Luxury brands, with their glamorous reputations and glowing histories, possess a unique ability to capture the imaginations of consumers. Names like Gucci, Prada and Chanel are synonymous with a lifestyle of comfort and privilege, and they create such deep affinities among consumers because they become shorthand for a lifestyle to which many aspire. Mentions of luxury brands are ubiquitous in culture, as well – high culture and pop culture. Their names and logos carry intrigue for consumers, who identify with those brands to signify that they have, or deserve, a piece of the high life. On social and digital media, fans frequently incorporate mentions and images of luxury brands, as symbols of the lives they want to lead and as hints about how they want to be perceived by their networks.
Oddly though, luxury brands often seem a bit hesitant to dive in on social media. They don’t often tell their own stories across digital and social media; instead, we often see that the aspirants tend keep their image alive and active online. But the amount of activity that surrounds these brands is too great to ignore. The moment is prime for these brands to create their own narratives, as well as to drive their own brand-aligned conversations in social and across digital media to achieve a desired end or metric. They must not be passive, in favor of leaning back and simply watching the consumers run the show. Social media is a dialogue, and that engagement should spur even more activity.
Luxury brands are prevalent in our culture right now thanks in no small part to the ubiquity of hip-hop culture, in which “dropping” brand names and showcasing aspirations for a luxurious lifestyle has always played a part, from the early days right up to now where Kanye calls out Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Maison Martin and Margiela all in just two bars of “Ni**as in Paris,” from his collaboration album with Jay-Z, “Watch the Throne.” The fascination with status and luxury, along with other common hip-hop themes, are now part of the American mainstream – and luxury brands are now front-of-mind among millions of younger consumers who would have only heard about them in passing 20 years ago.
Now we’re seeing an array of user-generated, grassroot mash-ups of luxury brands and in the imagery of everyday life, from matching luxury clothing and accessory brands’ names and logos to iconic cereal brands, to never before seen luxury frozen desserts and beautifully photographed images of branded junk food. While these images are creative and may be flattering to the brand on some level, they are not an authentic extension of what the brands themselves aspire to be – which should be available somewhere on the social graph. People are telling and sharing these stories without the brands’ involvement. If brand marketers would rather tell different stories, they need to get creative and start developing comparable narratives that connect with, motivate and engage their target audiences. Company-generated communications can still be fanciful, humorous, and viral – while controlling the message.
With the affinity millions of consumers already feel for luxury brands, the interactivity and engagement between them and brands on social and digital media would be massive if luxury brand marketers got as involved with creating compelling, entertaining narratives, as most other brands already are. It’s a new world, and luxury brands will be left behind if they don’t take the lead in defining their image as they want it preserved. Luxury brands are more familiar than ever to consumers, because of how often they’re referenced across all media, and it’s time for these brands to leverage that familiarity into narratives that further enhance affinity, polish the image they want to project, and drive revenue.