High-end Po­si­tion­ing through Dig­i­tal

Arabnet - The Quarterly - - Front Page - By Ale­jan­dro Fis­cher

Lux­ury brand own­ers and their dig­i­tal plan­ners have for a long time been hes­i­tant about set­ting foot in the dig­i­tal arena. The ar­gu­ment they held was their lack of con­fi­dence that the “new” dig­i­tal space could ac­cu­rately trans­late their prod­uct’s im­age and ca­chet. A re­cur­ring topic of con­ver­sa­tion that I have en­coun­tered over the past few years with lux­ury and as­pi­ra­tional brands is their fo­cus on the al­lure and suc­cess­ful role that print me­dia had his­tor­i­cally played in po­si­tion­ing the val­ues of their high­end brands, re­gard­less of the reach op­por­tu­nity. They be­lieved the tan­gi­ble ex­pe­ri­ence of print could not be repli­cated through dig­i­tal me­dia.

Whether the rea­son was the qual­ity of the dig­i­tal en­vi­ron­ments (too clut­tered), or the type of in­ven­tory avail­able (lack of ex­clu­siv­ity), th­ese lim­i­ta­tions out­weighed the ben­e­fits of run­ning dig­i­tal cam­paigns in the eyes of brand mar­keters. To­day, thank­fully, the dom­i­nance of dig­i­tal devices and me­dia across the Middle East have forced the hand of brands to adapt,

and the in­flu­ence of dig­i­tal is start­ing to take hold. De­thron­ing the All-pow­er­ful Print Me­dia The in­flu­ence of the ’old world’ in set­ting brand di­rec­tion and cre­at­ing ma­te­ri­als meant that mar­keters viewed chan­nel ef­fec­tive­ness based on those mar­kets. France, for ex­am­ple, still has strong print pen­e­tra­tion, and the medium’s role is key on the con­sumer’s path to pur­chase. By con­trast, lux­ury brands were slow to adapt to the nu­ances in be­hav­ior of con­sumers in the Middle East (and the Gulf in par­tic­u­lar) where tech­nol­ogy users have been quick to em­brace video con­tent and now lead the world in smart­phone us­age. Th­ese brands ig­nored the new head­turner and firmly kept dig­i­tal ini­tia­tives at arm’s length, pre­fer­ring to pro­long their de­pen­dency on print me­dia in­stead. How­ever, the need to re­main rel­e­vant in an in­creas­ingly dig­i­tal world is grad­u­ally win­ning out against any lin­ger­ing lust for print me­dia.

Brands be­gan ex­plor­ing qua­si­com­pro­mises that they felt would mir­ror print strate­gies, pro­vided they could dom­i­nate share of voice (100% was the only ac­cept­able share). For ex­am­ple, Home­page Takeovers in dig­i­tal pub­li­ca­tions be­came the equiv­a­lent of out­side back cover ads in print mag­a­zines. Brands felt th­ese large, im­pact­ful, and cre­ative for­mats were bet­ter suited to their im­age. Of course, th­ese for­mats car­ried a price pre­mium com­pared to other means of dig­i­tal ad­ver­tis­ing.

The ad­vent of mil­len­ni­als (peo­ple born be­tween the years 1980 and 2000) reignited the de­bate. This mar­ket seg­ment was per­ceived as an ac­tive con­sumer of lux­ury (lower spend­ing per pur­chase but more fre­quently), and came from a world that is fully im­mersed in dig­i­tal ex­pe­ri­ences as a pri­mary means of con­tact. This was an au­di­ence that ba­si­cally never knew a time with­out the in­ter­net. While it might have been in­tu­itive for lux­ury brands to reach this de­mo­graphic by pour­ing more money into web ads (rich me­dia, more pre roll and es­pe­cially more mo­bile and so­cial ads), this would have had an ad­verse ef­fect. Ex­clu­siv­ity re­mained es­sen­tial when it came to the per­cep­tion of lux­ury;

ac­cord­ing to a study con­ducted by Hearst, 54% of mil­len­ni­als feel that when a lux­ury brand be­comes ac­ces­si­ble, it loses its ap­peal (com­pared to 32% of Baby Boomers). Brands Find Them­selves Dig­i­tally with Sto­ry­telling We re­cently wit­nessed a be­hav­ioral shift from brands in Europe that em­braced the ben­e­fits of dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing in new ways. Th­ese brands started cre­at­ing as­sets de­signed for dig­i­tal con­sump­tion, which served a dif­fer­ent pur­pose than solely fos­ter­ing brand im­age. No­table ex­am­ples in­cluded long-form videos that pulled their new mil­len­nial au­di­ence into the mys­tique and al­lure of the brands’ her­itage (such as the In­side Chanel site), or in­tro­duced them to new worlds through on­line teasers that be­came in­te­grated cam­paigns (such as Dior’s Se­cret Gar­den cam­paign). We started hear­ing the word “sto­ry­telling” to de­scribe th­ese types of dig­i­tal ini­tia­tives.

We also saw a dif­fer­ent take on so­cial. Brands be­gan em­brac­ing new chan­nels ear­lier and un­der­stand­ing their idio­syn­cra­sies faster, al­though they re­mained de­tached in their com­mu­ni­ca­tion (most lux­ury brands still won’t in­ter­act with con­sumers di­rectly as part of their as­pi­ra­tional na­ture). While it took years for brands to ex­pand from Face­book to In­sta­gram (some hav­ing a built-in fol­low­ing of mil­lions by the time they posted for the first time), it took them sig­nif­i­cantly less time to make the jump to Snapchat or Tum­blr. More im­por­tantly they started to cre­ate con­tent tailored to each chan­nel as op­posed to re­pur­pos­ing ex­ist­ing as­sets.

To­day, the need to give con­sumers unique ex­pe­ri­ences across all chan­nels has re­sulted in an even greater fo­cus on con­tent. Whether it in­volves launch­ing a col­lab­o­ra­tion, an­nounc­ing a new fra­grance, or com­mu­ni­cat­ing or ex­tend­ing the life of Run­way shows via be­hind the scenes videos, teas­ing and even­tiz­ing through so­cial me­dia has be­come the norm. We have also seen more brands be­come pub­lish­ers and build their own con­tent plat­forms out­side of their tra­di­tional dig­i­tal des­ti­na­tions, like Mr. Porter, LVMH’S Now­ness video plat­form for art and cul­ture, and Gucci’s sar­to­rial learn­ings to name a few. The rise of tablets and HTML5 also had an im­pact on im­prov­ing the UX of their own dig­i­tal plat­forms, mak­ing them more re­spon­sive, faster to load, and eas­ier to nav­i­gate, no longer act­ing solely as a repos­i­tory of more “tra­di­tional” con­tent. Or­ganic Mar­ket­ing Makes Au­di­ences the New Me­dia Yet brands have been slow in adapt­ing to how they use paid dig­i­tal me­dia, lim­it­ing them­selves to tac­ti­cal aware­ness

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