In this day and age, a brand having a strong social media presence seems like a no-brainer. However, for luxury brands, it’s not such an obvious answer. Luxury is considered to be built on five pillars:
- Social Status/Social Gap
- Hedonic and Refine Experience
- Exceptional Performance and Quality
- Creative Leadership
The pillars important to highlight here are the first three – Rarity/Scarcity, Social Status/Social Gap, and Hedonic and Refine Experience. Luxury brands cater to their customers – high net worth individuals – by providing a hedonic experience separated from the norm. Luxury products are not technically much different than premium products, but the true pleasure derived from them is the psychological benefit that come along with the purchase. Luxury products promote exclusivity and serve as a way of subtly reinforcing social classes, and luxury consumers are well aware of this.
This is where the paradox of social media comes in. The internet is known for its accessibility, and that doesn’t exactly attract luxury brands. Whether you’re a millionaire or logged onto your local library computer for internet, you have the same ability to follow Louis Vuitton on Instagram. For that exact reason, luxury brands were reluctant to adopt a social media presence for fear of losing control or destroying one or more pillars of luxury. However, luxury brands are starting to realize it is important to embrace social media to grow brand awareness and reach millennial consumers.
The rise of digital influencers has been one thing luxury brands have notably struggled with while adopting a social media presence. Digital influencers build credibility and authenticity for a brand, and bring along sustained familiar relationships with followers. All of this sounds great – so why aren’t all the luxury brands working with influencers?
There are a few problems with influencer partnerships that drive away luxury brands. First, digital influencers already have an established brand image that they built over time. Most influencers start from “the bottom” and work their way up, meaning they probably were more frugal and had initial partnerships with brands like ASOS, Zara, or H&M. All of that is great, but it doesn’t exactly scream luxury. Luxury brands are careful to partner with an influencer who has a long-established history as a luxury consumer with high-class tastes, and has acquired a strong following of potential luxury customers. Second, working with a digital influencer relinquishes a lot of control on the brand’s end, and luxury brands are notoriously obsessive over control. Once an influencer is a known partner of the brand, everything they say or do represents the brand as well. This can be a dangerous game to play for many luxury brands, which often leads them to stay away from influencer partnerships.
The best example of a successful luxury influencer is Chiara Ferragni. Like I mentioned in my previous posts, Ferragni is the gold standard for fashion influencers, and has a history of partnerships with brands like Burberry, Louis Vuitton, and Cartier. These partnerships could only be achieved once Ferragni was a strongly established celebrity in the fashion world, and had been known for blogging about luxury items since the beginning of her blog.
Another key factor was that these brands were already a part of Ferragni’s personal style. Since the first post of her blog, The Blonde Salad, she had written about brands like Louis Vuitton and Chanel, so her followers knew she was being authentic throughout the partnerships. This kind of authenticity and brand affinity is what most brands could only dream of an influencer bringing to a partnership, and it makes Ferragni the most coveted out of them all.
Looking forward, we are starting to see most luxury brands moving toward social platforms. The key is to still provide an exclusive experience for their loyal customers, and to use social media in a way that benefits the brand. Luxury brands can still offer an elite experience by creating small communities online that only registered customers can join, and this will help maintain the air of exclusivity. These communities will supplement the standard social media profiles of brands as a way for the loyal customers to connect with one another and receive a personalized experience with as well.
In terms of their digital content, luxury brands should focus on using the platforms to communicate brand stories, like their heritage, and brand values. Similar to how luxury stores don’t need to display all of their products in the windows, luxury brands don’t need to use social media to advertise every single item for sale. The purpose of their social media presence isn’t to sell more products, but to enhance their brand story with additional media. A luxury brand should use their social media as a way to educate their followers on the brand heritage and tradition – these are the intangible values that create the brand’s prestige.