Maintaining the balance between rarified allure and product accessibility has been a longstanding challenge for the global luxury sector. This has often meant that businesses have not always moved quickly enough to keep in step with the needs and behaviors of their consumers, and the adoption of social media strategies has undoubtedly been the most recent and much-debated example of this dichotomy. But while most companies are now embracing social marketing and in turn, forging relationships with influencers as part of their digital approach, recent research suggests that the use of celebrities and other so-called opinion leaders simply doesn’t resonate with many luxury consumers.
While the mass market appeal of social media might seem at odds with the exclusive nature of the luxury market, influencer marketing has now become a core strategy for some of the world’s biggest luxury brands, increasingly keen to create content that reflects the lifestyle and interests of their consumers. As a result, many companies now work with mid-tier or micro-influencers in particular, who, it is believed, hold the most appeal in terms of their authenticity. However, in a recent study by Rare Consulting, only 14% of respondents agreed that celebrities and influencers are an important feature of a luxury experience.
While purchase drivers tend to evolve to mirror changes in society, with consumers now considering factors such as a brand’s ethical concerns as part of their decision making process, ‘Bloggers and online influencers using this brand’ and ‘Celebrities and other opinion leaders using this brand’ were the most rejected features among the 290 high earners surveyed by the UK-based marketing agency. It was ‘Quality’ that was rated as the most important characteristic (89%) across the 16 to 65 age range, the second-most popular being ‘Product design’, testifying to a close relationship between quality and style. And while the study did find that younger consumers – Generation K and Millennials – are more likely than others to be influenced in their purchase choices by celebrities and social media personalities, it was product exclusivity that held the most sway among this group.
There’s no doubt that social media has opened up the luxury market to an increasingly wider audience, and according to Bain & Company, it is now worth over £1 trillion globally. However, despite the emphasis now being placed on modern considerations such as influencer marketing, as the study shows, and Ben Pask, Rare Consulting’s Managing Director, notes, “traditional attributes such as quality remain as important as ever.”