Social media in the luxury industry: digital now plays a major role in marketing strategies in the luxury sector, and has reached a level of maturity and articulation that makes it capable of overcoming the contrast between the essential exclusivity of the product and the accessibility made possible by new technologies. We talked about the process of digital integration in the marketing plans of luxury brands in a previous post, highlighting the centrality of the concept of the digital luxury experience for the construction of a pervasive aspirational value with respect to all touchpoints of the customer journey. With the spread of social media, this experiential approach has become even more advanced, thanks to technical features that have set the conditions for the development of new forms of participatory creativity.
From static digital luxury to participatory social media luxury
The first years of digitization, the Web 1.0 years, were marked by a substantially top-down use of the new channel by luxury companies. Wided Batat, in “Digital Luxury: Transforming Brands and Consumer Experiences”, talks about the “static digital luxury era” where technology and content are used in a purely functional way to facilitate the dissemination of information that would then lead to offline and online purchases. Digital marketing includes aspects closely related to the transactional nature of the interaction that takes place through the website: the delivery of goods purchased on the site; the speed at which the site’s content loads; online rewards, such as vouchers or points; the location of stores by search engines; the visual interface of the content; the ease of navigation and ergonomics of the site; offline user support.
As time goes by, this model, which is characterized by a mass communication that is still substantially unidirectional and hierarchical, gradually recedes. The emergence of a freer and more shared luxury goes hand in hand with the development of platforms made available by social media that substantially change the brand-user relationship. The latter are now enabled to create, distribute, and share content that speaks about, for, and with the brand. Unlike static digital luxury, the luxury communicated through social media integrates the user into the heart of his or her narrative as an active participant and co-creator of content. Social digital luxury is multi-channel and based on a multi-user communication mode. What were once success factors of static digital luxury (e.g., download speed or website appearance) no longer have a decisive influence on the degree of satisfaction with the customer experience. There are other factors that can positively or negatively influence the brand image and its marketing strategy. These are “human” factors that are difficult to define, measure, and control and that are built and negotiated in the open and plural space of social communication.
The market with consumers: virtual communities are born
Compared to Batat’s “static” digital luxury, the social digital luxury has an even more customer-centric logic: the personalization process does not only refer, on the company side, to the search for a more accurate profiling, but to the activation of a conversation that establishes new balances in which the personal point of view of the user-customer is equal to that of the brand.
If the overall user experience is rich in cues and is effectively channeled, this approach, based on communication and interaction between consumer and company, ends up increasing the creative potential of the brand.
When the possibility of an effective relationship with its target is integrated into marketing actions, setting the conditions for co-creation of value, this is how virtual communities related to the brand are born. Within these privileged spaces, consumers learn, understand, form an opinion, and process information about products and services useful for their decision-making process.
When they belong to virtual communities, users can draw on a common knowledge and decide if and what content to develop and disseminate, thus moving from a passive to an active and proactive type of consumption.
On the brand side, there are several reasons why luxury brands are interested in creating a virtual community:
- to amplify, enrich, and enhance the narrative through the generation of meaningful new conversations;
- to have a realistic view of market behavior and trends;
- to be able to count on additional support for the development of new products;
- to strengthen the relationship with already acquired clients, who have the authority to judge, to sanction new media, and to build new reflections;
- increase brand loyalty and positive attitudes of consumers who can ultimately become active supporters;
- monitor the information exchanged between members;
- access images and information voluntarily provided by members of the community.
Co-creation gives value to the experience of the users
In recent years, consumers have been invited to take part in the design process of products and services. As a result, the tools that make this increasing participation possible have been developed to foster the enhancement of co-creation practices where “value is produced reciprocally by each market player (consumers, organizations, and networks) through the exchange of available information. Interactions take place on engagement platforms where each actor shares its resources, integrates resources proposed by other actors, and potentially develops new resources through a continuous learning process” (Batat, 2020).
Today’s consumers are more connected, informed, empowered, and active, and they have advanced tools that help them make choices, collaborate, and even negotiate with companies. Therefore, giving continuity to the relationship with the customer and managing the dialog throughout the co-creation process with due attention and sensitivity is essential to ensure a positive and satisfying experience. Social media in the luxury industry can make an important contribution to building a strong relationship with the consumer:
- they are designed to enable forms of storytelling and self-representation that can intercept and contaminate those produced in turn by the brand;
- are used to express even very intimate aspects of the personality of those who use them.
Even within the dimension of consumption, by investing in this specific relational value, social media in the luxury industry can facilitate the emergence of a rich and deep sentimental content. And if, on the one hand, the social marketing of a luxury brand draws on the experience of its users, on the other hand, it can contribute to the emergence of strong feelings of belonging, friendship, and solidarity, which must be valued in order to offer consumers authentic and satisfying social integration experiences.
Fendi lands on Tik Tok and focuses on generation Z
A fashion house famous the world over for its timeless elegance and style, Fendi chooses to use Tik Tok to communicate its corporate mission even to the youngest audience. Here, the objectives are different: to launch the new social profile, to increase the awareness of the website and, ultimately, to build a new solid base of followers.
To enrich its image with more modern nuances, generate widespread awareness and involvement, in July Fendi decided to host five videos on its new account featuring the young singer Sabrina Carpenter, who is popular among a younger demographic. These videos speak the spontaneous visual language typical of the platform, in line with the new institutional communication campaign “F Is For …”. It chose five topics consistent with the brand’s value system: family, courage, freedom, friendship, and future. The off-screen voice of the artist accompanies the representation of small moments of “real” life, showing Carpenter performing and together with friends and always wearing clothes from the latest collection.
The five videos are essentially ads published natively in the “Per te” feed where they direct users to the new profile and connect them to a landing page directly linked to Fendi’s profile.
In-Feed ads are often an excellent choice for brands looking to achieve coverage and engagement goals: they combine mass exposure and organic distribution, using a rather sophisticated positioning. The ads, distributed to the Tik Tok community on a large scale, have allowed Fendi to earn over 4 million views and generate an engagement rate of 5.8%. They also achieved an average click rate that exceeded the benchmark by more than 158%, and a video completion rate of 59%. With only five In-Feed ads, there were 15,000 new followers, which is quite significant.
Chanel: Pinterest, Instagram, and Youtube for exclusive use of the social media experience in the luxury industry
Successful video production that is perfectly optimized for multi-platform content and a high value strategy: Chanel’s digital communication is based on the ability to simultaneously use all its digital channels to tell an effective, credible, and above all exclusive identity story. Chanel is one of the most influential brands on social media in the luxury industry. The success of its social marketing can be summarized as follows: no global approach but content that is optimized for each platform.
Pinterest. Images are exceptional vehicles when it comes to representing the almost unattainable worlds of luxury brands. The construction of Chanel’s visual imagery has been taking place for years now also through Pinterest, the social network that more than others is able to furnish a narrative universe. With thousands of pins a day, the French fashion house confirms itself as one of the brand that most manages to inspire users. At the same time, the fact that Chanel does not have an account on Pinterest feeds the myth of its inaccessibility and confirms its extraordinary seductive power (clients, both actual and aspiring, publish Chanel content).
Instagram. Today’s new channels are used as devices for the creation of desire and as far-sighted tools for providing a complete, efficient, and fluid shopping experience. In March 2018, the French company took its first step towards social commerce. It launched @welovecoco, an Instagram account that displays selfies and photos taken by fans of the brand’s beauty collection. On the one hand, users become full-fledged content creators for the brand. On the other hand, they can seamlessly test the new possibility of e-shopping offered by the network. With a global account that counts more than 40 million followers, Chanel is among the first companies in the world to test the service of Instagram (Instagram Shopping) that directly connects the post with the e-commerce of the brand and enables the sale of products.
Youtube. What distinguishes the social actions of Chanel is a deep knowledge of the platforms available, which allows them to fully value the characteristics of each one. YouTube, for example, has been used for years to communicate traditional identity to evolving consumers. The one and a half million users (and growing) subscribed to the official channel testifies to the success of a social video marketing strategy that alternates cinematic-quality commercials, often shot by established directors (the famous “The One That I Want“, which today has over 19 million views) with video clips that tell brand stories, the great themes that have characterized its history, the suggestions that have contributed to creating its legend. The viewers of Chanel are thus transformed into loyal audiences.
Chanel is an example of how to safeguard and capitalize on its exclusivity while gratifying its audience. In its use of social networks, Chanel does not follow anyone (except its beauty page on Instagram) and does not interact with its users, not even for the purpose of customer service. Platforms like Chanel News and Inside Chanel compensate for the lack of interaction. The risk of brand dilution weighs more, in an overall strategic reflection, on the risk of not communicating with its consumers.
Fendi and Chanel represent two different and in some ways opposing ways of implementing the idea of co-creation, which however remains central within the social strategies of both: in the first case, the openness to the outside world is more evident, both in terms of participation in the historical and cultural context and the choice of a more informal approach; in the second case, the outside world is brought back within the confines of Chanel’s, and users are guided in a more institutional way on paths that may seem less free but allow unrestricted access to the total vision of the brand.
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