Understanding Facebook’s potential for luxury brands

Despite the controversy over its IPO and a downturn in its stock, Facebook’s growth seems unstoppable, with millions of new users every month from around the world. The fact that its explosive development was unplanned and unexpected is evident given its spread, from a page promoting a product, a brand, a restaurant, school, political party to personal pages of the masses and professional pages for actors, athlets etc.

For the past years, the measure of success has been the number of Likes, i.e. people who subscribe to a page, similarly to a newsletter. The same measure of success seemed to apply for private individuals who would take pride in the number of friends, even if they have never met or spoken over 90% of their friends.

Individuals and companies alike have come to realization that the number of Likes or Subscribers is far from indicative of success. The inevitable questions which arise is who are all these people and how much do we actually know about them, the bottom line for most companies and public figures using Facebook being to make use of their notoriety and generate advertising.

Take for instance, luxury brands in retail. In its quest to reposition itself as a democratic luxury brand, Burberry (14 million) has gathered a record of 14 million Likes on Facebook, approximately 40% more Likes than Louis Vuitton (8,6 million) and Gucci (8,7 million), more than double the number of Likes of other major powerhouse luxury brands such as Chanel (6,9 million), Ralph Lauren (5,2 million) and seven times more than Prada (1,8 million) and Fendi (1,7 million). Assessing how many of these ”friends” are actual consumers (existing or potential) of the respective brands is practically impossible.

Does this mean that Burberry is x times more successfull or more notorius than the other luxury brands? On the contrary, I believe this overexposure on Facebook can only be harmful to the power and reputation of the brand in the long run. Already, Burberry’s democratic positioning strategy is confusing consumers, especially when it comes to the real differences in terms of materials, finishes and craftsmanship of its collections. No matter how much we would like to argue a leather bag made in China from Burberry’s highest category line, Prorsum, would never be comparable to a leather bag made in Italy of any brand of the above mentioned. And consumers’ trust cannot be taken for granted as sooner or later the quality versus image factor will be the defining purchase stimulus.

The other mistake luxury brands have made on Facebook is mix their entire range of products under one official page. Nowadays, we all know fragrances are no longer a luxury product and in this case Facebook can prove efficient – it’s almost like comparing the positiong of the display or corner of a particular brand in an airport (all brands fighting for the best positioning in terms of traffic) and the number of people who speak about the fragrance and reccommend it to friends. That is why, I believe that luxury fashion brands should act and separate their ready to wear and accessories products in one page and fragrances / cosmetics in a different page.

What about the actual content posted on Facebook? Apart from Prada which has created several art projects, each with its own APP and Hermes which have created an APP to teach young ladies the many ways an Hermes can be worn, most other luxury fashion brands post on Facebook the same advertising campaigns which can be found in the media and pictures, photos from their catwalk shows (otherwise available on thousands of fashion portals), not to mention photos from the look book, available on the websites of each company. I strongly believe Facebook can and should create an exclusivity aura around each luxury fashion brand.

Facebook page of Chanel

In my review of Facebook, I have come up with several sensible suggestions which I believe could prove to be efficient for luxury fashion brands:

- separate fashion and accessories from other product categories (separate fragrances page and separate eyewear page)

- focus on styling and provide ideas for a certain look, for a certain occasion

- celebrity interviews to relate as much to lifestyle as possible – custom made editorials such as ”At home with X personality, who would open his or her wardrobe and speak about his or her favourite items

- create competitions with attractive prizes such as Win a shopping weekend in Milan – you and four of your girlfriends

- sneak peak into the ateliers or creative studios – people love to see how products are made and the craftsmanship that goes into that

- informative and educational articles, for instance illustrating how to differentiate a fake product from a genuine one

- associations with sports or other lifestyle events – exclusive foottage from the respective events

- no live broadcasting of the catwalk shows

- virtual tours of flagship stores – filming interiors but also the neighbourhoods and propose concierge tips

As for luxury hotels on Facebook, the situation is even worse, you couldn’t have missed the infitely repeated photo ”guess the location” or showing a particular dish. Given the spread of Facebook, I strongly believe hotels should have their individual pages and hotel chains should maintain a page which would be more corporate to announce new openings, financial results, appointments of staff. My tips for hotel Facebook pages are:

- instead of photos, which are otherwise on the hotel’s website and all over the internet, use footage, short videos; even if amateur made, customers will appreciate they are real – by showing videos and mentioning the date when these were filmed many potential guests can make up their mind about a particular room type – i.e. view, layout of the room or suite, the condition of the room etc

- the short videos should be accompanied by various staff – for example, a housekeeper could show the behind the scenes of how a room is made up and the details - such footage could reveal very important details for a luxury property – quality of mattress, quality of linen etc

- avoid photos of food and drinks – rather post recipes, ideally of local dishes prepared at the hotel

- ”sneak peak” short clips of events taking place at the hotel (of course, with the approval of the organizers/clients) - for instance to illustrate the set up

- in order to measure efficiency and to test interactivity is with the right audience, prize draws could be organized – for instance a complimentary weekend - to enter competition, people would need to send a message on the Facebook page of the hotel with as many details as possible - in the case of luxury hotels, real potential guests would not have an issue buying a flight ticket if they won the weekend stay

- photo competition – why let guests share photos only on Tripadvisor? On departure, they can be handed a postcard or they can be sent an email with the invitation to join a competition with a two night stay prize or a SPA ritual ; all they have to do is send photos (again through Facenook) from their stay and it does not necessarily mean photos of the hotel – they could send photos from their sightseeing etc.

- imaginary characters or real characters - for instance a cat or a dog of the hotel, can tell stories (in a children’s manner) about what went on in the hotel the past week; such tales are very much appreciated by adults too

- a general manager’s weekly diary is a must ! – people love to learn about the behind the scenes

In order for luxury hotels to improve the effectiveness of their Facebook presence, they should ideally team up with major local events – film festivals, concerts, exhibitions, sports competitions etc. and highlight these packages on Facebook.

I welcome recent news about major improvements by Facebook. ”Page Post Targeting Enhanced” was launched last week and will gradually be rolled out to all Pages with more than 100 Fans. The new tool will allow marketers to further fine-tune their Posts in terms of offers or tone of voice, adding more relevance and, presumably, better response.

While there has been no official statement as yet from Facebook, according to TechCrunch the full list of targeting options will be:

• Age • Gender • Interested In • Relationship Status • Education • College Grad: College Name, Major • In College: College Name, Major, Years • In High School • Workplace • Plus existing options – Language, and Location: Country, State, City

CPP Luxury Industry Management Consultants Ltd will soon be launching such outsourced services to manage Facebook pages for luxury brands.

Oliver Petcu