Vox pop: the future of luxury

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What does the future of luxury marketing look like? Are mediums like print and cinema still the greatest opportunity for luxury advertising, or has social taken that crown?

For this Drum Network vox pop, we ask our members to volunteer their thoughts on what form luxury marketing will take over the next few years?

Ben Fitton, copywriter, Woven

The future of luxury marketing lies in brands taking their historic flair for the experimental and experiential and applying it to the digital world. Print and cinema still have their place, of course. The classic image/copy double act of magazines will always grab attention; the sheer scale of cinema remains an ad director’s dream. These advertising channels will only die if the mediums do.

But luxury brands cannot be passive when it comes to online activity. Quite the opposite: they need to be innovators. So that luxury brands can be where their (future) audiences are, channels like TikTok and Instagram should be central to their media planning.

This has been especially true during Covid-19, where OOH and cinema advertising has obviously taken a huge hit as people turn to their devices for their lockdown entertainment and shopping. Which means luxury brands have to be as innovative online as they are offline, with websites and social media campaigns that don’t just sell but that provide fascination.

But all this talk about which is the right medium is somewhat of a red herring – it’s not about one platform being better than the other. The important thing is the Big Creative Idea. Once you have that, then you can find the best way to translate it across media channels. And if the idea is good enough, it’s versatile enough to go across everything from print to Pinterest.

Which should be music to luxury marketers’ ears, because the message to them is: be crazy, be fresh, be novel – just be who you always have been and then apply your unique DNA to the medium. If they do that, interesting things will happen – and people always love interesting. The alternative is to go in half-hearted; to do TikTok because Dior and Gucci are doing it. Which will lead to flat, ill-judged messaging that turns away those vital next-gen shoppers.

Even for supposedly timeless brands such as Chanel and Rolex, that’s a luxury they can ill-afford.

Dan Spry, social media and content manager, Three Whiskey

A luxury brand’s most powerful tool is brand equity; the precise way in which it creates aspiration through immaculate storytelling. For years, our experiences with luxury brand equity campaigns would be from the big screen or in glossy mags. That luxury storytelling experience is leaving those big, expensive formats and is being brought closer to us thanks to Instagram and YouTube, where anyone can snap a moment and create their own luxury story separate from the brands. It’s this loss of control in the storytelling that has generated the biggest shift and presents a unique challenge for brand creative directors and advertisers.

Models and celebrities who once fronted slick luxury campaigns, were molded into the luxury brand image. Whereas now it’s often be the opposite, where luxury brands actively piggy-back off the personal brand that an influencer has built themselves on social media – creating a new dynamic in luxury advertising.

This move towards social media influencers means brands run the risk of demystifying that luxury equity and aspiration that is so important to them. On the flip side, it means there’s a renewed focus on the product, making the purchase of it seemingly more accessible and achievable for people. The direct-to-consumer advertising that influencer-marketing brings, also means a spotlight is being shone on the brands ethical, political, and ecological positioning. These moralistic values are demanded by millennial and Gen Z audiences who make up the largest audience on Instagram and YouTube. Being the masters of visual storytelling, luxury brands have the unique opportunity to fuse social media influence with their brand values – creating ad campaigns that are no longer about consumers wanting to aspire to, but are worth aspiring to.

Ada Luo, regional account director (APAC), Croud

In China, many luxury marketers have already abandoned print and cinema advertising, and moved swiftly towards digital channels. When I recently saw a new collection from Gucci in a magazine, it had already gone viral on my social media feeds.

I think the future of luxury marketing involves a very diverse marketing channel mix, combined with personalisation – think social commerce, AR try-on, short-form video platforms like TikTok, micro-influencers, live shopping, or even ’social retail’ stores, such as Burberry’s digital-centric brick-and-mortar store in Shenzhen.

The shopping experience, heritage and DNA are very important to luxury brands, forming part of the high margin product value, and should therefore always be held in high regard in every part of a brand’s strategy and campaign execution. Different generations of buyers will value different elements that brands can offer; therefore, luxury marketing will move into personalisation and differentiation in messaging. For example, there has been heated discussion in China around whether or not the image of luxury brands has been cheapened by being involved in livestream shopping or video channels like TikTok.

Even though, as in the TikTok example, some people might think it’s a bad move, I firmly believe brands need to test and innovate to appeal to the next generation of customers – who often pay less attention to the heritage or status that luxury represents, compared to how it represents the customer’s own personality.

We’ve already noticed the leading luxury houses are producing designs to appeal to Generation Z – graffiti, streetwear elements, esport collections. No doubt they will also need to invest in newer, younger channels to communicate to this audience.

Antonio Wedral, chief executive officer and co-founder, Novos

It’s far too easy to see competitors with beautiful designs on the website, lovely million-dollar ads, and a clean approach to social media where the brand doesn’t openly respond to any customers. In the past, you may have gotten away with being perceived as a luxury brand for these things, now, you need to lead the change and become a new type of luxury brand.

We’re recommending all of our luxury clients to forget a slim-site, and to start opening up deeper category pages such as blue, red, white or yellow shirts. Materials too, like linen, cashmere etc. Finally, benefits, such as luxury. Optimising a site towards luxury seems silly, and even a given, but it’s what your audience wants. All of this will enable you to target more specific longer-tail search queries and reach your desired audience who are more likely to buy than someone just searching ’men’s shirts’.

This goes across all marketing you do as a luxury e-commerce brand – keep your unique identity, but don’t be afraid to try the things online that your competitors aren’t. Your current and new customers will thank you for it in the long run.

Make sure to focus less on mass appeal as a luxury brand, and more on reaching your hyper-targeted niche through longer-tail keyword targeting, analysing what social channels your customers are on, and offering customers something during these times to give them confidence that it’s OK to still shop luxury. A long term strategy appeasing these things will set you up for major success vs your competitors in the future.

Andrew Dunbar, general manager, EMEA at global digital consultancy, Appnovation

The outlook for the UK’s £48bn luxury goods market is far from gilded right now. Harrods and Burberry have cut jobs; LVMH and Kering saw their shares drop. With the UK experiencing the worst recession since records began, the fallout of coronavirus on luxury spending is likely to continue. Nevertheless, online retail sales surged by 33.9% YoY in June and luxury brands are fighting hard for their share of this demand.

Print and cinema have long been a mainstay of luxury brand advertising, fusing the integral power of storytelling with a sweeping display format. You only have to look at Gucci’s lavish ’showtime’ campaign invoking the golden age of Hollywood, or Martin Scorsese’s love story for Dolce & Gabbana, to understand the luxury sector’s reverential relationship with cinema.

However, in a sphere that prides itself on creative vision, social marketing remains the biggest disrupter of all. Digital channels allow luxury brands to curate an intimate dialogue with consumers, creating unparalleled levels of personalisation and user-generated control. Parisian jeweller Boucheron, for example, lets users browse and virtually try on its coveted edit of watches via its app, and share photos with friends.

Challenger brands are able to compete more easily through digital, while established names can dramatically expand their reach without losing the deep-rooted heritage that underpins their exclusivity. Think of Chanel’s Baz Luhrmann-directed YouTube ad ‘The One That I Want’, which knocked its competitors out the park with over 18million views. The Chanel No. 5 campaign struck just the right balance between high-end production and popular appeal, sealing its reputation as a YouTube great. A similar effect is achieved via one viral moment of brand magic on Instagram or Twitter.

So, digital is a natural frontrunner for luxury marketing and coronavirus has tipped the scales further in its favour. But bricks-and-mortar still has a role to play by tapping into unique, visceral experiences that consumers cannot access online. The best approach comes in combining the two elements for optimal excitement.

It also highlights a shift towards experiential marketing. Millennial and Generation Z consumers are drawn by standout, limited-access experiences; and brand values are also increasingly taking centre stage. Stella McCartney’s Clevercare video series uses comedy to shout about its eco-credentials, while brands such as Mulberry and Jo Malone are using current events to demonstrate their altruism. The more luxury brands understand this duality between experience and meaning, the more their marketing efforts will thrive – coronavirus or no.

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