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CONVERSATION NEW LUXURY VALUE #6

Listen, learn, and love your followers, because this is the start of a beautiful friendship.

Luxury brands who are keen to embrace the shift towards a two-way conversation with their fans are sure to reap the benefits.

All businesses chase engagement, since the first flush of advertising we have had a history of men in suits sat around boardrooms discussing how best to inspire people to buy their products.

Now, we have entered into a revolutionary new phase, where social media invites free advertising, and if we are prepared to listen, people are telling us exactly what they want.

This unraveling of the great mystery has the potential to be one of the best moves forward in commerce and consumerism, if we too, are able to step in line with the modern consumer.

Celebrity is Dead

There’s an argument that the age of the celebrity is dead. It’s time for luxury brands to push back on celebrity and bring forward the individual. We are so used to Hollywood icons and stars pushing our products; from Marilyn Monroe to Paris Hilton, previously these stars have been paid big bucks to sport our wares, but now the consumers know it. Today’s consumer doesn’t fall for the smoke and mirrors act. Today’s consumer is more likely to listen to the thoughts and opinions of real people.

This is especially true in the luxury industry. While big conglomerate brands are always hot on the heels to recruit the latest celebrity, they are missing one major point. The luxury consumer isn’t a follower. They won’t easily swoon over the style and accessories on the arm of the latest starlet.

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Influencers are the New Usurpers

Dana Wood talks about this in one of her recent articles for The Robin Report. She notes how celebrity endorsement does little for brand engagement, most notably within the walls of the beauty business. The people leading soaring engagement rates are the influencers. The usurpers of celebrity.

Influencers are valuable because they are considered to be more authentic.

If we see the changes in the industry, we see that people are tired of the same polished approach. Jamie Kern Lima and her company IT cosmetics offers a great example of this. Jamie crafted her own brand of cosmetics to hep with rosacea, a skin condition she suffered from.

She started from the ground up, she used herself and her real problems to peddle her product. Women would queue around the street to get into her makeup workshops. L’Oreal splashed $1.2 billion to buy IT cosmetics, and now Jamie is the first female CEO of any of the L’Oreal brands.

The Power of Everyday People

This is a story of pure organic growth, driven from a desire for authenticity and to deliver something that truly made a difference to women’s lives, Carol Hamilton, head of L’Oreal’s Luxe Division visited IT Cosmetics and said “I realized the connection that Jamie had with women was authentic. She absolutely has a fierce desire to make every woman realize her best self. A lot of women might say that, but her commitment was what made me really convinced that her brand was going to continue to be on fire.”

Kern tapped into something we all have – the power of the everyday person. People are outgrowing unreachable aspirations. They know they may never look like a movie star, instead they want real solutions, conversations, and connections with brands that understand them.

Even back in 2015, Sharri Jones marketing officer at XOJet warned of changing times by stating; “A lot of advertising still speaks to this old idea of the ‘classic rich person,’ someone who prefers a deferential tone and speaks of the ‘finer things.’ The modern luxury consumer is different: They’re adaptable, fast-moving, smart yet approachable and have a younger mindset. Luxury should – and can be accessible and aspirational at the same time.”

Kern tapped into something we all have – the power of the everyday person. People are outgrowing unreachable aspirations.

Steering Social Interactions

Luxury brands need to up their game and start steering social interactions across platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Any hope of social being a flash in the pan is finished. It’s real, it can be rewarding, and it’s here to stay.

As Nikki Baird points out in her Forbes article on the challenges the luxury industry faces with regards to social media ‘It’s a sad state of affairs when Starbucks provides better customer interactions than Coach.’

Luxury brands need to get involved in their social pages and start responding to comments. Even if its as simple as saying thankyou when a fan says something nice or shares a status. This small interaction shows that you value your followers and that you don’t put yourself on a higher peak completely out of reach. Just because a luxury brand humanizes itself, doesn’t mean that you lose the allure – in today’s climate, it only adds to it.

Ellis Jones points out all the pretty positives for luxury brands who go social in this article;

Social media opens communication between the consumer and a well-placed source at the brand. Editors, designers and bloggers can engage with consumers about their opinions of a collection and the brand can reinforce its key messages without being diluted by other sources. The brand’s social media presence or website is the news source. But, like all news, it needs to be well written, useful and/or entertaining. It needs to sing.

But the underlying truth simply remains the same; brands going social is no longer a luxury – it’s a necessity.

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Nailing Negative Trends

What about dealing with negative trends on your social feed? This needs dealing with too, unfortunately trying to bury things or responding with silence can only come back to haunt you. There are a few approaches you can take; a straightforward well-executed post dealing with the issue shows that you are a strong brand who aren’t afraid of taking a hit.

Curating alternative links to better suited products is an amazing way of proving that you value the customers experience over earning another buck. Savvy social users can also set up an instant messaging system or a way of channeling complaints into one place so they can be dealt with outside of the public space.

The Acceptance of Human Error

Brand leaders that are able to put themselves out there and be seen as human will create great potential for growth. A human brand is a trusted brand because the consumer too, is human. This also means that imperfections are there to be embraced. The narrative of perfection is a fallacy and consumers are clocking onto this. If a brand makes a mistake, then as long as a human face is there to show understanding of their error, take responsibility, and display how they will implement positive change then there is a much greater chance of forgiveness and restoring trust.

Pulling Back the Curtain

A major reason as to why fans follow luxury names on social media is because they are dying to get a behind the scenes glimpse into the lives of those gorgeous and glamorous brands. They want to see some of the process, they want to see the passion, pedigree, and performance that goes into curating their products, and they want a slither of realness and personality to make the brand more three-dimensional.

Building a Lasting Community

Luxury brands can beautifully utilize social media to showcase that their values align with their customers. They can use Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and other platforms to lend a new level of love to their name. They can let their customers in, so that real deep admiration can replace the expectancy of sycophancy that was the luxury story of yesterday. Today’s consumer demands more.

The importance of conversing with your brand tweaks everything. It tailors a more tangible relationship. When you stay silent, pull down the curtain, and only present a polished version of yourself to the world, you are cutting the consumer out of the journey. Those who are imbued with your brand want to be a part of a community.

Building a community means forming connections. So many luxury brands are still spinning the same lines about champagne and pearls; but the luxe consumer is not a one-dimensional hedonist. They are human and therefore complex people with a myriad of passion points. By harping on about materials being the finer things in life, luxury brands are forming shallow bonds that are bound to break.

A human brand is a trusted brand because the consumer too, is human.

Evolve Alongside Your Consumer

In luxury especially we talk about not selling a product but buying a lifestyle. If there is no dialogue, then there is no lifestyle. Its only them and us separated by some unhealthy hierarchy. But doesn’t the word we have more wonder when talking of brand community, doesn’t it speak of greater strength, and isn’t this what will result in a timeless appeal that can truly weather any storm?

When brands learn to start listening and engaging with their consumer, they learn to evolve alongside them and thus, reduce the risk of becoming obsolete. Today’s consumer isn’t shy about sharing their wants, will and desires so all brands need to do is to make space for those conversations to happen.

Conversation is a New Luxury value. Now, let’s explore the next luxury anti-value.

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