Do luxury brands need social media?

I’m still not convinced.

Luxury brands are defined in part by their exclusiveness and inaccessibility; social media rebalances power and control via its inclusiveness.


I’ve been on the south coast of France and high end cars parked outside of fancy hotels attract crowds like flies to honey.

Last year, I was walking down a London side street with my CFO and we paused to admire a Maserati drive past. Ford and GM have run influencer outreach programs; Maserati does not.

A few years ago, I delivered a speech at a Google reception for luxury brands. Afterwards, I spoke with representatives from Bulgari, Cartier, and others who felt that my remarks weren’t applicable to them given the presence of brands “not like us” in the room.

Earlier, when I ran global digital marketing at PUMA I worked on co-branded presences with Philippe Starck, Neil Barrett, Christy Turlington, and Yasuhiro Mihara. At the time our comparison sites included Prada, which was forever just a single picture, and Helmut Lang, which was a list of links. Forget any usability or even worse, drive to sales.

All brands today are thinking about social. But do luxury brands need social media? Perhaps a better question is this – exactly what are luxury brands, anyway?

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  1. Hi Peter,

    I think your last query is the most intriguing part of your post, well almost 🙂

    Seriously that is a good question, especially in light of the current global economic climate. I think there is still a discernible difference between a luxury brand and a non-luxury brand, for lack of a much better term. I just think it is a societal mandate that there be a distinction for if there were none, what would people aspire to? Yes that is a very materialistic POV but unfortunately that is the way of the world.

    My agency, The Star Group recently launched an entire new division devoted exclusively to the luxury market called Luxe MarCom And as for the luxury brand and social media, I just recently wrote a blog post you may find interesting titled “Why Do Luxury Consumers Engage With Brands On Social Media?”

    In my post I share the results of a survey conducted by the Affluence Collaborative, a research group who focuses on the affluent consumer. The findings were pretty interesting…

    Would love to hear your thoughts on it…

    Thanks Peter and have a great day!

    All the best,
    Steve O

  2. I think luxury brands struggle somewhat in social because it is not always easy to reconcile the exclusive nature of high-end brands with the accessibility of social. That said, in the Facebook automotive space, 5 of the top 6 (#5 is Harley) brands are “luxury”, and they play mostly to the aspirational nature of consumers. It’s an effective strategy in building deep roots with the brand before it is attainable, so that when it is a viable purchase for a small percentage, the sale is that much easier. The other end of the spectrum is the travel space where luxury hotels in particular have done an admirable job using social to extend the personal touch – Four Seasons and Trump both do aspects of this, and one would think that it helps extend loyalty even farther. High end hotels, like automotive, also outstrip more affordable brands on Facebook, which is also indicative of product confidence.

  3. Peter,

    I agree with you. If anything luxury brands should use social media for monitoring, listening, and trend research. But not the “normal” use that most people think of when they think of social media.

    I was part of several communities that focused on Hermès from 2004-2008. I can tell you that the women (and some men) in those communities knew more about Hermès than the majority of the sales associates working in the boutiques (I am not including the higher level managers, designers, etc.). Why? Because they were collectors. They knew every collection and it’s title, the year certain scarves, colors, patterns, styles, scents, etc. were released. I am talking decades worth of information!

    If Hermès were to join in on the conversations, I am positive it would have been a case of the community being more knowledgeable. Besides, the influencers (those who bought the most) did a great job of sending business to Hermès, why bother interrupting the natural flow.

    Beth Harte

  4. I don’t think any brand NEEDS social media…but there are some very successful luxury brands who have, and those who do successfully grab the attention of the public, which is a scarce commodity these days. There’s room for luxury brands that embrace social, and those that don’t too…but the resulting strategies for being successful are very different. Interesting questions, Peter.

  5. While I’d agree that luxury brands probably shouldn’t use social media the way most other brands might, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t use it at all. It’s just a tool, it’s in the way that you use it. Someone creative from Hermes or Masarati or whereever could certainly use WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, Quora, or whatever to create that sense of mystery and exclusiveness their brands want to convey. It’s all about storytelling. If someone is a brand manager for a luxury brand and they can’t figure out how to tell their narrative to an audience, it’s because of their lack of imagination, not because luxury brands are inappropriate matches for social media.

  6. When you consider Rue La La has over 180,000 fans of its Facebook page — — is that not a sign that luxury brands not only need social media but its customers are starving for them to be there? After all, those premium brands (maybe not Maserati but definitely Prada) are contained within the invitation-only walls of the Rue La La website.

    As to your question how you define such a brand, is Google one? Because they’re airing TV commercials.

  7. I think that every brand needs social media, just because social class is using social media and networks. We cannot just differentiate between luxury brands and non-luxury brands. The “why”, “how” and “how much” of social media is different for every company and cannot be answered with just the question whether the brand is a luxury brand or not.

  8. Hi Peter,

    I think you are right; the real start is “what is luxury?” What makes a brand and a product to be considered as luxury and not just premium?

    The evolution of the society, the economic development, the mass-consumption and the apparition of new consumers, – i.e, consumers from the BRICs and new generations like the GenY – have been some factors of the fragmentation of luxury and of its democratisation. Even the main luxury brands have re-developed their strategy to adapt themselves to this new demand. This is why it has to be highlighted when we are talking about social media and luxury that there is different types of luxury. Luxury marketing and communication have always got its own rules and values. Because luxury is quite fragmented, the strategies have to be different, depending on the brand and whom they talk to.

    But I am still convinced that Luxury brands have to be on social media – and I am currently developing this idea in a dissertation that I am writing at the moment. Social media are not a strategy in itself, it is a tool. As digital is not a strategy, as we are not questioning anymore the idea of being online for a luxury brand, to have a website, I think that it is important for Luxury brands to be on social media, because that’s where people are.

    Here, the fundamental question is not anymore “do they need” or “do they have to” but “how”. How a luxury brand should talk to its audience, why, when and what type of experience they want to deliver to their audience? That is for me the core question.
    Would really like to hear your thought about it.

    Josephine Lipp
    My Blog: Social Media and the Luxury Industry

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