Product

Episode 8 – Luxury Brands and digital channels, a strategy beyond the product

Product

Advertising is always slow to adapt to a new medium, the evolution from theatre to posters, to news print, to TV onwards to digital and now social. For example, early newspaper ads copied the poster format, which in turn was initially very theatrical. But how should brands evolve to utilise social sites like Instagram.

Slow adaptation is evident today with brand usage of social, the need to tick the box to say yes, we are on Instagram, usually achieved by posting artful glossy magazine format images, and so failing to adapt and realise the real potential with a new medium.

For this exercise, and to keep the scope small, lets focus on luxury brands, and a heavy brand dependent sector – men’s watches.

Setting the scene – how are luxury brands performing on Instagram?

Instagram is reporting 1 billion active users per month, half of which are active every day, of which 32% are male.

Taking a random snapshot of a few official channels, followers and engagement can be seen in the chart below, with engagement hovering around 1%.

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A similar style of posting product images mostly dominates across various brands:

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While showing a collection of beautiful product photographs, this is a missed opportunity to make the most of Instagram.

Define the audience – Age and wealth

Taking the average age of a high-end luxury watch buyer, well in the UK market is mid-forties. A key objective could be to lower the age of the average buyer and in so doing, open a new segment of customers, and produce a longer-term relationship likely to generate higher sales.

Meet Henry – high earner, not rich yet, is a key demographic to focus on, but I won’t delve into the definition here, let’s just say they have money to spend, and can be very brand aware and loyal, a segment normally classed younger than mid-forties. So, an opportunity exists to engage a new younger customer base.

What the opportunity? – Beyond the product and influencers

Skipping all the steps around vision, strategy, identity etc I just want to quickly focus on engagement with one key theme, people.

Seems obvious right, but so many brands post a very beautiful stream of product images, or go down the road of making artful statements, neither of which create a meaningful connection, missing the purpose of social and not really engaging a new audience outside of existing customer demographics.

Continuing with the example of high-end watches, Instagram presence could be refocused to include a strategy aimed at:

  • Behind the curtain – Images of the manufacturing process focusing on the process, quality and time taken, a behind the scene look, and the world of the brand you can buy into.
  • Add motion – Instagram TV, again showing behind the scenes mini insights to the people and crafts that create the brand.
  • Skilled People – A focus on the skilled people behind the brand, from watch-makers, designers, C-level, introduce the people that create the brand and product, building the image of a family of passionate people, going beyond a watch and producing a narrative.
  • Go Local & Global – Keep it moving, focus on a store for a week in the run up to an event, again with a strong focus on the people, building out local and global image.
  • The Store – is your best asset introduce the store staff – again make is about people not things.
  • Influencers – You best asset is the passion your staff can portray, not an influencer.

Finally, reset brand collaborations, for example F1 was a popular partnership and helped build brands like Richard Mille, but with an average aged viewer of 40, and falling viewing figures, well at least in the UK, Lewis Hamiltons first championship title win was watched by more than seven million, his last less than one million, old partnership need to be re-assessed and new ones found.

Luxury brands have been slow to adapt, and actively resisted all digital formats, insisting that the true brand values could only be experienced in person in the boutique. But this is starting to change, and personally I think this will produce some new exciting possibilities.

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