“But We’re Luxury” : Luxury Brands & Digital Marketing

luxury brands digital marketing

What new luxury brands get wrong about digital marketing, and how to improve the digital experience.

I wanted to take a minute to expand on this tweet:

I get a lot of ads for random clothing brands on Instagram. I also click on a lot of ads for random clothing brands. Funny how that works.

I saw the ad pictured in the tweet several times over the past week. This weekend I finally gave in and clicked, although a polo layered over a turtleneck is not really my style. The ad drops you on the brand’s Women’s View All page.

Turns out, the knit polo pictured in the ad costs $510. That pricing may very well be justified, but the user is given no context as to why.

Analyzing The Customer Journey

I had never heard of the brand Salie 66 until I started seeing their ads in my feed. I could tell by the logo and art direction that the brand was chasing elevated positioning. But a lot of Instagram brands borrow the visual codes of luxury houses to sell much cheaper merchandise, so the water is quite muddy here.

You click on the ad for an unknown clothing brand because you really like the product, or because you are intrigued by the aesthetic presented in the ad. Then you arrive on the brand’s website. If their pricing is out of line with your personal comfort zone, you move on.

You may even walk away from the interaction with a feeling of bitterness–“How dare they charge $510 for a sweater!”

Global luxury brands like Louis Vuitton and Chanel are able to charge high prices for many reasons, only one of which is product quality. Most people on Instagram know what LV and Chanel are–the brands hyped so hard by influencers that they are almost inescapable.

On the other hand, I have no idea why Salie 66 is justified in charging $510 for what looks like a fairly basic sweater. From the landing page alone, I have no idea what the sweater is made of. I have no idea if those materials were sourced sustainably, or went through some other well-considered process.

Clicking through to the product detail page–which most people who view this ad won’t do–I can see that the sweater is made of a wool/cashmere blend, has mother of pearl buttons, and was manufactured in Italy.

I know that these are hallmarks of quality because I work in the industry, but the brand needs to do a better job of “making it real” for the average consumer. The experience assumes that the product will speak for itself, but it’s very hard to distinguish a $100 sweater from a $500 online.

Improving The Customer Journey

Direct to consumer brands do a much, much better job of outlining the features and benefits of their products. They know that consumer context is low and attention spans are short, so they need to get to “why we exist and what we can do for you” right away.

Check out this product page from Our Place. I got here by clicking through an ad. “Why this pan?” is answered right above the fold.

Another example from Everlane–this doesn’t do as good a job of answering “why Everlane jeans”, but at least it breaks the product into groups and explains what you’re looking at:

Every touchpoint in the path to purchase is an opportunity to qualify your customer. You need to define your brand’s value proposition–do you provide quality, signaling, or a thrill? And then you need to communicate that and embody it across every digital touchpoint.

You need to screen out consumers who are not aligned with your value proposition as soon as possible. Otherwise you risk wasted resources or unmet expectations.

Well established global luxury brands can “get away with” subpar digital experiences because they have built up centuries of societal context. People know that Louis Vuitton is a luxury brand before they even see an ad.

There is a reason that most successful luxury brands are trademarks that originated centuries ago, incubated within privately held conglomerates: building that societal context takes time and money.

Luxury brands aren’t built in a month, and they aren’t built on Instagram ads alone. So independent brands looking to borrow from this playbook need to embrace the “language” of performance marketing if they want to scale successfully.