If normally, brands are defined by their products, testimonials and market positioning; luxury brands are defined by their aspirational value, brand awareness and public perception. All three of which are generated by marketing.
Arguably, marketing plays a bigger role in luxury compared to any other industry.
That’s because, in luxury, marketing makes the product. Marketing creates the luxurious aura for the product and whenever a product is bought, it works to convey the marketing promise.
And every time a product is purchased, it loses some of its dream value.
The luxury marketing challenge is to preserve the aura and infatuation towards luxury products, especially mass-produced luxury goods that sell in high numbers (think LV, Chanel, Gucci etc.).
However, this does not really mean that a luxury brand can sell anything they want. A luxury brand identity is usually featured with heritage and expertise at its core. The products must be born from these core features.
For example, a brand like Louis Vuitton can’t manufacture and sell cars but a brand like Roll-Royce can very well sell products such as luggage bags and champagne sets (both sometimes featured in their cars). These products are still considered proper luxury.
Yet another luxury marketing challenge arises when a brand extends its product line to survive. Plenty of brands have done this but getting it right has always been a challenge.
Mont Blanc started out as a pen that was the ultimate writing tool. It signified the status of the person whenever they signed. Today, Mont Blanc sells leather goods, jewellery and watches apart from pens. All objects that match the intimacy of a pen.
And Mont Blanc seems to have done well with the strategy.
The lesson is that if you stay close to your core competency, you can spin things any way you want and succeed in the market. Just that the spin must be credible.
And credibility is the biggest challenge a luxury brand faces. Almost every major luxury brand has extended their product lines or evolved to sell completely different products altogether (Hermes went from saddles to handbags and couture).
Marketing has always played a significant role in enabling such transformations.
Yet, major players in the industry have delayed embracing digital marketing. Their reluctance while understandable, is unsuitable.
Because the future of luxury marketing is digital.
Few years back, when the concept of digital marketing was gaining immense traction, luxury brands were weary of how to use it without harming the exclusivity of the brand. With the advent of experiential marketing, luxury brands seem to have cracked the code.
But brands still place emphasis on the physical brand experience, with digital initiatives being driven with an objective of bolstering the physical store experience.
For the future, luxury brands must take bold action to create digital storefronts equally appealing as their physical counterparts.
A few digital avenues to cover are listed below.
– Nurture a solid visual brand
Most luxury brands shy away from online because they think it kills exclusivity since the products are now more accessible. This is not the case.
Every major luxury brand, including those that deal in haute couture, run extensive marketing campaigns. Building a presence on digital platforms should be considered merely a part of the overall luxury marketing strategy.
Add to that the potential for meaningful client conversations and the ability to cultivate a truly organic audience, and digital seems like a no-brainer. Perspective matters.
– A stunning website is great but not enough
Most luxury brands have absolutely stunning websites with gorgeous layouts and lively animations. However, more often than not, they’re hard to navigate.
Intuitiveness is all the more important for luxury brands because the experience must be felt through every touchpoint. A website, regardless of how visually stunning, must be easy to navigate.
This applies to any website in any industry. A poorly laid out website will convert poorly.
Moreover, it helps in building desire. Unqualified audiences who visit the website get a glimpse into the brand and realise what they’re missing out on.
– Combine the online and offline experience
Luxury brands must take the initiative in promoting digital sales. This will make the transition so much easier for both themselves and their customers.
As of now, most luxury purchases are still physical (and for good reason). Brands must figure out how to digitally connect with their clientele in an exclusive manner.
This could be through private online client communities, exclusive access to digital events or even separate communication channels for clients and non-clients.
Clients should experience the brand holistically both online and offline.
– Pay more attention to personalisation
Every Porsche you see on the road is unique. Not because cars from the brand are rare, but because Porsche offers an unbelievable array of personalisation and customisation options.
It’s said that out of the 25000 911s and 718s sold each year, only 2 models are fully identical. This has multiple effects.
Firstly, Porsche aspirants prefer a new car rather than a used one due to the staggering scope for personalisation.
Second, the owners feel that they’re driving something truly bespoke, tailor-made to their specific needs and tastes.
Third, the process of customisation is a separate experience in itself, contributing to the larger brand experience.
And Porsche lets you do this online. I cannot imagine doing something more delightful on the internet.
Personalisation has always been an integral part of luxury. Moving it online means more possibilities and fewer limits. Brands, customers and enthusiasts; everybody stands to win.
The future is now
One of the major driving forces behind the growth of digital is changing consumer behaviour. Earlier, the purchase behavior of consumers was easy to decode. Things were also simpler.
Today, consumers demand more. They want higher quality products, meaningful brand conversations and better brand experiences. This means that brands must develop sophisticated personalities.
And this depth can be easily achieved thanks to digital media. Brands today have several avenues to communicate through, especially compared to the platforms available just a couple decades ago.
The opportunity here is staggering and those who take initiative can do amazing things and reap significant rewards.
We’ve already witnessed this with Burberry, a brand which bounced back from the edge of ruination. Their revival can be attributed to the digital innovation they undertook, tapping into new audiences and prompting exciting conversations.
Today, Burberry is a quintessential example of luxury marketing done right in the digital age.
As the luxury universe evolves digitally, the prominence of physical touchpoints across the luxury marketing and retail experience will diminish.
Brands who’ve embraced digital early have a definite advantage over the rest. This translates to not just an increase in revenue but also a real increase in equity.