In this new economy of abundant choice and access, is it enough for a luxury brand to remain true to its brand equity, or does it also need to reach a broader array of people across new media?
The answer, I say, is brands need to be even more committed to what they stand for. Instead of treating it as something new and therefore different, luxury brands should treat digital experiences in the same manner as the physical world.
This doesn’t mean you can’t enter new segments or do different things, but a brand should philosophically approach online just as it has done everything in the offline world to protect and cultivate its brand heritage and relevant place in the world.
The formula, though, for attaining and retaining luxury status has shifted slightly. Luxury brands have always promoted their attributes, not their values. That remains critical to success. No luxury brand should be in the business of convincing people to buy.
However, one major philosophy was to be highly selective and exclusive in promoting and distributing these goods. Luxury brands must now remain both exclusive in the promotion and distribution, yet they must recognize that the digital world has created new channels which must be entered – albeit in a way that is highly selective.
Why should a brand entrench itself in exclusivity when choice and customer sentiment show a desire to try different things and purchase so many ways? Because the digital world – the web, mobile – amplify our human need as individuals to express our individuality and create even more opportunity to seek out the luxuries that appeal to us. Said another way, people don’t need gimmicks online from luxury brands. People need to find luxury brands where they are looking for these things – and that does mean new, different, and yes more ways.
The logic lies in the concept of brand truth. Staying true is always good advice, and keeping to true north applies here. True north, as our world is oriented, is an upward direction regardless of where you are located. What this means is straightforward for luxury brands and purveyors: when you remain dedicated to your truth, there are billions of customers who will desire and procure your products.
The trick, though, is to remain exclusive while also remaining accessible to customers seeking the lifestyle your luxury brand(s) promote.
So the formula remains the same online as offline, but of course it has its own nuances.
More of the same is not what’s in order. In fact, the single greatest flaw any brand can make is to presume that change is not required for the future. What’s required is brand-centric relevance – meeting customers when and where they want to interact. This means providing goods, services, experiences, and interaction across more and more channels than ever before.
According to American Express Business Insights, Generation Y consumers increased spending on luxury goods in 2011 by 31%. This is directly related to this generations desire to live a lifestyle that is carefully curated to express one’s individuality. The ability for these Gen Y individuals to express themselves has only been enhanced by the overwhelming access to luxury brands that the web has created.
Many Gen Y consumers are experiencing these brands due to curated sites, social sharing, and even flash sale sites. Whether they meet a brand through a sale or not, the purchase is driven by lifestyle aspirations.
And this is why the future for luxury brands remains steeped in staying true to one’s roots and the equity that is essential to luxury brands.
Say what you will of the Porsche Cayenne or Panamera (or the older 944, 928 and others), but Porsche has remained a luxury sports car reputation while expanding its product suite and relevance to provide its lifestyle promise through other “desired delivery mechanisms” – the SUV and the four door sedan.
At the same time, Louis Vuitton has remained staunchly dedicated to its heritage in bags, avoiding some of the logical adjacent product segments to perpetuate its core brand image.
The message is this: resist temptation to do digital things for digital sake. Take the time to understand how customers want to experience the brand online. Ensure your approaches stay in line with your truths. Keep innovating online, but don’t be irresponsible just because the medium creates so many possibilities.
And above all else, focus on showing up when and where people would go digitally to interact with the lifestyle your brands support.
Because the greatest thing we all have in a digital world is our singular voice. And the individual voice of any brand must remain crystal clear and uniquely identifiable in a global chorus.