Content without a cause. Does Luxury miss an opportunity?

Because when action becomes dictated by a result (ie: how do we do story telling on our brand, what content do we provide), no one focuses anymore on  why you might need that very content, or that storytelling. And if it even has the chance to be the right answer to your question in the first place.

Last week I was interviewed by someone writing a piece on that subject for a luxury brand. The key question asked was how digital could help tell the story of a brand. Being slightly sadistic, I asked two questions back: why were they trying to tell a story, and why the digital obsession. Not that I think any of these is wrong, but because unless we know, we can’t give an effective answer.

As the answer proved difficult,  I’ll give you the result of that conversation:  in most cases today it’s not about digital anymore, it’s about digital fitting in real life. And helping real life.

So we were talking about a big luxury brand. One that had put together a museum to show all that it had in its archives and all it had to show. Only no one really went there, so could digital apply some of it’s magic to make more people see the great content on show?

Read between the lines: we have a lot of documents, a lot of heritage. We think it’s good to show it and share it. Our board thinks so, and it seems to make sense.


…no one is interested to see it.

So the easy answer to the question is: if no one is interested, putting it online is not going to make it more interesting.

But more importantly, this shows an attitude which is self centered and which has not thought a second about why someone would be interested in what you have, what role it might play, how it could be made more interesting, and how digital would help.

In short storytelling has to be looked from the point of view of the person receiving the story: why should he bother? What is he going to take from this? To be blunt a little tour of the luxury scene gives you an indication that not enough seem to be asking that question… We are graced with multimillion productions that use Hollywood directors,  stars and style for a result that would bring less people to a cinema than a croatian cartoon from the 70’s.

The good thing is that the luxury industry has adopted content, adopted digital distribution, but the sad thing is that I would argue a lot of what goes on there is good for internal use, but not so good for the public it’s intended for.
That’s because the way it’s done brings it head to head with large scale exhibitions and large scale films. And that’s an arena that’s not good to compete with, nor should it really be their objective…
There are a few exceptions though with Coco(the film)



and with the now 11 years old BMW films(and their over 100 millions views in the first year). 
So how should we go about it, and after the easy criticism, what do I propose?

Well, first and foremost entering the digital world, luxury brands- in fact any brand- needs to worry about the user. The public, the people they are trying to engage. What will they get from the engagement. An obsessive question that you will find has many different answers. A few examples below. Digital you will see is one part of the equation. One part that leads to a far bigger experience.

1- Getting a large audience.

That’s what you might want as a marketeer, but no one else cares. So look at it from their side. Online people are looking at finding interesting content to share. Interesting because it will make them valued by their friends or by their audience (when they have a site). And what is interesting to them? If it’s ‘avant première’, if it gives you a glimpse of something no one else has seen before, if it’s very entertaining, very entertaining (not just a film with an actress…), if it’s "osé"-daring, or just incredible. They will share that content because it makes them someone in the know, someone with taste that sees or gets things before others, or just because it gives them a great conversation starter.

Some of the best brands to do this have been Armani (the tip) with 4 million views without media support
Victoria Secret (the famous live show)
and to some extent Longchamp (Kate’s song). 

So for more inspiration on that you need to turn to brand like Red Bull, Nike and Wilkinson.

I am yet to see something done by one of the big luxury houses that would be a serious contender here since BMW films. As much as I would have loved to have found one. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time…

2- The brand story

History, kings, Maharajas, president’s, but also product stories, art, know how, and of course mythical products. Yes Luxury brands have more to tell than most brands. But how many know how to tell them. We tell, you listen seems to be the norm. So few people listen.

How about looking at it inside out. Why would I want to hear the story? 
  • because it gives me something to tell. Because people talk about the luxury products they own, because they get asked about them. Not surprising given they are made to be noticed very often. But how many brands really give us the stories to tell? Stories that take away the superfluous nature of luxury (for the price, I could have fed a family for a year) to transform products into acts of grandeur (it’s the same that went to the top of the world, or it’s the only thing Marylin wore at night). This gives you a very different point of view on a brand’s history: what are the three things someone would say about his product? About his watch, about his car, about her bag? Brands need to decide that, need to help their public to fill the product with a soul. Because otherwise H&M will do thank you very much. That is something that a few brands like Rolex have managed to do well. See the site here for example, something you are likely to carry if you own one:
  • Because it reinforces your superiority, emotionally. A few years back, we organized in Paris for DeBeers an exhibition called ‘Love’ about diamonds and Love. But we didn’t just show diamonds and rings, we brought to Paris some of the world’s largest and most famous stones. Around whom love stories were created, extravagant stories. So we all knew that in buying a diamond in the future, we were carrying the most powerful of messages. So that we all felt the Onassis in all of us… 
  • Because it reassures me that I’m not being taken for a ride with an product that costs too much, but buying something that is priceless. That’s why the Kelly bag is signed by the person who created it,

     that’s why Gucci bag makers worked in one of the shops for one day. But this is an area that has so little focus  I am always amazed. Try asking the sales people about your suit, about a bag. They can make up the color (most often), but that’s about it. Clearly digital can play a role there, can help you in the retail environment tell the story- sorry I should say give you the good reasons why it’s worth that price. Also by the way giving you good rational arguments when you come back home and explain why you needed to add a zero to the high street price.

3- Creating a unique relationship.

Luxury products never come along. They are always accompanied by service. Because the people who buy are spoilt. Spoilt for choice, and spoilt for service. 
A bad service experience drives people away. And when the sales people in Uniqlo go to the length of taking your card with two hands à la Japanese, you better do something unique and visible. In that sense luxury brands need to seize the opportunity to increase our ‘privileges’. An area where digital has a huge role to play. 
Here are a few examples:

  • Privileges around the brand story. The Vuitton guide for example. It’s just like your traveling concierge. Same with the sites they built around Keith Richards, Sean Connery and other celebrities giving us insights into their cities. 

  • Privileges with personalization. The product is not ‘made in…’ anymore, it becomes ‘made for’ 

  • Privileges by enabling the access to previously closed moments. Like fashion shows for Victor&Rolf or Burberry’s

  • Privileged interactions like the Twitter walls in the D&G shows,

  • Privileged services, like the famous concierge button for Vertu.
In most cases here digital mixes into the real world, it never lives alone. In fact I would predict that the most interaction we create between real and digital or digital and real will define the success and the depth of the relationship that will be created.

So in short I am making two cases today:
First, to move away from creating content for content’s sake to creating answers to consumers needs. It sounds silly as I write it, but looking at the millions spent pointlessly, it’s a sound starting point. Imagine how much better use of the money we could make… And don’t get me wrong that does not mean that everything becomes very rational. It just means content needs a purpose. 
Second I am a firm believer that digital is here to serve that exact same purpose, that we should break the barrier that we all mentally created between digital and real worlds.