Five Ways Luxury Brands Can Overcome the Conundrum of Social Marketing

Although we’ve seen heavy adoption of social in the tech and consumer goods space, the impacts are far reaching.  One industry that’s often overlooked –but could have the most impact is the luxury industry.

Their biggest challenge isn’t the usual like convincing management, measuring ROI, or coordinating your company but perhaps something more disruptive.  Consumers of luxury products want to associate with a dream, a celebrity, or other aspiration –and most of the time, that’s not common people who buy those products and who will talk about them.

[Luxury products are for the elite, yet social technologies are for everyone. Luxury brands face a unique conundrum of marrying these two worlds]

By definition, luxury items are more difficult to achieve, represent the elite, or render a higher performance. Although we expect social technologies to democratize the world, we gotta be honest about today’s world, many consumers associate true luxury products with the upper echelons. With that said –there are methods luxury brands can still participate, here’s a few:

Five Ways Luxury Brands Can Overcome the Conundrum of Social Marketing:

  1. Monitor and Listen to understand customer needs.  First, hire a brand monitoring company that can understand the needs of your customers in the real time social web.  Radian 6, Altierian, Scout Labs, Visible Technologies frequently come up in conversation, and there’s a larger group of incumbents such as Dow Jones Factiva, Nielsen Buzzmetrics, and TNS Cymfony.   For those that want to create an online focus group –contact vendors like Passenger and Communispace who focus on what I’ve dubbed “insight communities”
  2. Start with by using sharing tools. These enable customers to share corporate created content such as videos, blog posts, images, and contests.  Vendors such as Share This, Add This or other similar technologies can easily get a brand up and running.  Why is this a good first start?  It simple extends the corporate approved and created content to the social realm.
  3. Create “On-Brand” Contests. Develop programs that maintain the sanctity of the premium experience by developing a program that encourages members to share the preferred experience with others. Example: Develop a Facebook app that asks a quiz “which one of your friends is most likely to buy our beauty product” and then encourage them to share it.
  4. Highlight consumer created content from “preferred” segment. If celebrities are using your products and talk about them, echo it back and highlight from your own efforts. Example: highlight users of your products in your blog, from Twitter, or other social technology “See how Ashton sports our latest suits”, allow users to share and spread it to their own websites using simple tools like sharethis.
  5. Develop or sponsor lifestyle communities. Branded communities, social networks, or bloggers can all be reached using traditional media relations tactics. Not unlike traditional sponsorship and spokesperson product trial programs, you can develop brand affinity in the social space through formal programs.  The trick however is to become a platform to uplift their voice –not just insert your own.

The five above tactics are just toe-dipping ways to get involved in the luxury space, in the long run, these premiere brands will have to figure out how to acknowledge, interact, and even embrace all customers.

This difficult topic can’t be solved through a single blog post, so I look forward to hearing from you how luxury brands can embrace social. You can also read more on this topic from Mashable, Duo, and results from a recent study.   It’s going to take some time for brands –and society—to tackle this topic. If you’re an agency or vendor (or even a brand) please leave some suggestions and case examples below.

Update: Thanks to Scott Galloway, faculty at NYU school of business, who sent me a link to a study he was involved with called the Digital IQ of Luxury Brands, with a slant on social. Be sure to read this PDF