How Social Media Is Failing Luxury Brands

Social media promotion is far from a surefire way to attract affluent consumers.

That’s according to luxury marketing consultancy Unity Marketing, whose recent study posits that “social media is grossly underperforming luxury companies’ expectations.”

“Social media is mass, not ‘class,” writes Pamela Danziger, founder of Unity Marketing, in a Forbes post.

Folks who can actually afford to buy upscale products “expect the luxury brands they do business with to understand them, to be respectful of them and to personalize every interaction,” she adds. “Bombarding them with irrelevant posts on social media is not how to do it.”

In Unity’s latest study of 500 executives “working in or supporting the luxury industry,” more than 80% of respondents said Facebook or Instagram was part of their social campaigns, but neither platform rated high for efficacy. Only 15% of those who used Facebook found the platform “very effective.”

Instagram was “the best performing social media channel for luxury goods and services companies, but best is a relative term,” writes Danziger. Only 30% of those using the platform rated it “very effective.”

Next most-effective -- though less-used -- channels were Pinterest and YouTube, rated by fewer than 10% as very effective.

Lowest of all was TikTok, rated by only 2% as very effective. Which makes sense, since TikTok, known for its viral dance challenges, can be seen as the opposite of “class.”

The study’s stats on social media’s low performance were borne out by comments like “So far nothing is working. Social media is seeing no actual move to act.”

Perhaps in step with that idea, luxury fashion brand Bottega Veneta closed its Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts at the beginning of January.

Some in the fashion world were confused by this move, especially by the bypassing of Instagram, whose visual impact “brands heavily rely on to solidify their image, market new product, and… even make sales” with Instagram selling features, writes Hannah Tindle in InStyle.

Bottega has not explained its reasons for the social media purge -- and so far, no other company has followed its lead. Still, Danziger expects it be “the first of many luxury brands that will seriously reexamine their social media presence. It may well mean, like Bottega, they take a hiatus from it, too,” she writes in Forbes.

“Bottega Veneta is simply curating its marketing messages in a way consistent with luxury branding.”

In another interesting finding from the Unity study, luxury marketers’ take on the effectiveness of social media conflicted with ad agencies’ viewpoint. More than double the percentage of ad executives versus luxury execs (63% versus 30%) said Instagram was very effective. Nearly three times as many (40% vs. 16%) rated Facebook very effective

“That is because agencies measure social media effectiveness by how highly engaged their audience is as measured by hits, likes and shares,” according to the study. “Clients, on the other hand, measure social media effectiveness on sales that result from these channels.”

So it all comes down to the age-old issue of companies wanting their advertising to drive actual consumer purchases. After all, brand engagement doesn’t always lead to marriage. And how many “likes” can you cash at the bank?

2 comments about "How Social Media Is Failing Luxury Brands".
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  1. Ronald Kurtz from American Affluence Research Center, February 3, 2021 at 2:56 p.m.

    Social media, and digital promotion in general, is the "easy" and seemingly inexpensive way to promote a product or brand. There is no subsitute for carefully planned and executed direct mail as a means of effective promotion to the truly affluent consumer. Marketers who truly understand the affluent consumer know this. They are not swayed by personal bias or false myths about direct mail. 

  2. Chris Ramey from The Home Trust, February 10, 2021 at 2:44 p.m.

    This study was co-sponsored by The Home Trust International,  Luxury Daily and Unity Marketing. 

    It's chock-full of aha moments for marketers in the luxury category.  If you'd like to purchase the study you can do so at    

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