Luxury balancing act – Fashion brands have long relied on a certain allure that makes a customer want to part with their hard-earned money and buy into a brand. This, in-turn, gives one a certain sense of elite status by proxy that makes others want to be like them. Nothing sells quite as well as aspiration.
Fashion houses like Louis Vuitton and Chanel, diamond jewelers like Harry Winston, hotel chains like Four Seasons and St. Regis, tech-driven brands like Bang and Olufsen or automobile manufacturers like Rolls Royce and Jaguar and many others; have held on to this allure in a consistent theme for several decades.
For years together, luxury brands have relied on their heritage, niche and several years of experience they have put into building their global presence. They pride themselves on delivering a memorable in-store customer experience, which is a big part of their overall appeal. Luxury brands have earned and secured their place among the best known around the world, however, they risk being pushed into the background by a new generation of highly equipped and digitally aware upstarts. A few smart ones have realized they can no longer trade solely on their tradition.
Traditionally, the industry banked on the brand’s exclusivity to create a brand image, however, with the advent of social media, digital visibility and Internet at large, the demand for an increase in accessibility and engagement with the masses has put the industry at a definite crossroad of accessibility and exclusivity. Some luxury brands argue that the accessibility of digital goes against their exclusive stature, putting them at risk of commercialization, which could gradually ebb brand perception. While this might be a valid concern, luxury brands are working towards creating digital brand strategies using their history and establishment to guide their approach.
Bvlgari’s #WishUponAStar campaign in 2017 took you through seven different magical stages of the factory, each of them featuring iconic Bvlgari products. Stella McCartney, most commonly recognized for her commitment to sustainable practices, launched Clevercare campaign for Earth Day 2017 that educated the consumer about eco-friendly practices through a series of short videos. Burberry, the most digitally savvy fashion house that there is, enjoyed brief success with its collaboration with WeChat, presenting its most iconic and classic pieces in a recap format, to create a sense of nostalgia. Back home, we notice most of our popular designers picking up the pace with brand inclusivity. The most common practice is frequent collaborations with fashion and lifestyle influencers in order to tell the brand’s story. For instance, Anita Dongre shares an elaborate behind-the-scenes making of her couture pieces and factory set up, which not only lets you in on her design aesthetic, but also start an emotional bond with the designer. That said, as long as your digital strategy is an extension of your brand, this approach will work.
At the initial stage of this digital adaptation, luxury brands faced certain hiccups that were cleverly masked, thanks to their high standing cache. They somehow successfully managed to strike the right balance between exclusivity and accessibility, driving strong financial results by innovating and designing expensive iconic products, which, when paired with extravagant marketing campaigns, emitted a subdued halo of perceived exclusivity around lower range products — such as fragrances, small leather goods and cosmetics — carefully designed to sell at high volume to aspirational consumers.
According to McKinsey,
“40% of all luxury goods purchase decisions are influenced by what consumers see and hear online. That means, in an industry with more than $280 billion in sales last year, online-influenced purchases accounted for more than $100 billion in revenue”, stated Huffington Post in 2017.
Luxury brands often share intimate brand stories, behind-the-scenes making and tried-and-tested trade secrets to keep the global consumer at an arm’s distance, but not too far. Such inclusivity makes a customer feel like they know the ins of a brand, making it easier for them to buy into it.
With a reputation of dominating and driving consumer opinion, luxury brands had been riding solo on fashion editorials and high-end magazines to be the voice of smoke screened truth for customers. However, with the changing times, consumers began to turn a skeptical eye towards advertising. Since social media influencers offer a highly engaged online audience, it only made sense for luxury brands to start approaching them to be their voice of authenticity and quality.
For a brand built around exclusivity, it seemed counter-intuitive to invest in platforms that were all about accessibility and opening closed doors. Nonetheless, it didn’t take much time for the world’s biggest brands to understand that luxury was no longer about wrapping the brand in mystery, but more about originality and personality. The most recent and best example of it being Dior, relaunching its iconic Saddle Bag with the help of a massive Influencer Marketing campaign, involving 100 global influencers uploading pictures of them wearing the bag, all at the very same time. This was an incredible move! “Since the campaign went live, web searches for Dior Saddle Bags went up by nearly 1,000 percent. A Dior spokesman said the launch had generated “incredible store traffic” and cross-selling opportunities as clients rushed out to buy the bags”, reported Business Standard, one week after the launch.
Within a market that is constantly being reshaped by digital media and globalization, the scale of growth, in recent years, has led many luxury brands to adopt strategies that some might say ‘risk’ upsetting the wafer-thin balance between exclusivity and accessibility that once allowed them to be both commercial and desirable at the same time. However, as the luxury customer started spending more and more time over the Internet, it left brands with little choice but to follow, by launching official social media accounts on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and the formidable e-commerce sites to drive sales.
Luxury brands rely on social media to keep the conversation going, e-commerce sites for sales and digital ads to keep up with their visibility – all in accordance with their values, tradition and history. The luxury industry has undergone tremendous changes in the last two decades. A global customer of today is online and connected. In this age of instant gratification, balancing exclusivity and accessibility has become the bread and butter of a luxury brand, and as for us – we are still skeptical if there is any chance we can put the genie back into the bottle.