Social media is more than a trend. It is a premier spot for information sharing. It has become part of every internet user. Hence, it influences millions of individuals worldwide. It provides a quick and efficient means of communication. The increased use of social media provides a good platform for connecting and uniting with the world. Brands are utilizing the opportunity created by social networks to market and reach out to potential consumers through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, MySpace, and even YouTube among others. A huge percentage of the wealthy class uses social media to get information from companies that have tapped the opportunity to market luxury products. The ensuing discussion focuses on how the use of social media affects the brand image of luxury products.
The definition of luxury is purely dependent on the take of society. It evolves with changes in the civilization and culture of society. Therefore, the standards of luxury commodities cannot be isolated from society. Due to its versatility, there have been several disagreements on what luxury entails. Another stalemate emerges in determining what a luxury brand is, contrary to a non-luxury brand. Although luxury is associated with expenses, it is crucial to note that every item put up for sale must have its functionality utility (Truong 2008).
A luxury brand holds the character of having a lower ration of functionality as compared to its situational utility. One pays higher for the prestige that comes with it than for the function that it performs. A luxury brand not only serves its function but also provides some psychological satisfaction. For instance, in the case of clothes, although some designs may be medium-priced, the products that come from them are well ranked in relation to their quality. Such products do not qualify as luxury brands.
Luxury products are associated with an elevated level of class. Therefore, they are made conspicuous and highly-priced as a mode of distinguishing the class clients who purchase them. They are known to set a trend in the world of fashion and production. Luxury products are a sign of high social class for the users. The users want to get the worth for their highly-priced goods. Hence, there must be a clear distinction between the goods they buy and the ordinary products. There must be uniqueness that comes with a luxury brand. Therefore, the quality of the product must have an edge over other products of its kind, which must be linked to the brand name. In most cases, the high price paid by customers of luxury products have less to do with the utility and more with the brand name and the prestige that comes with it (Truong 2008).
According to Truong (2008), luxury products are destined for a class of people who value uniqueness and prestige. Therefore, luxury brands are tasked with giving an edge to their products in terms of their production, as well as marketing. Social media refers to online sites that are used for interaction. Such sites have become more popular over the past few years. With the globalization of the world’s interaction over the internet, it has become easier to reach people who are on the extreme ends of the world from the click of a button.
Before, social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace were used only for online communication and other modes of interaction. With time, marketing has become more prevalent in such sites. The advantage that comes with advertising goods on such sites is that millions of people can receive the same message in real-time. Additionally, once an advertisement has been sent online, people can forward it to other sites, thus helping the advertiser of the goods in marketing it (Saravanakumar & SuganthaLakshmi 2012).
As opposed to an advertisement on billboards, print media, and television, using social media is not localized to where that advertisement has been distributed. The advertisement can go viral online and reach masses within a very short span of time. Additionally, as opposed to traditional means of advertisement, social media creates a platform for personal interaction between the producer and the client. Going by the notion that luxury brands are the preference of high-end clientele who have a liking for uniqueness, personal interaction allows the clients to give specifications of features they would like in the product. This preference is both effective for the customer who gets the satisfaction of uniqueness, as well as the seller, who stands a better chance of moving his or her brand by delivering to the customers what they prefer (Saravanakumar & SuganthaLakshmi 2012).
About 75% of the wealthy people who use the internet are on social media sites. This situation makes social media marketing (SMM) effective in reaching its targeted client base. On the flip side, social media carries all classes of people while luxury products are cut out only for a market of the wealthy class. This observation is a disadvantage because when an item is too common, it lacks the uniqueness that comes with its brand. Although many people may not actually purchase it, the fact that most of them seem to identify with a product or a brand may be a discouraging factor for the extreme social class to buy it.
However, this situation does not subtract from the fact that as opposed to print media, billboards, and television where brands have to pay high royalties to advertise their products, social media is a cheap platform for advertisement (Atwong 2015). It is very cheap to post advertisements online since there is no need to keep paying for the advertisement to be replayed or reposted (Evans 2012).
The Effectiveness of Social Media Marketing in Luxury Brands
The use or efficacy of social media marketing is a subject of considerable research. Surveying the existing literature reveals that the topic of social media and luxury brands is widely deliberated and researched. While most studies have focused on social media as a general issue, few of them have comprehensively discussed the effectiveness of SMM on luxury brands. Understanding the influence of social media on luxury brands is vital since it will help businesses to initiate strategies to utilize the opportunities created by online platforms. From the current studies, scholars have observed various ways through which SMM is effective with respect to luxury brands (Atwong 2015).
Foremost, social media marketing is cost-effective and fast. A company dealing with luxury brands can easily share information about new products and at a reduced cost as compared to the amount that could have been spent to reach a given population of consumers using the traditional techniques. Companies can harmonize their websites with social media platforms such that any update on the website can automatically be shared with social media subscribers. Ideally, this strategy has a great impact on the company since the huge populations of social network subscribers make their decisions on whether to purchase a product based on what they read and/or view on social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Conversely, companies that use traditional marketing strategies have to increase their marketing budget for them to reach a similar population within a given timeframe (Evans 2012).
According to Atwong (2015), SMM promotes customer interaction. It also creates an opportunity to attract potential consumers. As its names suggest, social media creates a platform for firms to interact with prospective buyers. The interaction builds trust and a healthy rapport between the company and the buyers. Once the firms have built a proper relationship with their consumers, they are assured of creating a prolonged seller-buyer link. As such, they record an increased sales volume of products.
Furthermore, consumers who have created a brand loyalty can also exchange information about the products with other prospective clients. Notably, the aim of advertising is not only to increase sales but also to ensure that the luxury brands’ image remains active in the market. A rise in sales makes the product more noticeable. When people do not know the product, then they do not understand the worth and need for purchasing it. Social media provides a big audience who comprise the customers and prospective clients.
Additionally, social networks enable luxury brands to share information that boosts the commodity or brand value. Luxury brand products should generally be kept at a distance away from the purchasers. Buyers of luxury brands often purchase luxury brand products to achieve a specific symbol of stature in life. To ensure that consumers continue viewing the products with an esteemed aura, they must not be on an equal level. Furthermore, luxury brands have to inform their clients about the products at a considerate distance. Social media provides a favorable environment to achieve the buyer demands. Companies can post information about the products and instantly respond to questions from customers, hence improving their sales (Atwong 2015).
SMM also boosts consumer insights. Online feedback on luxury brands helps to evaluate the customer interests through social listening. A firm can go through the comments and tweets posted by clients on their social networking sites such as YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. Luxury brands then use the feedback to produce items that concur with the needs of luxury brand buyers while at the same time remaining unique and rare.
How to Use Social Media Marketing in Luxury Brands
The increased active participation of affluent internet subscribers on social media affirms that marketers should stop debating whether social media is a luxury market. Instead, they should initiate techniques of successfully exploiting the luxury markets for their magnificent brands. The figures of wealthy internet users have grown to more than 57.1 million. The behavior of this class of customers has changed considerably. Luxury brands face distinctive challenges with respect to the contemporary consumers. Conversely, they stand to gain hugely if they embrace the opportunities created by social networks. However, their success will rely on their ability to chart a roadmap that tackles the new characteristics of contemporary customers using social media (Kim & Ko 2010).
According to Truong (2008), luxury brand marketers should convert unique brand features into social platforms. Luxury brands provide an exclusive refined experience to their clients. Although most deluxe brands believe that they cannot translate their distinctive experience on the web, social media has been modified to an extent that it can complement the experiences of the high-end brands. Since buyers now require a distinctive encounter with luxury brands based on the experience they have in real world, companies must strive to meet this demand. The ease of access of social media misleads most luxury businesses to represent their online marketing with a voice that is at odd with other media platforms. This situation creates a discord in the thoughts of clients.
To avoid creating such dissonance, luxury firms should treat the social media as part of their brand, just as consumers do. The splendor and performance should concur with the brand’s appearance in the real world. To achieve this goal, luxury brand marketers should pinpoint the features of a product and ensure that a similar package is represented in the social networking sites and the business’ website. Therefore, uniformity is vital. The cohesion of the offline and online image of the brand should be complemented with having a profound insight of customer expectations together with how to maintain a positive image towards the consumers (Atwong 2015).
Secondly, luxury businesses should implement practices that correspond to an online business model. Luxury brands thrive where they can control the accessibility of their products. Hence, they can maintain the rarity and illusion of the product. On the other hand, all people can access social media. Hence, trying to limit accessibility will work against a marketer. To avoid facing the new challenge, some brands opt to force traditional practices into the wed by, for instance, making the image of their billboard as a profile picture in Facebook or Twitter.
Indeed, such an approach is not likely to sell to techno savvy customers who can notice the traditional marketing techniques being imposed on them. A better tactic is to isolate the key message that needs to be communicated before conveying it through social media using digital methods. Every luxury business has a feature that makes it distinctive to attract brand loyalty (Kim & Ko 2010). If a company identifies the exceptional characteristics and communicates to the online users genuinely, it will entice brand loyalists. Luxury business must recognize that online customers are often prudent enough to distinguish between old marketing content and truthful materials.
The above practices can work best when luxury brands also pinpoint and increase their audience. While most brands invest in social media because of the big audience that can be reached within a short period, the numbers are not enough. Luxury brands need to form connections with their customers and prospective buyers. The uncontrolled advertisement of luxury brands in social media to raise awareness is likely to harm the business. A preferable way of marketing luxury products involves forming close relationship-esteemed social media users such as bloggers.
Moreover, social media users form groups that enable them to interact with other individuals with whom they share similar ideologies. By forming close relationship with administrators of such groups and influential bloggers, luxury brands marketers can be assured that their messages will get to the appropriate audience. The insider access is a feature that will attract the affluent online customers who seek to maintain their stature. Additionally, the reduced direct interaction with prospective buyers boosts the status and uniqueness of a high-end product (Evans 2012).
Luxury businesses should strive to empower their consumers. Online consumers have the tendency of sharing the information they find concerning the brands they like on their social media platforms. Luxury brands can exploit this culture to promote brand loyalty and/or attract potential buyers. Businesses can empower the clients by availing information to them. Historically, luxury brands may be reluctant to allow consumers have access to information. Most companies continue to promote such a practice offline. While such a norm is tolerable in the real world, it harms luxury brands that are marketed in the social media (Kim & Ko 2010).
According to Hoffman and Fodor (2010), it is also important to assess the social media Return on Investment (ROI) to ensure that the various approaches discussed in the previous are producing results. Luxury brands should develop a tradition of analytics whereby they occasionally measure the outcome of SMM. They should use social media platforms once they determine the goal they intend to achieve through a given social site. Moreover, luxury brand marketers should also allocate real-money value to every communication to boost outcome.
Nevertheless, firms must be keen to ensure that they balance the content, audience, and sites that they use for SMM to ensure that they exploit its full potential. Despite being an effective means of marketing luxury brands, it has various limitations, which if properly monitored, can become a burden to the luxury brands. For instance, responding to customer questions may be consuming, considering the traffic that is likely to be encountered in social media platforms. Conversely, prospective buyers may take failing to respond to individual queries of customers negatively. This situation may in turn harm the luxury brand. It is important for marketers to consider the ROI when advertising in social network platforms to ensure that they have noticeable sales, as well as intangible brand recognition (Hoffman & Fodor 2010).
Furthermore, SMM contradicts some of the traditional features of luxury brand advertising. Luxury brands need to be rare and exclusive. Maintaining the rarity of a product in social media is difficult, considering that it enables billions of people to access and exchange information. Social media can easily popularize a product, a factor that contradicts with a key feature of luxury brands. Consequently, luxury brand marketers must be cautious to balance raising the popularity of a brand and regulating the volume of sales such that its uniqueness is not damaged. Achieving this goal in social media is quite strenuous, considering that millions of social network subscribers may lead to banalization of luxury brands (Kim & Ko 2010).
The aim of any luxury brand dealer would be to reach the elite and wealthy class in social networks since this group of purchasers prefers conspicuous consumption (Truong 2008). Contrarily, anything posted by luxury brand marketers can reach millions of social media users across the world. While it may be reaching a big audience, only a small percentage of the viewers are genuine customers who are part of the 75 percent of the wealthy internet users on social networks. Having ghost customers viewing and commenting about a luxury brand may be a burden to the marketers since they do not add any value to the volume of sales.
Contrary to these benefits of social media, traditional techniques enable marketers to share information, which they presume will captivate and lure consumers to purchase a given high-end product. Furthermore, old marketing techniques are predictable, contrary to the case of social media. Consequently, traditional marketing can be used to make long-term marketing decisions. Errors made in traditional marketing techniques can be quickly corrected without causing a serious damage to the image of the luxury brands.
On the other hand, Saravanakumar and SuganthaLakshmi (2012) assert that an error can cause severe harm to a luxury business’ image, especially where the information goes viral. Most luxury product consumers are more familiar with the old techniques. They can still purchase products from companies that use old marketing tactics. As such, luxury brands can still survive under traditional marketing strategies, even in the absence of social media.
Social media is rapidly transforming. The privacy policies, features, and audience of social sites keep changing. For instance, a new social site is likely to rise and overtake an existing site. A current social site such as Facebook is likely to lose popularity, depending on how it is managed. Social media is unpredictable. Hence, relying on it as a primary source of marketing may harm a company in case of a drastic change in policies or audience. Therefore, marketers must develop effective strategies of promoting luxury brands on social media without being subdued with the challenges that SMM poses.
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