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Luxury Brands' Love/Hate Relationship with Digital Media

Recently luxury brand Boucheron deployed augmented reality on its website to let customers virtually try on glasses, rings, and watches both online and in-store. The 153-year-old jeweler’s result? It increased its web traffic by 50%, according to the High Low blog. Watchmaker Tissot is another luxury brand that embraced AR, it also said. It set up an AR display outside London’s Harrods and Selfridges for customers to "try on" their watches from the sidewalk. Sales in Selfridges’ Tissot boutique rose 83%, High Low reports.

So what to make of another recent development in this space: namely news that one in five of the 100 global luxury brands do not allow fans to post on their Facebook Walls, according to a report [PDF] by L2.  Luxury brands are not the only ones; as Biz Report notes, pharma companies also tend not to allow fans to engage in this manner.

A Layer of Authenticity

But L2's recent study of 100 luxury brands, the "Prestige 100", highlights a peculiarity specific to luxury brands: they have a love-hate relationship with digital media - they love the marketing outreach it can provide, but hate the unfettered environment that social media tends to inspire.

This attitude will have to change, though, at least on Facebook. This year the site is forcing all brand pages to allow comments and posts. It will do these companies good, the report concludes. "Fan posts create an additional layer of viscosity and authenticity on the Page and Pages with Fan posts also registered higher Fan interaction and engagement with brand-created content."

Kicking and Screaming

Whether they agree remains to be seen. Luxury brands have only begrudgingly established a presence in the e-commerce ecosystem. Storefronts on the web, led by such designers such as Prada, Jimmy Choo, Hugo Boss and Marc Jacobs, have only recently opened and in some cases are still only selling limited items such as accessories.

They have been pushed for purely financial reasons, but are still reticent to fully embrace the online channel - especially the uncontrolled environment of customer posts - for fear of tarnishing the aura of exclusivity, according to luxury goods analyst Marshall Cooper, CEO of LuxuryBrandNetwork.com. "On the web, it's much harder to create this aura," he told CNN.

Burberry Example

Meanwhile, most of these companies' digital advancements will come - as Boucheron illustrates - in the marketing, not social media area. Burberry provides a good model for the space. It staged an interactive campaign for its Autumn-Winter 2010 collection, in which consumers of the luxury retailer were able to click, drag and control their views of the ad. The products, the models, the collection itself were all motion-responsive with users able to control the cast and products in each shot.

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