By Doug Stephens
I’ve read a number of articles recently commenting on the conspicuous lack of social marketing in the luxury sector. While it’s also true that participation in social media among luxury brands has grown, the fact remains that the general level of activity has been low – especially considering the fervor around social media in general. “Why are luxury brands such laggards?” many are asking.
But let’s think about it for a minute. In the purest sense social media is built on is the principle of inclusiveness – the genuine willingness to give and share openly with others. Social media is the connective tissue between friends but more importantly between those who might not otherwise belong to the same social circles; people from various walks of life who are connected even momentarily by an experience. The essence of social media is that we all have a voice – we’re all included.
Social media has been successful in digitizing the underlying social nature of shopping. In essence, shopping is more fun when we include others. Whether it’s telling friends about the big sale that’s happening or posting a phone-cam picture of the cool new shoes you just bought, social media feeds wonderfully into the context of the shopping experience.
However, contrast this to the principles upon which luxury has always existed. Luxury by definition is not inclusive – just the contrary! Luxury is not for the unwashed masses but rather for the elite. In fact, many of the most successful and enduring luxury retailers are without question the most exclusive. Arguably the greatest danger faced by any luxury brand is its own ubiquity! It’s not about openly sharing your purchases with friends to inspire fun but instead quietly and smugly coveting prized items to foster envy.
So, I’m not sure we’re really dealing with a lack of understanding on the part of luxury marketers when it comes to social media marketing. These people are probably as personally active in social networks as any of us. I just don’t think that social media marketing is as relevant for a purveyor of true luxury items as it may be for an American Eagle say. True luxury will never be social in the sense in which we understand social media today. Sure there may be closed social networks for yacht sailors and Bugatti Veyron drivers but don’t expect a friend request any time soon.