In theory, from the Luxury Houses’ viewpoint, the use of Web 2.0 technology and its associated ‘mass media’ image would not seem to fit well with their editorial strategy. In other words, this broad spectrum medium seems incompatible with luxury brands which would tend to target a rare and privileged clientele.
And yet, the major luxury houses are strengthening their presence on social media networks in order to reach larger communities beyond their core customer target base. In an environment which deals in selling dreams, social media platforms such as Instagram or Snapchat which rely on visual impact to seduce their users are now being widely exploited by luxury brands to circulate inspiring and aspirational content (fashion show visuals, communication campaigns). We decipher the phenomenon.
72% of luxury goods consumers use social media networks to interact with their favourite brands (57% frequently and 15% occasionally). These are the findings of the True-Luxury Global Consumer Insight report published in February 2017 by The Boston Consulting Group and Altagamma. 77% of Millennials interact with luxury brands in this way, followed by 72% of Generation X, and 53% of Baby Boomers and Silver customers. In the USA, which are by far the leaders, 82% have adopted this behaviour, compared to 78% in China, 66% in Europe and 49% in Japan.
A reinforced presence on social media networks
The social network most used to interact with luxury brands is Facebook at around 45%, followed by YouTube, about 35%, Instagram, 27%, and Twitter, 25%. Luxury brands, particularly those in the fashion and cosmetics sectors, have therefore understood how important it is to strengthen their presence on these platforms. Indeed, such networks provide the opportunity to generate large communities, as evidenced by the Louis Vuitton page which has a current audience of over 19 million fans.
Concerning YouTube, where views of luxury brand videos increased significantly in 2016, the figures are also impressive. Chanel increased the number of views of its video channel by 3.5 times to reach a total of 79 million. The company registered 200,000 followers in a year thanks to its mini-series-based editorial strategy using interviews and tutorials with bloggers and celebrities from the world of cinema and fashion (Lily Rose Depp, Kirsten Stewart, Karl Lagerfeld, Allison…).
For its part, Christian Dior gained more than 100,000 followers in 2016 – far more than in 2015 – thanks to both its series ‘Tales of the Wild by Sauvage’ featuring influencers from the sports world, and its recent series, ‘Lady Dior seen as’. Wiztracker, YouTube’s big data analytical tool, shows that Chanel and Dior, as well as Paco Rabanne, Maybelline, L’Oréal and Louis Vuitton all rank amongst the top 10 most effective French brands on the platform (all sectors included).
Indeed, video content allows fashion brands to engage with their audience by using original and creative content. Nevertheless, photos remain the most popular means of capturing internet users’ attention in an emotional way. According to Christophe Manceau, who directed the survey ‘Luxe et Instagram, l’affinité au coeur des stratégies de marque’ (Luxury and Instagram, affinity at the heart of brand strategy), and who was interviewed in the magazine, L’Usine Nouvelle’, ‘Instagram has become the top social media site for luxury brand activity, most particularly for premium fashion and beauty brands.’
And, as emphasized by the survey published in October 2016 by Iconosquare, the analytical solutions provider for Instagram, luxury and fashion brands unsurprisingly rank among the most influential brands on Facebook. Indeed, with 32% of users aged between 15 and 24 and 13% aged between 25 and 34, this site is a veritable magnet for Millennials, who are now a priority target for luxury brands. Adapting to these young internet users will be essential if luxury goods manufacturers are to avoid being side-lined.
The use of social media networks combined with new technologies is more engaging
According to Kantar Media, the use of social networks in conjunction with the Press, TV and search engine marketing is more engaging for internet users. This is why all the major groups are investing heavily in these channels in order to increase their audiences. One of the first tools used by some luxury houses was SoLoMo. This term is the acronym for Social, Local, Mobile, which is a marketing strategy based on three criteria: Social networks (Social), Location (Local) and Mobility (Mobile). Vuitton was the first to use this tool through an application highlighting its Brand Content. The application, AmblewithLouisVuitton, seeks to highlight the theme of the “voyage”, which is central to the brand’s core DNA. By offering its users a virtual travel log, this geo-localized tool allows them to leave a digital trace, an opinion or photos relating to a particular place: New York, London, Tokyo etc. This creates a genuine interaction between the users and the brand’s universe.
Burberry is still seen today as the leading luxury brand in the use of digital technology. The company has been inventive with its entertaining collection launches delivered via new technologies. In particular, the British firm chose to appeal to internet users by broadcasting its catwalk shows live, using the concept of See Now Buy Now. Its latest mixed catwalk show transmitted via Facebook, Snapchat and Apple TV propelled the brand into the 3.0 communication era. The company has also launched an application which allows certain events to be followed live, as well as beauty tutorials and video clips.
But the British luxury retailer went still further: for the first time internet users were given access to the design of an advertising campaign in real time. The photographer, Mario Testino, shot the brand’s 2016 spring-summer collection live from London via SnapChat. Internet users had to be quick off the mark because the entire content was only visible for 24 hours. This strengthened Burberry’s position as a precursor and reinforced its aim to create a truly close relationship with its online followers. In this way, the brand has launched several original tools, all used in combination with transmissions across social media networks, e.g., booths connected to London enabling users to participate in the making of advertising films and the creation of the ‘www.artofthetrench.com’ platform which allows online users to submit “selfies’ of themselves in their trench coats… Internet users thus become real participants in the brand’s universe and in its storytelling.
New habits require new ambassadors
Luxury brand Houses have always used ambassadors to emphasize their Brand Content. These individuals act as spokespersons and enable the brand to reach a more or less wide audience. However, they are not chosen at random. From now on, internet users can also be used as genuine ambassadors for the brand. Photo competitions during which the brand offers customers the opportunity of winning a product, have become very common. The aim is often to take a picture showing the brand or one of its products, and is usually accompanied by a ‘hashtag’ followed by the name of the brand. Such communication methods provide great visibility, they are fast and inexpensive. Bloggers are also highly sought after as prescribers who can generate large audiences of keen followers who engage with the content. Indeed, bloggers represent an opportunity which has not escaped the notice of certain luxury brands, and their role has now been transformed from that of a simple fan to a luxury brand ambassador.
The most influential bloggers attend catwalk shows sitting on the front row next to Anna Wintour and Emmanuelle Alt. They are invited to previews of new collections and receive gifts etc. According to the Reech report, Les Influenceurs et les Marques en 2017 (Influencers and Brands in 2017), released in January, the influencers’ blog is the most coveted platform (71.7%), followed by Instagram (48.1%) and Facebook (22.6%). In this way, luxury companies establish special relationships with carefully selected bloggers who provide the brand with new visibility in return. Kristina Bazan, the iconic model for Chopard and Mugler, is also a famous fashion blogger with 2.4 million followers on Instagram and the same number on her Blog. She was listed in second place in Forbes’ Art and Style 2016 ranking, just behind the American plus-size model, Ashley Graham.
Kristina Bazan is therefore described by Forbes magazine as one of the most influential bloggers in the world today. As a result, she is one of the personalities most sought-after by luxury brands. For the launch of its ‘Panthère’ watch last May, Cartier employed bloggers Takenya and Cipriana Quann, Ayania Miyamoto, and Kristina Bazan (2.4 million followers on Instagram), so that the watchmaker could benefit from the wide spectrum of prospective customers that these women influence on a daily basis. The bloggers then had a whole week-end in which to take photos of themselves with the watch before these were posted on social media. While bloggers are certainly close to consumers, partly due to their online exchanges, but also because of their accessibility and openness, luxury goods houses will of course continue to choose celebrities as ambassadors in accordance with the values and image that they convey. Luxury brands see a real advantage in using a range of diverse personalities (the business man, sports person, artist etc.), not only for showcasing their products, but also for the image that they project. Luxury brands which are present on social media essentially seek two main objectives: humanisation and accessibility. There is also an opportunity for brands such as Burberry, Dior or Chanel to attract future customers by addressing them according to their particular values, whilst still preserving the identity inherent to luxury goods. The digital video format which has seen double-digit growth today is an opportunity for brands to provide followers with an engaging brand experience. The development of these new, ultra- powerful communication tools (large-size Smartphones, tablets etc.) has also changed our methods of consuming. Luxury brands have taken note: with the development of these technological wonders, they must put digital technology at the heart of their strategies in order to meet the demands of a new generation which is now used to purchasing on line.
By Claire DOMERGUE
and Guillaume ROIGNOT
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