With social media increasingly the communications platform of choice for the most desirable Millennial consumers, luxury brands will have to rewrite the script on how they speak to this crucial audience. Millennials differ from previous generations in how they prioritize luxury purchases, even how they interpret the social cachet in which luxury brands trade. With Millennials on track to become the largest consumer demographic in the U.S. by 2015, luxury brands need to develop smart social marketing and customer service approaches to capture their attention and maintain the exclusive appeal of their products.
One of the core challenges of luxury brand marketing is striking the balance between maintaining that exclusivity — luxury brands are desirable because they’re hard to get— with the imperative to sell more product. This is especially challenging in social media, where marketers must keep their brand messages highly visible through announcements, contests, videos and so on, without diluting their luxury aura. Millennials have grown up immersed in social media, which makes mastering it even more essential for marketers. Luxury brand marketers are responding accordingly, with 85% planning to increase their digital spending and 72% planning to spend more on social marketing, specifically in their efforts toward new customer acquisition. And according to our rankings, 7 out of top 20 most-followed fashion brands on Facebook are already luxury.
Millennials’ spending on luxury fashion, travel and jewelry grew more than any other age demographic in 2011, according to one recent American Express report. They think differently from their parents about large purchases — for example, they consider current tech gadgets to be a necessity, and they might seek out cheaper options for other purchases (dining out less, or keeping an old car running longer) in order to wisely spend more on what they really want. Rather than accepting a brand’s exclusivity at face value, based on its long tradition of being valued, Millennials expect they can track down information about why a brand deserves the “luxury” tag. And more importantly, when they share information about the luxury brands they’re interested in, they communicate something of their own status, but also in the role of a true brand ambassador, they believe their peers should aspire to similar status.
All of these generational habits and perspectives can be explored, and leveraged, to a luxury brand’s advantage, in social media.
Social media is valuable in its capacity to drive demand for things that are perceived as scarce — for example, seasonal or limited-edition items, one-time offers, limited-time deals. Millennials, we’ve seen, are keen on daily deals and flash sales when they make luxury purchases. By playing into Millennials’ desire for offers like these, luxury marketers can increase their brands’ visibility while maintaining that sense of brand exclusivity.
Another way luxury brands can take advantage of social media is to create and share premium content that reflects the similar quality of their product. Social marketing is driven by content, and many luxury brands have done well by creating quality videos designed to be shared socially and to forge emotional connections between the discerning consumer and the brand. Chanel offers a good example of this. To mark its 100th anniversary, the fragrance company created a short film starring Keira Knightley (born in 1985, a Millennial herself, Knightley replaced Kate Moss as the face of Chanel’s Coco Mademoiselle fragrance) starring as company founder Coco Chanel. Louis Vuitton has also used celebrity endorsers effectively on the web and in social media, creating quality videos that showcase the celebrity’s journey and its own company history in its “Core Values” campaign.
As we come to understand more about Millennials’ buying habits, smart tactics for marketing to affluent and aspirational Millennials will become accepted as hard-and-fast rules. But their social media habits, and the way social media can help luxury brands maintain their perceived value, are on clear display right now. Through these channels, marketers can demonstrate to consumers that their luxury brands are present, yet exclusive.