When Luxury Finally Met Digital Marketing: Part 2
This is the second in a three-part series that highlights luxury brands’ entry to the digital arena. This article was originally published in our Spring 2016 issue.
Organic Marketing Makes Audiences the New Media
Yet brands have been slow in adapting to how they use paid digital media, limiting themselves to tactical awareness campaigns such as perfume or collection launches. To this day, the majority of their digital advertising spends is split between Spring-Summer (SS) and Fall-Winter (FW) seasons, with almost no brands taking an always-on approach.
Brands have evolved with what we at Havas Media call “Organic Marketing”, based on the understanding that in today’s interconnected world the audience has become the media. This involves a shift in brand behavior from a historical heavy reliance on paid media (almost entirely dedicated to tactical awareness, such as the launch of new collections) to an approach that puts a brand’s digital ecosystems (websites, social channels) and partnerships (shared media) at the center. The communication in this approach is designed to fuel earned media (publicity from non-advertising sources) as consumers organically embrace and share the brand's content. The role of paid media (publicity from advertising) in this scenario is to ensure that earned media gets amplified in order to maximize reach. Organic marketing’s wide-reaching implications for the luxury sector include the prominent role that shared media now plays through influencer and celebrity endorsers who distribute content around their owned ecosystems. Balmain, for example, succeeded in raising its global brand awareness through its partnership with the “insta-famous” designer, Oliver Rousteing. The “army” of influencers around Rousteing, including such celebrities as the Kardashians and Rihanna, aggregates close to 50 million followers – a much bigger scope than the 1.2 million Instagram followers of the official Balmain account. This global approach has local implications. The Middle East, for instance, has its own set of fashion celebrities that are now regular fixtures at the major global fashion weeks, and some of these could be potential new influencers that would be instrumental in promoting luxury brands.
Welcoming a New Brand Order
Robust partner ecosystems are key for luxury brands, even if we exclude e-commerce; research shows that around 40% of offline luxury sales are directly impacted by digital content and owned platforms. Organic marketing is even more of a necessity, since most millennials are tuning out digital advertising; 31% of millennials in the Middle East already use ad-blocking software, and that percentage is increasing. The key is discoverability when it comes to these consumers. It is a no-brainer that the now ubiquitous #hashtag has become a common sight on all luxury communication to ensure all the conversations that are generated are linked across channels (earned, shared, and paid media). Brand storytelling is also extremely important to them as it justifies their purchase.
As a result, luxury brands have gone from digitally timid to embracing elements of organic marketing. They were able to leverage their superb name recognition and catapult a rise of creative content combined with excellent channel management that has drawn consumers into the story without compromising the dream. This achievement remains out of reach of other brands that still rely on paid media alone.
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