Luxury brands 'afraid' of digital and social

Luxury brands are “afraid” of digital and social marketing because opening up information about brands to a much wider audience flies in the face of the exclusive nature of luxury brands, according to Markus Kramer, Aston Martin marketing director.

Aston Martin

Kramer, who was speaking to Marketing Week at the Forrester Forum for Marketing Leaders last week, took on the first formal CMO role at Aston Martin in 2010. He believes marketing is still a “nascent” discipline in the luxury sector, which explains why many brands are “afraid” of the “massive beast” of digital marketing.

He says: “I believe many companies are afraid of adopting new media too quickly. That’s because it means accessibility of information that you previously reserved for a select few people. It was very valuable for brands to have those inside stories but now it is now available for everyone that wants to look at it.

“Social media means the democratisation of information. Do you really want to do that if you’re at the top of the luxury scale? That’s a question that fundamentally a lot of companies may not have answered for themselves.”

At Aston Martin, social media plays an important role in the brand’s PR strategy and extending the reach of the brand, according to Kramer.

He says: “[social and digital] works for Aston Martin because … we have high awareness but also positive respect that leads to a lot of love and genuine sympathy for the brand. I don’t think some of our competitors necessarily have the same combination. For them it may be more tricky to adopt it [digital marketing].”

He adds that in the luxury market beyond the automotive category, for products such as high end watches, the issue of adopting digital and social media is even more challenging, and warns marketers in these categories against using digital marketing for the sake of it.

“I wouldn’t immediately say ‘go digital, go social’. I’d be very careful to think through why you’re doing it, for which products you’re doing it and what purpose it serves before you go and do it,” he says.

Kramer was speaking at the Forrester Forum for Marketing Leaders.

Readers' comments (9)

  • “I believe many companies are afraid of adopting new media too quickly. That’s because it means accessibility of information that you previously reserved for a select few people. It was very valuable for brands to have those inside stories but now it is now available for everyone that wants to look at it."

    I disagree, there are easily ways of having areas that are 'exclusive' to certain people if that is what luxury brands want to do within the digital world, and why does a company have to publish what it doesn't want everyone to see. I think he is getting two different areas completely mixed up when they could remain distinctly separate.

    What companies like Aston Martin have to remember is that, for the younger generations growing up where digital and social is part of everyday life, liking or following a company is the next stage to having a poster on your bedroom wall. Without that why will kids aspire to want these luxury goods. That's where the passion for cars like Aston Martin starts.

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  • I'd certainly buy in to the sentiment of not simply 'going social' because the competition is or because it works well in other sectors and among different market segments. However, by it's very nature social and digital gives access to information and perhaps AM are missing the point in that it's best to try and own the conversation, or at least be there as it takes place.

    As a marketing professional working in financial services for a niche brand, I have questioned the validity of social as a credible channel but can't ignore the impact and reach it provides. Today's 20-somethings are tomorrow's business owners.

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  • Within the luxury segment of the Motor Industry for a long time there has been a hesitance on what information is available to potential owners. Nowadays, customers it seems are better informed than the dealers themselves, on product, specifications and launch dates.

    A lot of this stems from no central control of information, whilst one market likes to be secretive and creating an air of exclusivity, the same brand elsewhere will have more transparency and is willing to share this information. This will continue to happen whilst there are regional teams all looking at their individual markets and 'doing what it takes' to meet targets.

    Aston probably have a better chance than most in controlling their .com presence across the globe in a similar way to Bentley and Rolls-Royce.

    What manufacturers have failed to grasp for a long time is that its the dealers who sell the cars and if the manufacturer is not on the pace digitally then the dealer will be. They are all looking for competitive advantage not only over the competition but amongst their own network. Inevitably dealers go off and do their own thing, which in turn leads to brand dilution and potentially a poor user experience. Brands have to embrace new ideas and opportunities. Dialogue with the dealer, customer and brand has to be continually maintained and car brands need to move at a much quicker pace than many are used to currently operating at.

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  • Afraid is a strong word, for I'd suggest that having the awareness to make an informed decision is admirable. Certainly, adopting new media out of a fear of missing out is not the intelligent approach.

    For luxury brands, the real conundrum lies in balancing the impulse to seek growth against protecting the brand's luxury status. Luxury brands can engage on these channels successfully whilst maintaining the status, but the luxury perception has to be protected above all else. For example, Ferrari does an excellent job maintaining a global aspirational brand (11million FB followers), yet the marque has made the same amount of cars (100k) in 70 years that Porsche creates in a single year, ensuring a clear divide between those who aspire to own the brand, and the elite minority.

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  • In this age of new media it becomes even more important for any brand, including the luxury brands to connect with the right audience in the forums they choose. Adopting social media does not mean giving up control, however it just means sharing control. I guess that may sound daunting for most exclusive brands, however its a choice between not being prepared for new media and letting it take its own course or taking it on and adapting to it.

    It would definitely help luxury brands to have their social media strategy charted out... one is aware of the global impact of communication over social space for any brand, so being ready for it and passing a uniform brand message will only help.

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  • Both Chris and Rob are correct in my opinion. Ignoring social because you want to protect the brand seems backwards. Being available as a resource to those that have questions/issues, etc is what will help build brand loyalty even at the luxury level.

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  • All companies can benefit from a digital and social media strategy. There are case studies of many luxury brands who have used new media quite effectively and who have benefited from meeting their customers where they now reside: mobile.
    The new "word of mouth" is now social media even for the elite. It is wise to use a measurable plan to assure reaching the right audience just as you would with a traditional advertising plan.

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  • yes, online marketing didn't have any segment, audience are all around world wide. better use of online marketing by

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  • Established brand can definitely get into All digital marketing platform to provide information, aspire people and convert them into buyer.

    Luxe brand can definitely be there on internet so that people can easily locate information about such brand which will boost up their knowledge and they may become aspirational follower or customer.

    It also depend how you project yourself on internet will make difference than mass market brand.

    Does it apply to new lux brand? I don't think because audience have no idea who are you?

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