Luxury Isn’t Very Social

Thanks to social media, everyone can have a voice, everyone can take part in the conversation, everyone can pass along information and spread opinions. That can be a problem if, like luxury brands, your whole mojo is based on being somewhat aloof.

Luxury brands are a little like old-school movie stars. They’re beautiful, unattainable and a bit indifferent. They carefully cultivate their images as being for a select group who want exquisitely designed and impeccably made things and can afford the jaw-dropping price tags that such luxuries command. This puts luxury brands in a tough spot when it comes to succeeding in the digital age. Most industries have been pushed online in one way or another; most companies and brands have gone online to engage with their customers. But what good would Twitter accounts for Chanel or Balenciaga do? Twitter is used by hundreds of millions of people; a $3,995 Chloé python tote, on the other hand, is not.

Luxury brands don’t want overexposure; they want the right exposure, which is a hard thing to accomplish on the leveled playing field that is social media. Look at what social media and blogs have done to celebrities. We know so much about celebrities, both because they share their thoughts and personal pictures on their Twitter accounts, and because gossip blogs post all of their intimate details and embarrassing, no makeup, sloppy sweatpants, “celebs are just like us!” photos, which then get spread all over the Web through social sharing. There are mercifully some, like George Clooney, who don’t play along with this.

Fashion is caught in a bind. On the one hand, it’s about being aware of the times and defining new aesthetic tastes accordingly. And obviously for our times, that means incorporating some kind of digital into the mix. It seems the key for luxury brands is finding the appropriate digital contexts for carefully designed and curated branded content, and many brands are doing just that. For example Chanel put on a fashion show in ritzy Saint-Tropez last year and streamed online only on a French social media fashion site Ykone. That all sounds in keeping with Mlle. Coco’s luxe brand.

No luxury brand wants to be the next Charlie Sheen or Linsay Lohan, or Justin Bieber. If they play their well-designed digital cards right, they won’t be.

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