"Mass brands define who their customers are and “push” products towards them. For luxury brands, the roles are reversed: consumers must be “pulled” towards the brand with the promise of belonging to an exclusive community."
Luxury promotes emotions aligned with self-elevation, pleasure and recognition not ‘prevention’ emotions around risk-reduction or problem solving.
Building brand communities therefore ticks many boxes in resolving the twin challenges of exclusivity and accessibility, delivering dividends for both companies and their consumers.
Above and beyond the value of customers to companies as past and ongoing purchasers of their goods and services, any luxury marketing strategy should pull them into a community as a powerful way to create enthusiastic advocates for the brand.
Luxury marketing strategy and communities
This advocacy role is something Dialogue explored in our report The Power of Brand Communities,along with why brand communities are so attractive to individuals.
These reasons are rooted in the psychological theory that we are driven by two apparently competing factors: the need to belong and the ability to express individuality.
As Dr Charles Seger, from the University of East Anglia’s School of Psychology, explains:
“A brand community…is an intersection of these two competing movements. You’re apart from everyone but also part of an interesting, fun, cool community that expresses your personal values.”
The key role brand communities play in the luxury market was highlighted by research commissioned for our report: in this sector, more than a third (36 per cent) of respondents said it was very important or important to be part of a brand community, rising to 57 per cent for 25 to 34-year-olds.
Branded content as part of a luxury marketing strategy
Like any successful relationship, the connection between brand and brand advocates requires ongoing maintenance. Maximising touchpoints with customers on an ongoing basis, to engage and entertain, strengthens and adds value to the brand-customer connection.
Digital and social media are therefore increasingly playing a greater role in any luxury marketing strategy: with 68% of brands now selling goods over the internet versus 62% in 2016 (viaThe State of Luxury Report 2018).
Co-ordinated branded content – print, email, social media, events, physical products – delivered in interesting, interactive ways ties brand communities together and gives something back to customers, to keep them coming back.
The right content and approach creates active participants in a brand rather than passive recipients, fuelling their brand advocacy.
Harvard Business Review lifts the lid on the myths about brand communities, revealing how a community strengthens any brand, citing Harley-Davidson®as one of the definitive success stories thanks to its ability to organise a fanbase around its lifestyle, activities and ethos.
Speaking at Dialogue Brand Communities’ event, Consumer Experience Manager at Harley Davidson, Marjorie Rae said,
‘What brings the community together is that they all have a passion for riding the motorcycle, they all enjoy getting together and sharing their experiences as well as the information they have to enhance these experiences. And this is actually not just for the riders but the people who sit on the back of the motorcycles. The HOG community is very inclusive and actually allows people to engage in the brand in their own way.’
Innovative branded content also ticks many boxes at a time when brands must woo the millennial generation if they are to benefit from a positive outlook for the luxury market. Growth in the sector was estimated at five per cent in 2017 according to one study, which also suggests compound annual growth of four to five per cent over the next three years.
A quarter (25 per cent) of respondents in our research already say they want to get involved in their luxury brands, suggesting that companies are pushing at an open door.
People like to feel part of something – so using branded content to recruit and reward brand advocates is likely to deliver the luxury goods on all fronts.