strategy, you’re missing a trick.

Luxury & Vine – The New Video Intersection?

What Is It? A new video social network, based around 6 second videos, owned by Twitter.

According to Vine, video posts on the platform are “about abbreviation…they’re little windows into the people, settings & objects that make up your life”. In other words, as Twitter is about short & sharp text (and images to some degree) updates, Vine is about applying the same principle to video.

The thing is, what we’ve seen so far is that it’s actually quite hard to make a good 6 second video. Having a trawl through the app and on Brands on Vine, it’s clear that the results are quite mixed. Bacardi UK and Cadbury UK have both created fun films around drink and chocolate recipes, respectively. Malibu have also produced a cute video for a refreshing looking Malibu & pineapple cocktail.


What Luxury Brands & Publishers Are On The Vine Platform? 

Luxury Fashion Brands: The Armani family are using the platform as Armani, but posting vines for their sub-brands as well:  ArmaniEmporio Armani and Giorgio ArmaniVictoria Beckham and Theory are also on the platform.

Publishers: Vanity FairElle UK, GQ Fashion

Luxury Retailers: Neiman MarcusMr Porter,  Harvey NicholsNordstrom

Luxury Hotels: Beverly Wilshire Hotel


What Are Luxury Brands Doing So Far?

Quite fortuitously, Vine was released around the same time as the latest round of Autumn / Winter Fashion Weeks, which means that many luxury fashion brands & publishers are using this event as an opportunity to test and learn on the Vine platform. So far, there have been quite a few show clips, backstage sneak peeks and a few stop-motion films, which are more challenging and require someone to stop and edit the content before posting. Here’s a great stop motion film from Harvey Nicks.

A very early learning is that image quality is an issue with a lot of these clips. HD and high resolution is a must, especially for luxury brands, who pride themselves on producing rich, high quality images & videos.

Another learning is that 6 seconds is actually a lot of time, in which you can tell a short, sharp, fun story! Just look at what Dogs Trust have done (I know they’re not a luxury brand).

As ever, there are many things to consider before jumping into the platform, such as:

  • Is Vine relevant for your social & communication strategy?
  • If so, how will Vine (the platform & the content) fit into the brand’s wider social & communication strategy?
  • What is the specific strategy for Vine? Is it solely a tool to create videos or will you grow your Vine community as well?
  • What stories do you want to tell on the platform? How often will you post?
  • Where will you syndicate your Vine videos? Twitter? Facebook? Your website? To other content aggregators?

Fortunately, there are early learnings that can be taken from brands that are already experimenting with the platform.


What Luxury Brands Can Learn From Beyoncé’s Social Strategy

At first glance, Beyoncé and the world of luxury don’t seem explicitly connected, do they? However,  when you scratch the surface, Beyoncé has the type of social presence that luxury brands would love to have. Let’s have a look at this in more detail.

1. Original Content That Is Adapted For The Best Use of Each Platform: Only The Best Quality Content Is Posted 

A smart content strategy forms the bedrock of Beyoncé’s social strategy.

She shoots / creates a constant stream of images that she then uploads to the most relevant platforms. What underlines all of this content is that each represents a piece of the wider ‘Beyoncé’ story.  She’s famously a control freak and the stories from her life – her shows, her events, her dreams & aspirations and the little day to day activities – all are posted with a clear strategy. Nothing is seemingly posted for the sake of it, with each image being very high quality and individually worth being liked, shared, commented on and remixed.

What can luxury brands learn from this?

  • Tell people your stories. Go into your archives and surprise people. Plan what you’re going to say on each platform & when you’re going to say it. 
  • Post high quality images & videos – use HD and high resolution standards. The higher the quality, the more likely people will engage & share.

2.  A Clear Platform Strategy: Each Platform Has Different Role In The Wider Communication / Social Strategy

Beyoncé has articulated a clear strategy for each platform, with her website acting as the heart of this strategy. On each platform, you see a different side of her personality.  How does she use each platform?

  • Facebook provides a peek into Beyoncé’s world. What’s critical about her Facebook strategy is that Beyoncé only posts when she has something to say, so she doesn’t overwhelm the platform and her fans’ news feeds with updates that would be better suited to another social platform. For example, on the day of the Super Bowl, she only posted 2 photos of her performance on Facebook, whereas she shared 10+ pieces of Super Bowl related content on Tumblr. Her Facebook page has commenting enabled, which allows fans to comment & react to the content she (well, it’s probably her team, not her) posts on the platform.
  • Beyoncé uses Tumblr to share a deeper story with fans. Although she was a late adopter to this platform, only launching her Tumblr page in early April 2012, from the volume of content and interaction she has on her content, you would never realize it. Every piece of content that she posts on Tumblr is instantly re-blogged, liked & remixed thousands of times. At time of writing, her post of her Vogue cover had been reblogged over 6,000 times Even though Tumblr don’t post follower counts, there is speculation online that it is around the 3 million mark. Not too bad.
  • Twitter remains Beyoncé’s least active social platform. Since joining, she’s only tweeted 4 times, all in the last year. Despite this, she has 7.1 million followers…all waiting for her next tweet. If I had to attribute a reason for her low Twitter usage, I would say that either she hasn’t figured out her strategy for the platform or that because Beyoncé’s social strategy is highly image driven, Twitter’s text focus doesn’t align with how she wants to connect with her fans.  

What can luxury brands learn for this?

  • Have a clear strategy for each social platform. Each platform is different, with each requiring a clearly defined approach & content strategy.
  • Don’t feel forced to go onto a platform before you’re ready and even have a loose strategy defined. The world won’t end if you’re not there.

3. Controlled Conversation: The Content Is the Conversation

Like many luxury brands, Beyoncé doesn’t engage in direct conversations with fans & followers. Instead, the content that she posts becomes the means of starting the conversation.

What this means is that she stays above the fray, whilst having a clear view on what people are responding to and sharing in real time.

What can luxury brands learn for this?

Luxury brands who have archives full of incredible content and who don’t need to use FMCG ‘Happy Friday’-style gimmicks to start conversation or make themselves interesting or relevant to fans.

The content is the conversation – don’t feel forced to openly respond to Facebook or Instagram comments. The two-way conversation is one of the truisms of social.

4. Quality Content Begats Earned Conversations & Remixed Content

The sum of Beyonce’s social strategy is a huge volume of earned conversations in the form of likes, re-blogs, shares and comments. This has given her a wider footprint on the web and greater exposure (something she doesn’t necessarily need after the Super Bowl, the GQ & Vogue covers and her HBO documentary)  to non-fans / followers.

Of course, this works both ways. When brands are too controlling of their content and how it is used on the web, they are likely to see a backlash. Case in point: Beyonce’s publicist emailed news outlets online asking them to take down unflattering shots of her taken during her Super Bowl performance. Of course, this sparked amazing remixes of the unflattering images, like these.

What can luxury brands learn for this?

Don’t try to control the earned conversations and the remixed content. Once content is online, it’s there and you can’t get it back or control what people do with it – so make sure what ever you post is great and worthy of being shared & re-mixed in a positive way.


Tumblr + Luxury = Best Friends

My last few posts have focused a lot on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest and their usage for luxury brands.

What about Tumblr? Does this visually led platform make sense for luxury brands? My view is that the answer is yes.

Geographically, the platform is still primarily US focused (40% of their users are registered in the US), with more than 170 million people worldwide viewing Tumblr blogs every month (54 million of those people are in the U.S.). Scale is not an issue either with the platform. There are over 70m blogs on the platform, with it generating over 17bn page views each month, an average of 70m posts created per day in over 12 languages.

What makes Tumblr so compelling is its ability to connect with the Millenials & Generation Y.  50% of Tumblr’s user base is under 25 years old and the platform has an 80% retention rate.

The numbers make sense, but what about the platform & its functionality? For luxury brands, who create so much rich content (and could in a way, be thought of as publishers themselves), that Tumblr is primarily about content spread is a big win. This means that the story that the brand wants to tell and wants people to share can be more easily controlled.

That means that success on Tumblr is not based on how many followers you have, but instead on how many people spread your content (via a reblog). For luxury brands, Tumblr is a fantastic opportunity for them s to teach the next generation their stories.

So who’s doing it well on Tumblr?

Marc Jacobs: Really clean design, a great mix of quotes, images, animated GIFs and videos, all tightly connected to the Marc Jacobs brand story and connected to the other Marc Jacobs owned platforms (Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Dot Com). They make it really easy to share the content as well, with specific tracking links for each post.

Kate Spade: Again, their Tumblr is really tightly connected into the overall Kate Spade brand story, with lots of content that is fun, interesting and compelling enough for Tumblr users to want to reblog and like. What I love it is how they also tell product stories, but they never beat you over the head with them – it’s just about the Kate Spade girls having a blast and allowing their Tumblr followers to share in the fun with them.

Barack Obama: Okay, so he’s not a luxury brand per se, but during his election, his campaign team did a fantastic job with his Tumblr, sharing content (animated GIFs, images, videos and quotes), with commentary that was very specific and tailored to the Tumblr audience. These posts  are great examples of this.

So what are the important things for luxury brands to think about when building a Tumblr presence?

1. Tailor your content.

Tumblr is about sharing, so post content that you think people will want to share. As with any other platform, test, learn and use the Tumblr analytics platform to see what type of content gets shared and liked the most. Also interesting is to see what people are saying when they share your content on their own Tumblrs – this should give you a view of the sentiment around your posts.

2. Use your captions. 

If you have captions on your posts, tailor your captions to the tone of the platform. Short, sharp and sometimes sarcastic captions work really well, but it’s also important to stay true to your brand’s overall tone of voice.

3.  You don’t need to worry about comments. 

You don’t need to open up your Tumblr to comments.  This means that when people share your posts, they may add their own commentary, but they won’t be able to comment directly on your Tumblr, unless you have comments turned on.

4. Build a specific editorial calendar for Tumblr. 

An editorial calendar specific to Tumblr, but connected with your overall social & digital editorial calendar. What’s important is that on Tumblr, the lifecycle of content tends to be longer than Facebook and Twitter, so you may not want to post as often. A little (i.e. one post per week) can go a long way.

5. Develop a tagging strategy for your posts.

People discover content by tracking tags (i.e. on the platform, you need to ensure that each post has relevant, but also interesting tags, which make it easy to track and for people to discover your content.

6. Customise your Tumblr to the type of story you want to tell about your brand.

The Coveteur’s Tumblr looks very different to Rodarte’s Tumblr, which in turn looks very different to Burberry’s Tumblr.

*Update: Tiffany have just launched a Tumblr called From Out of The Blue, which is very image led so far.

Check out this link to see other examples of Fashion Tumblrs.


Quality or Quantity: A Zero Sum Game For Luxury Brands on Social Platforms?

Some brands (which will remain nameless) have chosen to pay for followers and fans for their social platforms, which has resulted in a poor quality of fans and consequently, irrelevant communications to those fans. For example, looking at your Facebook Insights results, you might question the importance of a high concentration of male fans under 16, if you’re a luxury hotel chain.

One might argue that for luxury brands, who use these social platforms for consumer engagement, any communication to someone that has opted in to receive messages is relevant and will support their brand & image building objective – it builds the dream of the brand with people who’ve expressed interest in the brand.

The counter argument is that brands, especially luxury brands, should laser target and ensure that all of their communications on all platforms & channels goes to the most relevant people.

Essentially, the quality and quantity question is something that any luxury brand using social platforms like Facebook, Twitter or SinaWeibo for communication should be asking themselves.

What do I mean by quality or quantity?

Taking a few steps back, when any brand sets up a page on a social platform such as Facebook or Twitter, they must ask themselves a few questions:

  1. What is my objective for using this platform? Consumer engagement, information sharing or customer support?
  2. What is the objective of growing the platform? To reach as many people as possible or to reach a quality audience that have pre-qualified themselves as interested in my brand? Can I do both?
  3. How do I want the platform to grow – organically or through paid activity?
  4. If I’m willing to pay for fans / followers, how will I do this?  NB: Approach this with absolute caution and avoid any of the bulk follower  / fan buying services, as you will likely be buying spam accounts that  are completely irrelevant to your brand. My view is that luxury brands should never need to run Promoted Account or Like campaigns – if you have quality content (which all luxury brands should have) it will be easy to grow the platform organically.

Should luxury brands even care about the number of followers  / fans their brand has, as long as they are getting quality engagement?

My view is that quantity doesn’t mean quality – a high number of followers or fan doesn’t equate to legitimacy. It really is about how you engage with those followers, how often you engage & the quality of the content that you give them. You could have 10m quality followers on Twitter, but that number is irrelevant if you don’t give them something that makes it worth continuing to follow your brand.

Quantity for the sake of it means nothing and numbers do not equate to legitimacy. This principle holds true for fan and follower numbers, as well as page metrics. Talking specifically of page metrics, my view is  that quality engagement is a good balance between likes, comments & shares. The number of likes will always be disproportionate to the number of comments & shares, because this is a very simple action, compared to the marginally more complex action of sharing, replying or commenting.

What next?

If you already have a large number of fans or followers, check the quality of these people. There are now webtools, as well as the insights tools on the platform that can give you a topline view of quality.

  1. Use a service like Status People to check the quality of your Twitter followers. This service tells you if you the proportion of your followers that are good, fake or inactive based on a sample of 1,000 followers. Find out more here.
  2. Work with Facebook to leverage their internal tools to understand who the fans are on your Facebook page
  3. Use a series of Facebook Questions to develop an understanding of who your fans are.
  4. Run a formal survey on your Facebook page to understand who your Facebook fans are.

Once you know who your fans and followers are, develop or continue a strategy that emphasises sharing strong brand stories, whether they be images, videos, audio or text.  Quality content will always begat quality followers / fans.


Just Pin It? Pinnable Digital Display for Luxury Brands

Gucci recently ran a digital display campaign in the US, which incorporated a ‘Pin It’ button. This meant that people who saw the ad could effectively save it to a Pinterest board and then go back and visit the Gucci e-commerce site later if they wanted to.

Whether or not the campaign was effective, was besides the point in my view. The effort made it a success for a few reasons:

1. Test and learn

The digital benchmark has not been fully set in luxury advertising. It’s great to see luxury brands testing new approaches to digital advertising. They may not get it right, but the point is to iterate and learn, set internal benchmarks and incorporate what works into future campaigns.

2. Digital luxury innovation

I love the evolution of ‘saveable’ media. This was something I blogged  & tweeted about a few years ago, when I referenced a piece of research from Yahoo on digital memories, with the interesting stats that 60% of men and 66% of women sent emails to themselves to help them remember. Interestingly, there are people who were people who took photos of ads (14% of women and 23% of men) in order to remember them.

It’s fantastic to see this type of innovation coming from the luxury sector.

3. Earned media

Being a digital pioneer guarantees coverage and conversations – ask Burberry. Even if the campaign didn’t work, people are talking about what Gucci have done and they have planted the seed that they are willing to test new approaches and incorporate new technologies into their communication.