The digital era means myriad new avenues to connect with consumers – but is it putting luxury brands at risk of overexposure and losing their mystery and appeal? Dr Wayne Fletcher of communications & media agency Cream UK investigates.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a regular user of SnapChat. But Burberry’s use of the video messaging app to preview its SS16 collection tempted me to explore it once again. And I was impressed.
It’s clear that SnapChat has evolved. It’s simple. It’s fun. It’s social. And it’s certainly captured the imagination of millennials, an increasingly important demographic for many luxury brands.
So, there you go. Another smart move by Burberry. Well, on one level yes. On another, I’m not so sure. For me the initiative, beautifully executed as it was, lacks a certain sense of seduction. Let me explain.
“ Twenty years ago luxury brands understood full well how to practice the fine art of seduction ”
As the custodians of luxury brands, we have to acknowledge that we are all embroiled in the wonderfully elaborate business of seduction, positioning our wares as the fulfilment of desires, as ways to help fill voids in the way people perceive themselves or how they wish to be perceived by others.
And with seduction comes certain rules. As expertly expressed in Robert Greene’s best seller, “The Art of Seduction”, seduction is an exercise in such things as a) indulging the senses and pulling us away from the everyday and mundane, b) creating familiarity without over exposure, c) tempting by exploring limits, d) leaving us wanting more and wondering what comes next and e) stirring interest without being obvious.
Twenty years ago luxury brands understood full well how to practice the fine art of seduction. Filled with the most attractive and desirable imagery and products, the glossy magazine was the media environment of choice. For consumers, it amounted to an occasion to close the curtains and curl up on the sofa with a glass of wine to sample the sweet delights inside.
Purchasing too was an exciting liaison, filled with the thrill of visiting sumptuous luxury stores or high end retailers to consummate our desires.
“ There can be no allure if an object is everywhere you look ”
But the digital revolution has changed all that. Following a period of reticence, and a few faltering steps, we have all now surrendered to new digital norms. And so we should. Digital is an integral part of our culture and all our personal and business lives. But I can’t help but think that to do so without due reference to the psychology of luxury is to risk abandoning the all important tenets of seduction.
Let’s go back to SnapChat to illustrate the point. And ask yourself, when we present audiences with ever richer ‘behind the scenes’ glimpses into the provenance of our brands are we running the risk of drawing the veiled curtain back too far? To show a little is fine. But show too much and we lose our sense of mystery.
In our desire to reach consumers through every digital channel there is always the risk of over-exposure. There can be no allure if an object is everywhere you look, following you around the web via retargeted ads, posting three ‘look at me’ updates via social media every day. By conforming to the channels and the formats of digital, luxury brands can all to easily lower themselves to the level of other, less aspirational brands – be mindful that you’re just as likely to find content from Coca-Cola and the NFL on SnapChat as you are to find Burberry or Tommy Hilfiger.
Burberry joined forces with Snapchat to premiere spring/summer 2016 collection
Digital has a habit of standardizing and homogenizing. There is the ability to innovate in some environments but the strongest platforms in terms of reach have yet to differentiate their advertising offering by category. Against this backdrop, luxury brands can struggle to stand out from the humdrum, or, as Greene would put it, separate themselves from the everyday.
What is more, those all important millennials would love a touch of digital seduction. Their reaction to the ‘he who bangs the drum loudest and most often’ model has been ad blocking. They’re increasingly seeking the little known and niche, and they have the skills to unearth those brands with the qualities they desire, given enough tempting hints.
To my mind our task as luxury marketeers in the connected economy is becoming clear. It’s not blanket awareness, but positioning ourselves to be discovered. It’s less about promoting ourselves, and more about making it easier for others to promote us.
“ Let’s not let digital seduce us into behaviours that are incompatible with the values of luxury ”
Of course, there’s no guidebook we can write for every luxury brand in the new digital age, at least not while tech continues to evolve. But we need to work just as hard today as we did in the past to fashion the perfect symphony of mystery, allure and desire. We simply shouldn’t be playing every digital instrument at our disposal.
Digital is opening up new avenues of consumer engagement and loyalty. That’s great. That’s wonderful. But let’s not let digital seduce us into behaviours that are incompatible with the values of luxury. Let’s use digital to enhance the art of seduction in luxury marketing. After all, sometimes less is a whole lot more.