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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Barbie’s Next Career

What will Barbie be next? That’s what Mattel are asking, in a cute campaign I spotted in New York earlier this week.

She’s had over 120 different careers!  Over the years, Barbie’s been many things, including a Doctor,  an Astronaut and a Race Car Driver – quite a bit more prolific than the average 7 -10 jobs a person is supposed to have over their career.

So what was the result of the vote? Quite excitingly (or maybe the result of a rigged popular vote?!), Barbie is going to be a Computer Engineer! Oh, and a News Anchor as well- the result of the Girls vote.

Much better than the Teen Talk Barbie of ’92, which was programmed to say “Math class is tough!”

I love that Computer Engineer Barbie (her 126th career!) is going to be kitted out with a smart phone, a laptop case and a Bluetooth earpiece and her t-shirt has binary code all over it.

Hopefully this will inspire more girls to study computers, engineering and start coding away!

Drive Thru America

Having lived in London for the past 8 years and relying on my feet, taxis or other various means of public transport to get around, I forget how utterly reliant Americans and Canadians are on their cars. Whenever I go back home or travel somewhere in the U.S., there are always so many brilliant reminders of this.

I was in Miami this past Christmas and rented a big old American SUV to get around. Even driving from the car rental place to the highway,  there were so many amazing examples of how interwoven cars are into American culture.  American advertisers seem well aware of this, creating very stark and easy to digest large outdoor creative executions.

Many businesses have geared their services towards this and it was incredible to see the variety of companies offering drive-thru services, beyond the usual suspects like McDonald’s and fast-food restaurants of that ilk. Many banks, pharmacies, even doctor’s offices all had a drive-thru lane.

While we were driving around, we listened to the radio a lot. It was clear from all the dial turning we did that commercial radio is alive and kicking and there are stations in each market to cater to every niche – Spanish, hip-hop, R&B, C&W, classic rock – anything you can think of.

Even in New York, a city known for its subways and taxis, this was true. Apparently 1010 WINS, the local AM talk radio station, gets over 12 million listeners a day because people rely on the station to give them up to date local news, weather and information, all with a quintessentially New York spin.

I Am and You Are Too

I walked out of my hotel this morning and saw an outdoor ad that made me stop in my tracks. Usually, I have a very immediate love / hate reaction to advertising. With this ad, I wasn’t sure.

For those you who are having trouble reading it, the copy says: ‘I am Asian when I’m experiencing prejudice.  Put yourself in someone else’s shoes.’

Really interesting concept, but I’m not 100% sure about the execution – but I suppose that’s the point. It’s unexpected and provokes conversations – conversations about the grammar. Should they have used contractions to make the ad more accessible? Should they have used less obvious photo stock shots. I know it’s charity work, but don’t agencies use this as an opportunity to showcase their best work?