Today’s luxury consumers come in many different shapes and forms, making a one-size-fits-all mode of marketing no longer good enough, says Mike Cullis, CEO of creative direct marketing agency Soul.
Much has been made of Burberry’s decision, starting at London Fashion Week, to make its catwalk collections immediately available in store and online. And rightly so. It’s a bold move that points towards luxury not only responding to customer need but anticipating it.
This comes at a time when the luxury marketing model is under pressure to evolve due to an over-reliance on a “one-size-fits-all” approach to communications; a prevailing attitude not only in fashion but also at the luxury end of sectors such as automotive and travel.
Of course, the luxury sector has seen tremendous growth in recent times. The growth of global wealth has had something to do with this, including the rise, and current slow down, of new markets such as China. However, even in established markets, the UK included, luxury and high-end premium goods are an affordable consideration for many more people than used to be the case.
Accessibility has changed in terms of the offering. Whether through the range of products (from beauty, small accessories, bags, off the rail to haute couture) or the diversity of the range, which now includes diffusion brands and partnerships.
The result is that luxury and premium brands have actually entered the mainstream, and this means that their customers come in many different shapes and forms. This, in turn, means that luxury brands need to give far more thought to recognising and engaging these various customer types.
While the little black book of your top customers still has value, simply sending a one-size-fits-all email to everyone else in the world isn’t good enough. And the problem with this type of email broadcast is that it has the potential to cheapen your brand, because in the context of most people’s shopping and retail experiences it looks unsophisticated, uncreative, and even low budget.
Luxury brands get it right in that there is no doubt that the top end customer remains the most valuable and requires everything from VIP experiences through to 1:1 personal styling. But there’s so much room for improvement.
A combination of data analysis and research provides the opportunity to uncover and recognise people’s behaviour, attitudes, and motivations. This then helps to inform an understanding of the potential of different customers, provides an insight into what the purchase cycle and customer journey looks like, and identifies the channels with which to engage customers and which buttons to press (product, styling, messaging) to realise this potential.
There’s a related creative challenge in that luxury brands’ approach to creative communication is quite protectionist. Keeping the brand guarded and polished is a pre-occupation for many in the luxury market but, culturally, many of these brands view personalisation and flexing the creative product as quite alien.
Yet personalisation on a large scale doesn’t necessarily equate a brand with cheapness. Far from it because it has the potential to up the ante for luxury brands. If small companies, with smaller budgets, such as Thread.com can deliver an inspired, personalised, CRM experience through their website and email, there is no reason why others with larger resources can’t.
Viewed through this lens, while Burberry’s efforts at London Fashion Week are to be applauded a greater emphasis on 1-2-1 marketing would bring them into sharper focus.
Mike Cullis is CEO of creative direct marketing agency Soul. Comment Counts is a series of opinion pieces from experts within the industry. Do you have something to say? Get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.