User-generated content is one of the best tools marketers have for democratising their product. But what if your brand trades in exclusivity? That’s the dilemma for luxury brands.
There are two schools of thought about ‘luxury’ purchases that often seem at odds. The CEO of Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE, Bernard Arnault, once said that the experience at the time of purchase was key:
“To buy a luxury product you have to touch it.”
On the other hand, some people think that it’s an aspirational thing: that the idea of the brand matters more than the actual product.
Subscribers to the second might think that it’s not in a luxury brand’s interest to democratise. Some fear that digital branding, especially UGC, risks watering down the core values of luxury brands. Not true. The exclusive nature of a luxury brand just forces marketers to employ UGC in new ways – especially as sales of luxury items online increase 25-30% each year. According to the Economist, millennials will be the main consumers of luxury by 2026. In just ten years, most luxury will be consumed by digital natives used to shopping (comparing, searching, deciding, buying) online.
Further, six out of ten millennials rely upon user-generated content when making a buying decision, according to research by the Boston Consulting Group. That means that not only will millennials be your main customers in just ten years, but they’ll expect UGC when they are. Woe unto the luxury brand that thinks it doesn’t need it, and success unto those that do.
Some companies have made it their business to scour social media on behalf of luxury brands, looking for photos that feature their products. From the NY Times:
By tapping into the digital world, Mr. de Cabo said, brands (which have final say over what photos are used and do not pay people for their online images) can foster closer relationships with their followers. They also can add extra credibility to marketing at a time when consumers are increasingly turned off by traditional advertising.
However, a high end fashion designer scraping Instagram doesn’t seem very luxurious. We think luxury brands should be collecting their own content. It’s more exclusive that way.
It’s suitable for luxury
A nice intro to luxury UGC marketing is Burberry’s The Art of the Trench, which invited users to submit photos of themselves wearing the English label’s famous (and highly desirable) trench coat.
Not only did it provide a steady stream of content, but it promoted positive customer engagement, and a sense of ownership in the brand – the constant advantages of all UGC. Burberry enjoyed a 21% increase in profits during this focus.
What Burberry did so right was hosting this space on their own domain, away from social media. Social media absolutely has its place in UGC luxury marketing, but for the level of control – and quality of conversation – that Burberry wanted as a luxury brand, an embedded forum was the clever choice.
When luxury car maker Lexus, rated the brand sixth-most associated with ‘luxury’ by the Luxury Institute’s Wealth Survey, wanted to leverage the power of their brand image as well as the overall quality of their products, it teamed up with Reevoo to harness the power of UGC in the luxury space.
By incorporating customer reviews into its marketing process, Lexus was able to weaponise the enthusiasm of their satisfied customers. Soon, other, potential customers could see what the life of luxury looked like for lucky Lexus owners, and that buying a Lexus was not just a pricey purchase; it was a prudent one.
— Richard Anson (@richard_anson) July 10, 2014
Using UGC, like reviews, is a brilliant way to use your current customers to attract new ones. It’s okay for a brand to remind customers how desirable it is. In fact, that’s called marketing.
Tips for luxury brands using UGC:
1. Collect the type of content that suits your brand best. Fashion or jewellery lends itself to images, but luxury comes in all different forms.
2. Host the content on your own hub, where you’re in control of the setting. You’ll probably be pushing the content to social, but make sure you’re bringing people back to a destination where you’re the host.
3. Only open contribution to verifiable customers. Your content must be authentic. Letting just anyone volunteer content would be counter-intuitive.