With a predicted decrease in holiday spending this season, brands are reaching into their marketing coffers and pulling out social media strategies to help boost sales and maybe even beat the grim prognostications. It might just pay off, too. According to our client Deloitte's 24th Annual Holiday Survey, nearly 20 percent of respondents plan to use social media sites to aid in their holiday shopping, largely to find sales, discounts and coupons or to research gift ideas.
But, what’s good for the goose may not be so great for the gander, or in this case, the über-luxury brands. The lifestyles of the rich and famous leave plenty of room for new media – our research shows new media users with the highest HHI are 10 percent more likely than the average population to use these sites and tools – but it's not necessarily in luxury brands’ best interests to develop social media strategies that overemphasize traditional sites, such as Facebook, MySpace or Twitter. The popularity of new media stems from its democratic, community-building traits that bring once-exclusive content to the masses. Something luxury brands, counseled to return to their elitist, indulgent roots, don’t want to see happen to their products.
Brands would do well to remember that when marketing the most luxurious of products and services, the same rules apply whether using on- or offline channels. Remain high-touch, and remain exclusive. Affluent new media users are 20 percent less likely to expect retail brands to use new media to solicit product or service feedback. They want to keep those relationships high-touch and interpersonal. Whereas the average user finds new media an ideal platform to voice opinions once difficult to express in a meaningful way, affluent consumerslikely expect a more direct, face-to-face, line of communication with their favorite brands. Also, whatever experiences luxury brands do create online, they should stillfoster a senseof indulgent exclusivity. Reserve them for only the most preferred customers to enjoy, and make sure they can share the content, but only among peers.
Although popular social media sites may not be the best channels for affluents, it doesn’t mean they still can’t be effective branding tools for luxury goods – among a different audience. Luxury brands need to maintain a certain cachet to hold on to their brand status, and a large Facebook or Twitter following from aspirational fans, perhaps future consumers, can bolster their posh positioning. But keep in mind, affluents and aspirationals are two very different audiences. Learn to play to the strengths of both, and social media have the potential to be very generous this holiday season.