Attracting increasingly nuanced audiences is crucial to curating luxury brand experiences that ensure customer loyalty. The team at Matter Of Form explain more
Gone are the days of passive audiences, where each and every person could be neatly slotted into a one-dimensional persona. Unfortunately for luxury marketers and strategists, the ultra-high net worth individual of the 21st century is not one person. Sharing a wealth bracket does not reconcile every other facet of identity into a singular figure.
So how do brands serve spectrums of people and maintain high levels of engagement? Empty buzzwords like ‘authenticity’ are not the solution to rising demand for personalised product and service. Rather, the answer lies in architecting thoughtful, well-rounded experiences.
As we learn more about generations of luxurians – current, new and next – brand-to-consumer connection and any subsequent loyalty are forming radical new meanings thanks to a portfolio of innovative experiences beginning to take shape.
It’s often said that social media means that we’re all creators now, forming the culture around us. But it’s less remarked upon that brands are creators, too. Here we illustrate how empathy with our audiences can lead to experiences that drive real innovation.
Connecting Through Experience
Marketing teams across the world are driven by the three strategies of audience development: deepening, broadening and diversifying.
- Deepening – creating experiences for current audiences that are richer and more engaging will increase their level or frequency of engagement
- Broadening – attracting more of present target audiences who aren’t already interested in the brand
- Diversifying – engaging visitors and participation from audiences that are not part of current audiences, such as underrepresented groups or niche communities
At a time of limitless choice and when the cost of switching has never been lower, brands’ priority should be on all three strategies. Brand management has lost its resonance and brand experience management is taking its place. But while data is your best friend when it comes to knowing your audience, experience isn’t exclusively a numbers game. Here’s why.
Personalisation And Customisation
What started as a simple [INSERT NAME] code in branded marketing emails has become a driving force of brand engagement. Even beyond the luxury sector’s flexible boundaries, people are obsessed with terms like ‘bespoke’, ‘tailored’ and ‘one of a kind’.
In travel and hospitality, curated itineraries are top of the personalisation league. Hand-picked, unconventional destinations that aren’t packaged but painstakingly personalised to the individual are becoming the expectation with clients now coveting consultative, loyal travel planners as a luxury.
In retail, meanwhile, it’s all in the craftsmanship. Luxury fashion house, Coach New York, launched an in-store experience earlier this year called ‘Coach Create’, following the success of an online customisation service the brand began in 2018. Unveiled at the new Coach Play concept store in Chicago, Coach Create brings the customer to the foreground of the maker’s experience.
The ‘craftmanship bar’, a leather artisan’s bench, is the centrepiece for customer and community creativity. The experience offers every opportunity for patrons to customise their own products, realised in countless options of materials, monograms and embellishments.
In a world of digital default, these kinds of experiences can be considered deliberately analogue. But they’re successful because connection goes beyond metrics. Tangible experiences have far more resonance with spectrums of identity than algorithm-driven recommendations. Too much reliance on automation will only alienate audiences, but interactive, immersive experiences are a surefire way to envelop them.
Seemingly one of the newer concepts in business strategy, co-creation actually has a lengthy history in bolstering brand awareness and can frequently converge with concepts of customisation and personalisation.
The Coach Create concept also hosts workshops with local artists using a collection of 3D tools to allow high-level customers to create one-of-a-kind pieces.
For British luxury icon Burberry, the concept of integrating customer creation began with its 2009 ‘Art of The Trench’ digital campaign which paired user-generated content (UGC) with a voting system for an individual’s favourite styles. The co-created effect was twofold: existing customers were sharing their stylistic choices while aspirational customers could vote, like and share, creating conversations.
Burberry’s Global Service Standards Manager at the time, Francesca Danzi, reflected on the snowball effect of the campaign: “The designers at Burberry took a lot of inspiration from the styling of these people around the world. They started to see trends and ways of wearing this garment across cultures, and began to give inspiration and create opportunities for designers internally.”
The concept eventually morphed into a new iteration, Burberry Bespoke, which offers a similar service to early versions of Coach Create allowing customers to design their own garments online.
Unsurprisingly, the perceived value of these items is far higher than standard products and once again affirms the fact that we’re all creators now. Brands which can make co-authoring IP a standout experience for existing and prospective customers will be yet another step closer to a deep well of loyalty.
Fostering fandom is arguably beneath luxury brands. But fandoms are characterised by almost-unshakeable loyalty and engagement. And they come in all shapes and sizes. Again, the issue for brands is the challenge of catering to many of these at once. The solution? Collaboration.
Take Francis Bourgeois. The endearingly dorky 22-year-old had gathered a huge following for his trainspotting videos before becoming the star of The North Face’s second collaboration with Italian luxury brand Gucci.
TikTok’s favourite trainspotter and unofficial GoPro advocate, Bourgeois plays the role of a train conductor leading carriages full of beautifully dressed luxurians on a journey through a mountainous landscape (complete with a photobooth with an Alpine backdrop).
The advert is not experience in the most physical sense, but by using niche cultural figures as a stepping stones to the target audience, brands will contribute to an end-to-end experience that’s resonant and real.
Tapping Into Crossovers
Brand experience isn’t just one moment. It’s not an isolated pop-up, or a singular viral campaign. It’s not even five consecutive viral campaigns. It’s an entire end-to-end journey, made up of every interaction a person has with a brand.
Although there’s no way to reconcile every facet of identity in sprawling, nuanced audiences, there are countless crossovers to tap into – whether they’re interests, values or shared experiences. And while automation and data may seem like the easier route to tackling the individual, the far more fruitful option is to start small: connecting and reconnecting with people, instead of computers.
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