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What most luxury brands didn’t understand about digital

Our French Social Champion Gregory Pouy, a leading digital marketing consultant, provides his insight into why luxury brands are behind the digital curve.

Back in 2007, as I was the General Manager of BuzzParadise, we handled the very first operation involving bloggers for one of the most iconic global luxury brands.

At that time, it was really modern for a luxury brand to integrate bloggers into a strategic marketing plan or even to simply create a presence on social networks.

Brands were struggling with the fact that they could ruin their mystique, they were concerned that to stay inspirational they needed to remain out of the conversation. Ultimately the issue on everyone's lips was ‘control’ and still to this day to a certain extent this is ‘the big issue’ when it comes social media.

How do you control anything in the wild wild west when everyone is breaking the rules and trying new things?

Well you don’t! This is why many luxury brands decided to, very simply, ignore it all.

Obviously, things have changed now, luxury brands have understood that they have to go where the people are. Therefore, bloggers are at the front row of every catwalk and almost all luxury brands have a presence on, at least, one social network.

But there’s a hitch!

Marketing is not only about talking (even for luxury brands)
This is an obvious statement, but the reality is, that those brands are talking and sharing but almost none of the luxury brands have arrived at the stage of listening. Reality is that according to Bain & Co, no luxury brands are doing it properly.

Most of them only consider social media as ‘push media’ and only use social to push out what marketers would term ‘decision’ content, concentrated on the brand and products themselves.

Take a step back, close your eyes, and pretend you are in a boutique.

In that brand’s sanctuary, the role of a luxury brand is to serve his clients as best as possible and therefore answer anything. There is no reason why this shouldn’t apply on the web. Some still think that luxury shoppers aren’t online but that’s a profound mistake as Google has shown through their figures.

100% of luxury shoppers owned a smartphone or a tablet, 75% conduct research online before purchasing…and therefore they are also active on social networks.

It is not rude to answer a complaint online and some luxury brands have already understood that quite clearly. The truth is that if you don’t listen, your competitor will, and the worst thing is that it’s live, open and free.... so there is no excuse!

It seems evident that most of brand followers are not buyers, but enthusiasts (I rather prefer this term than “fan”.) This customer advocacy is a strong asset for luxury brands, as they will create content that motivates other consumers to become customers.

Luxury brands are much more focused on products, creativity and branding than in understanding the consumer but they are wrong to ignore them.

That’s a pitfall.

A Luxury brand should lead the way, not listen...really?

Most of the time when talking with luxury brand marketers, they will answer that people love luxury brands because they are inaccessible and exclusive.

Well, firstly you never respect someone if they portray these ‘qualities,’ you respect someone because they are good at what they do.

In comparison, if you ask any designer about their creativity, they will always answer that they take inspiration from the streets, their travels and real life experiences.

So it could be argued that a designer ‘listens’ and probably has a better understanding of what their target audience is pinning on Pinterest.

However there are different phases in brand listening.

The first and the easiest phase, should be called would “just do it.” You count the brand mentions, and analyse the ratio of positive, negative or neutral sentiment.

But there is more to it!

I’m working with global brands that realized that tiny portions of those mentions are actually directly actionable.

Therefore you can learn and gain experience straight from the consumer’s point of view and save time and money. Whether it is marketing, communication, legal, logistic, sales, human resources or whatever, a response can be made. However this process needs to be organized accordingly and procedure should be implemented so that the information is passed from listeners to the appropriate services.

Listening is about understanding the future not just reporting the past

To understand the future, most luxury brands work with forecasting agencies but nowadays, it is very important to integrate data analytics to get a wider understanding.

It is very easy to gather data but it is very important to invest the interpretation of data, that has been collected. It also means that more time is needed to be spent on interpreting what these digital and social signals mean.

The next level is where most companies struggle: real-time engagement, which means real time data and insights.

You first need to have the right tool to do so but the major issue remains and that is the ability to apply analytical skills.

In a near future, luxury brands will probably have to hire data analysts to help them, but for the present it is certain that to maintain 300 million luxury shoppers brands will have to change the way they do marketing as their shoppers are very different from the one they used to market too.

Interested to see how your current capability compares to the rest of Europe’s leading businesses, take part in #TheSocialInfluencer Survey and access the latest benchmark report for free.

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