Remember the 2012 Cartier video everyone in marketing and advertising was buzzing about for months?
Here’s a recap: Filmmaker Bruno Aveillan spent months (and an undisclosed fortune) making “L’Odyssée de Cartier,” a fantasy video following the Cartier panther across the globe, from Paris to the Great Wall of China, and beyond. If you’re not one of the 17 million people who have already seen it, take a minute to watch one of the greatest examples of luxury marketing to date.
L’Odyssée de Cartier, directed by Bruno Aveillan.
Today’s marketers are facing a massive sea change in how their customers consume media. Across levels of affluence, consumer time is harder to capture and is being spent in ever smaller chunks with marketing materials. While luxury marketers have some slight advantages over mass marketers — they need far fewer sales to be considered successful and can spend as much as Aveillan did on a video campaign — brands like Cartier can still teach non-luxury companies a great deal about how to succeed in digital.
Rethink Measurement and Targeting
The average consumer is spending an increasing amount of time online and brand messages need to migrate across channels to ensure a seamless journey towards brand discovery. Luxury brands learned long ago that measuring what makes those messages successful when looking at their bottom line sales may not be typical performance KPIs, such as cost-per acquisition (CPA). When a single affluent customer buys a Rolex watch or Hermes handbag, understanding what the acquisition costs are on a multi-thousand-dollar sale is challenging. Non-luxury brands can extrapolate from this in how they evaluate the various digital tactics deployed in their omnichannel approach. An awareness campaign on social desktop should be measured very differently than a social campaign on mobile intended to drive in-store sales directly. Brands must level-set appropriately like luxury has.
Luxury brands are also deeply considerate of how their promotion content works for where it is engaged when setting those metrics. For example, luxury brands often use experiential video ad units — like the Cartier video — that extend an existing brand conversation. A video unit featuring Viking appliances may appear on a home decor site, integrated into a sponsored story about custom cabinetry. This placement complements the message of the video and drives more resonance with the viewer. A household food brand popular during the holidays could model this by running a localized rich media unit featuring its products on a popular recipe site.
The value of this sort of niche targeting bares out. A recent study by Bell Pottinger points to content sponsorship around blogs and social media being primary connectors of online efforts to offline retail success. Burberry, a panel participant, attributed 17 percent of its recent offline sales to an effective omnichannel strategy.
Connect Online to Offline Brand Messages
Another lesson brands can take to heart is the value of a cohesive brand image spanning offline to online. (And vice versa.) Pulling in elements from print and in-store executions to landing pages and digital ad units is not only important in terms of continuing the brand conversation, but also enables marketers to get more mileage from expensive creative. The Rolex site, for example, is simple, but features bold, large-format imagery found in its print executions, along with relevant copy in the familiar Copperplate font. For mobile, those images (albeit smaller) carry over to the responsive website, where the message of classic elegance endures. This is a successful strategy products from any category type can easily adopt. And while re-purposing video may not always be a successful approach, featuring shorter variations of a broadcast campaign — with the same tone, spokesperson, and product info — would be.
An image from the Rolex website slideshow, which features its watches presented in magazine “spread” format.
Make It Exclusive
The American Express Centurion Card — its “Black Card” — connects with the targeted affluent shopper by offering super-deluxe perks available only to card holders. Not everyone can apply for the card (it’s by invitation only) or afford to plunk down the $7,500 initiation fee, plus the $2,500 annual membership fee. But those that do can expect tickets to hard-to-book events (think Superbowl or Rain Forest Concerts), 24-hour concierge services, personal shopping services, and more, including the swagger that membership affords.
How does Amex market the card? It doesn’t. Sometimes, less is more.
Obviously, few brands can simply bow out of the marketing game and expect to stay in business. However, by applying elements of exclusivity to online marketing — sending “special invitation” sale notices via-e-mail, offering deals “for loyalty members only” and putting special brand experiences behind firewalls — even big retailers can create similar experiences to those Amex has found success employing. Customers want to feel appreciated and exclusivity is a personalized touch that drives them in-store. Visa leveraged the brand halo Amex built to successfully market its own “Black Card” — which consumers can apply for online. Visa uses its first party site data to aggressively retarget users who visit the Black Card application site.
If you can’t beat them, join them. The Visa Black Card leverages the mystique of Amex’s Centurion program, but makes it available by application, rather than invitation.
Don’t Dilute Strong Branding With Discounts
Adage recently shared advice on how to wean shoppers off discounts, asserting: “Retailers are running scared. In every sector, from apparel to electronics to groceries, they’re afraid of becoming the 40%-off brand. Shoppers are so trained to wait for discounts that the slippery slope has become an avalanche.”
Luxury marketers avoid this pitfall largely by keeping their deals exclusive. Yes, even luxury brands offer discounts because their consumers too love a good deal. The Harrison Group’s 2013 Survey of Affluence and Wealth in America revealed that survey respondents who self-identify as “deal dominant” will spend over $33 billion dollars this year on luxury goods. That number is high not just because of luxury pricing, but also because these brands do not apply discounts liberally. There is no compromising of profitability just to move inventory.
Walmart, a retail giant, already gets it. They include “price sensitive affluents” as one of their three customer stratification categories. This allows them to be more strategic when planning discounts on specific products and categories. Approaches like this help preserve brand messaging about the quality of products and the retailer itself, while also not compromising revenue in an attempt to drive more transactions.
Really Personalize It
The luxury industry has also been ahead of the personalization game for a while. The standard starting tactic for most personalization efforts is retargeting. However, brands should ensure their consumers are not over-served the same content over and over — making them feel like a faceless online shopper. This is a mistake luxury brands seldom make.
If Land Rover sponsored a safari article on a luxury travel site, it might show users who visited those pages safari-themed video ads of the LR4, and then drive them to a similarly-themed landing page. A drugstore retailer like CVS could sponsor an article on tips to head off catching the flu before a video ad unit runs about their walk-in clinics where they offer flu shots. The content is more relevant, but not over-sold through repetition of the same ad content. The difference between standard retargeting and this approach is that the conversion event is more consequential.
What applies universally from luxury brand marketing is the benefit of blending the feel of personalization and exclusivity under a strong brand halo and making sure to drive consistent imagery and messaging across channels. This connects offline marketing to consumers’ online presence, and makes the cash register ring. What’s more, in a market where brand loyalty is struggling, it helps maintain a brand’s integrity and coherence, which is essential to establishing a viable omnichannel strategy that provides meaningful returns.