Time for luxury to engage

September 23, 2009 in -e.social

cartierBy Simon Fuller. High-end sociability. Luxury brands are facing something of a dilemma when it comes to social media. On the one hand, everyone else seems to be at it, and they certainly don’t want to miss out. On the other, they’re all about luxury – and that means maintaining a certain distance from the consumer.
“With regards to luxury consumers, we know that they consider the Internet as one of the primary sources of information about luxury products,” says Marco Corsaro, md of new media marketing outfit 77Agency. “They spend more time online than using any other media, [we know] that a higher percentage of them than average are Internet shoppers 75% versus 70% – and that they are twice as likely to be involved in consumer-generated content online.
“Having said that, many luxury brands have been slow in taking the lead in managing their presence in social media networks, missing out on important opportunities to engage directly with consumers and brand ambassadors,” he adds.
But it looks like slow-poke brands won’t be able to keep holding back, since consumers chat about them across social networks anyway.
“It’s no longer a question of avoidance,” says Corsaro. “Brands already feature strongly in social media exchanges as consumers use Facebook, Twitter and other networks to express their feelings and exchange opinions about brands and products on a daily basis.”
He points to research from Penn University, which suggests that 20% of tweets actually mention specific brand names or products.
Some luxury brands are showing no fear of social media. Cartier, for one, has bagged its own MySpace account, and the Love Cartier page isn’t too far removed from the usual fare you’d find from a band, including a choice of music tracks and a photo gallery, all with a love theme, naturally.
So, if a luxury brand does take the plunge, how should it go about it?
“The situation is rather complex for luxury brands,” explains Grégory Pouy, strategy and communication director at buzz and communications agency Vanksen. “How can they create a link while keeping this [guarded] distance [towards consumers]? But there are different ways of creating a brand experience and a brand relationship. It is possible to keep a certain distance.”
Pouy suggests that engaging consumers via key bloggers or tweeters, or perhaps creating a branded experience, such as the Hermes website, which utilizes online storytelling and video elements, may be the way forward.
In any case, Corsaro recommends brands adhere to certain rules which apply across the board online regardless of the nature of the brand.
“Social media is about interaction, engaging with consumers directly, not the one-way communication of traditional advertising channels,” he says. “Luxury brands need to be open to both provide and receive feedback from consumers, to reveal the personality behind the brand.
“Of course, the potential viral and promotional effect of social media should also be taken into account,” he adds. “More and more people are using social networks to search in real time for information and updates from trusted contacts. We all know that a recommendation from a friend is worth much more than [from] an anonymous source.”
The bottom line is that once a luxury brand gets rolling, it can’t afford rest on its laurels.
“Opening a Twitter account and setting up a fanpage on Facebook is not enough,” warns Corsaro. “To be successful, brands also need to provide, fresh, relevant and shareable content to keep fans engaged and interested.”

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