June 6, 2013

Guest Post: God’s New Messenger

Paradise. That’s what we are looking for. It’s where the day is cool, the sun is bright, the fruits are sweet and zen is the only way of life. You, me and every jack on the street yearns for a slice of our interpretation of paradise. And it’s our imagination that drives us. Just a few of us have found the right religion to realize paradise – the rest of us – we’re still working on it.

Luxury brands are like religion, you need followers that believe in you beyond reason. For luxury brands there is no justification on why something is good or if its worth it. Sensible isn’t even a part of the vocabulary.

There is an almost relentless discussion about the merits and role of social media in luxury marketing and communication. We’re of course not analyzing the philosophical aspects of this consumerist religion we’re merely trying to make sense of what’s around us. And while this article is by no means the last word on where it is heading we’ll try to make sense of it all.

While the number of people who can actually afford a luxurious lifestyle may be insignificant in the grand scheme of things – the number of people on social media does merit brand and marketing professionals spending time on this topic. The aspiration for most brands now is to move up the value chain, aspire to be luxurious. And all these aspiring luxury brands are changing their attitude from being product focused to retail focused. Sales volumes and growth are the main goals for this lot. But that just doesn’t seem luxurious, does it? Luxury doesn’t offer 10% off and doesn’t need a .99 price tag. Luxury is a dream. A dream that only some can achieve but most desire. If everybody’s dream came through though, it wouldn’t be a luxury anymore. It would be common.

Demand follows without any regard for what the prices are. Have you ever seen a Maserati or Jaeger-LeCoultre advert offering 10% off? Probably not. It’s simple economics – because the demand is always higher than the brand is bothered to produce.

Patrick Thomas, CEO of Hermes, made it beautifully simple, “When one of our products sells too much we discontinue it”. Here the fear is about becoming fashionable with the risk of going out of fashion. So clearly less is more, unless of course the brand wants to give up the luxury position and become a very well selling premium brand.

Herms_Winter at Last!_Igloo_AW 2010

But does this mean social media does not have a role to play? No, it just means that social media has a different role to play. A role that completely sets luxury and mass brands apart.

Not all of us have an animated imagination, not all of us know what we’re looking for – we want that something, we just need someone to show us what it is. Incidentally, this is where the role social media becomes relevant for luxury brands.

The true goal is to make a luxury brand incomparable. And that makes it even more luxurious. Luxury brands sell dreams, that are made up of stories, heritage and more often than not – myths. And with social media they can tell their stories better than on any other platform. Here they get people to share their stories online – with an audience that was previously too inhibited to even go near that intimidating showroom. These people are the true believers that share the gospel of the luxury religion. And if that is not enough they do so by influential marketing; getting the right people to like and share with their followers. The interesting thing is that, this way they can actually measure how many people saw the story and even more important how many people shared that story. That’s just Impossible on any other medium.

And it gets better; people can now converse with the gods of luxury. They can preach the sermons of paradise and you can join the chorus. Facebook is today the largest social platform with almost 1/6th of the world using it. Louis Vuitton has over 13,000,000 people who like them and over 300k people talking about them. A post about a new collection has 25k likes and 1200 shares within 10 hrs. Similarly on the second largest social platform – Twitter, the perfect place to have more direct conversations with the audience, LV has more than 700,000 followers. Pinterest has become the mood board for an individuals composition of paradise.

Ad LV3

These three majors combined with platforms such as Google+, MySpace and even LinkedIn provide the prefect platform to fuel dreams. Again it’s not about accessibility and acceptance it’s about fueling imagination and creating aspiration through likes, shares, pins and retweets. It’s no longer about featuring a new product but about sharing the story behind it. Luxury brands should use social media as a platform to tell their stories and spark imaginations. Don’t sell the product; tease them with the dream. Less pushing, more pulling. And by doing this brands create cults of followers – converting fans into lifelong members who will stand by this god of luxury to the death or until another religion has a more appealing sermon.

It’s all about fueling imagination, it’s about creating inspiration, it’s about sharing that wallpaper of that oh so beautiful Patek Philippe or the sound of the roaring AMG V12. We don’t have these luxuries just yet – but we have a slice of the pie. We’ve been teased, we’ve tasted just a little bit – to know that price is not a bother, that a sale is not what we’re waiting for. We know now that this is what we want and we’re going to get to paradise – at some point.


Chaitanya Rele is a consultant. He works on creating stories for brands and businesses that people can share and interact with. For him, the digital age is dead; this, today is the age of connectivity – more than just the internet, mobile phones or social media. It is an age where users are connected by brands, where religions are connected by music, where languages are connected by images and other increasingly interwoven ways we have yet to even realize . Read his post on ‘Digital is Dead’ here.

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