For many years the main way that brands connected with consumers of luxury items has been via print. Inspired by the longevity of high-end titles like Vogue, The Robb Report and Wallpaper, companies have produced their own magazines which often replicate the style and the grammar of the luxury press.
While print is still pivotal to the way that high-end brands engage with consumers, in recent years the emergence of digital channels has started to create new opportunities for far-sighted luxury brands.
The blogging explosion, and more recently sites like Lusso and Sphere, have encouraged companies to create their own blogs, often taking readers behind the scenes, giving glimpses of the artisan way that their luxury products are produced. More recently brands have supplemented written words with both video and images – housing content on their own websites as well as extending their reach via established platforms like Instagram and YouTube.
There have been some fascinating innovations too such as Aditus.net, published by Heart Media in Singapore, which enables ‘crypto-affluents’ to peruse and purchase luxury goods and services using Bitcoin and Ethereum.
Some of the content delivered by premiums brands has been outstanding too. At the CMA awards in 2018 we saluted a campaign by high-end hotel chain Mandarin Oriental which wanted to start a new chapter in its brand journey: digital transformation. Working with CMA member Cedar Communications the brand created 468 pieces of content across 10 channels targeted at high-net-worth individuals. The campaign helped deliver a seamless transition of a luxury brand into the online space and scooped out ‘Always On Content Strategy’ award.
Admittedly the mix of social media and always on content does not necessarily sound like a way that image-obsessed companies who produce luxury products would use to heighten brand awareness of their products – yet it’s not just working for Mandarin Oriental.
In 2017 Chanel was named by Insightpool as the most influential luxury brand on social media, topping a list that included others like Louis Vuitton and Christian Siriano. It has achieved this by maintaining a degree of exclusivity, working with carefully chosen influencers and creating content that is optimised for the platform it is intended for.
Another luxury brand that has innovated in content creation is Aston Martin. The company worked with CMA member Redwood London on a project that sought to highlight the company’s heritage, yet marry it to its vision for the future.
The result was a stunning 475 page book that told the history of the brand through stunning photography and meticulously crafted words. The book, which has a retail value of £2000, features a selection of the UK’s leading photographers whose stunning work was harnessed to reposition the brand from a high-end car maker to a luxury lifestyle company. The shots were archived in a series of videos and behind the scenes images. Together the content helped reposition the brand in advance of its IPO.
Delivering prestige books or crypto-friendly virtual stores for premium brands creates challenges which arguably FMCG brand marketers don’t have to consider. So what are they – and how then should content creators approach them?
Firstly, while most brands are particular about the content they create and the way it reflects on them, if you are dealing with companies whose brand image is so central to the ability to charge premiums for their products the obsession with the small stuff taken to a new level.
CMA member Complete Limited, whose company ethos is Creators of Visual Content for Aspirational Brands, work with a number of luxury brands who make everything from fine jewellery and handmade leather goods to cashmere knitwear. Account Manager Lia Grandi explains that “luxury clients are often very particular, and rightly so as this reflects the calibre of the small audience and market we are selling to. It is important that our work for our clients stands out amongst the crowd.”
This attention to detail is at the heart of the campaigns. “One of our clients is a country clothing company,” explains Lia. “With the ad campaign we created for them there are strict codes of conduct within the sport that we have to adhere to. This could be the way the socks are folded and worn to how the gun is handled to show authenticity. If we were to present images that don’t fall within these rules we will compromise the credibility of the brand across a major ad campaign which would be detrimental.”
Complete works with its clients in a number of ways including ad campaign concept, photography, moving image and design and art direction. They are also a experts in high quality retouching and colour management, which Lia claims “gives our luxury clients the edge on the finished results of their assets.”
They key is content that stands out. For companies like Complete, and indeed other CMA members who work with luxury brands, the assets they produce can be used in many different ways. There needs to be a uniformity to in strategy and execution.
“When it comes to marketing a luxury brand, it is absolutely essential that the imagery and overall campaign reflect the brand and the products on sale,” argues Lia. “There are many global luxury brands in the market place all vying for the attention of the small slice of customers that can easily afford to drop 80k on a pair of silver candelabra. To set our clients apart amongst an overpopulated world of online and print content we deliver memorable, stunning imagery with special attention to detail, design and colour to attract their target customer.”
Lia also believes that creativity is key – but it has to be within the guidelines that the company sets out.
“We use our most innovative ideas as springboard and then fine tune and tone it to propose a campaign that is within the guidelines and is still visually engaging.”
Lastly Lia claims that the success of high end content is invariably down to the people who produce it.
“Select a team who really understand luxury,” states Lia. “It is important to work with a creative director, photographer and stylist who really understand this level of the market, the brand and their competitors. Look at their areas of expertise that can really enhance of the overall shoot, such as in a photographer who trained and worked for many years in the days before digital. We regularly work with one of these creatives whose knowledge and skill with lighting brings a high level of luxury to the image.
And of course, the final stages of perfecting the imagery is all in the quality of the post production, retouch, design and colour work. Our agency is expert in this field, hence why luxury brands come to us to create their campaign imagery.”