Sunday, November 4, 2012

Three Things Luxury Managers Need to Know about Digital Strategy

As a graduate major in the Medill IMC program, we learn about luxury brands and the trends which impact the marketing of them. Just a few years back, most luxury brands were skeptical about digital media. The question, “Is digital killing luxury brands,” was frequently asked, and for many prestige executives, their brands’ exclusivity ran tangent to those wholly democratic platforms. Their fear was reasonable – if they failed to nail it, the democratizing effect of digital media could have diluted the brands.

Now that premium brands have found themselves befriending the fear. And they have good reasons to talk themselves into going online. According to Adweek, eighty percent of people with an income of over $250,000 are active on social media sites. In addition, a 2011 Digitas study shows that millennials, also known as digital natives, will become major high-end shoppers over the next few years and should therefore be targeted now.

So brands from Aston Martin to Cartier are embracing digital wholeheartedly. They are setting up Facebook pages, posting videos on YouTube, redesigning their ecommerce sites, and developing mobile apps. Choosing the right platforms is essential to good luxury brand digital strategy – on that we can agree. However, great luxury brand digital strategy puts emphasis on a more holistic approach. They ask how – how to leverage the world’s most democratic media. With that in mind, here are three things today’s luxury executives must know when creating their own digital strategy:
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1. Maintain that sense of exclusivity. Luxury managers have been worried about losing their cachet in this digital landscape. However, their concern misses the point because if premium brands want to remain prestigious, they need to engage not only the affluent set but also the aspirational set. This is where the power of digital media comes into play. Digital media offers luxury brands an opportunity to build tremendous clout among customers who want but cannot afford the products. This, in turn, helps the brands preserve that sense of exclusivity and makes the products more desirable for high-end shoppers.  

2. Create an engaging experience. Oftentimes, engagement relies on stories that sell, whether it be a Facebook post or a branded video. Cartier, for instance, has done a great job selling its story recently. The French jeweler is running a digital campaign for the new Tank Anglaise timepiece. The campaign focuses on communicating the history of Cartier’s iconic Tank timepieces. Cartier creates a video that showcases the Tank model alongside the evolution of the arts, and the Tank story is also incorporated into Cartier’s social media content

3. Be consistent in the brand image. Maintaining brand consistency across digital platforms has become somewhat of a challenge to today’s luxury marketers. This is because digital media has changed the way these brands reach their target audience – it seems difficult to control the brand image while encouraging “interactivity.” For luxury marketers, however, killing the conversation between the brand and the consumers is not the answer. Instead, understanding that they need to ultimately gain control of their branding through generating content, responding, and monitoring on a regular basis is the key. 

By adhering to these principles, luxury brands are taking that first step to better ingratiate themselves with consumers in the digital landscape.

Phoebe Chen is a graduate student in Medill’s Integrated Marketing Communications program at Northwestern University. She specializes in brand management and marketing analytics and has experience working with multinational companies operating in various industries. Follow her @yhschen or connect with her on LinkedIn: Phoebe Chen. 

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