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Luxury Influenced 1/2: How Influencer Marketing Transforms the Luxury Industry

Jul 18, 2018

This is the first part of our interview about the stakes of influencer marketing in luxury industry with Anthony Rochand and Jérôme Monange.

There is a historical relationship between luxury brands and influence. With the globalization of some leading brands under the leadership of structured industrial groups, such as LVMH, Richemont and Kering, along with an increasing  base of wealthy customers and the advent of the Web 2.0, the luxury sector is turning back to a contemporary version of what made it successful in the first place: influencer marketing.

To learn more, we spoke to Anthony Rochand, President and co-founder of Les Experts du Web, as well as Jérôme Monange, founder of Lab Luxury & Retail, and marketing and communication consultant for Studio Mode Paris and ISG Paris.

Given the richness of Jérôme's and Anthony’s answers, we decided to split the interview into two parts: how influencer marketing is transforming the luxury industry, and the specifics of collaborating with luxury influencers. Read the first half below.

MN: How mature do you consider luxury brands to be in terms of influencer marketing?

AR: Brands haven’t yet reached maturity, they’re still lagging in terms of influence 2.0 but they are realizing that something is happening. As consumers become increasingly impervious to advertising, brands need to embrace new levers, such as influencer marketing. This is an important entry point to establishing a win-win relationship between consumers and brands, and in doing so, forging special bonds.

JM: One thing that separates the established luxury brands from their younger counterparts is their apprehension to adapt to emerging digital norms. Heritage brands need to learn to lose their top-down, one-way communication style that can be summarized as, “I’m the brand and I’m in control of the conversation around my brand”. This is because the Web 2.0 has put other opinion leaders in the spotlight, notably via social media, such as bloggers, brand fans and customers, who are now actively broadcasting messages, comments, and even content.

On the other hand, some luxury brands, particularly more recent ones - contemporaries of their customers, and some sectors such as cosmetics and beauty, have assimilated the attitudes of their target audiences and opinion leaders (Generation Y). They understand that communication is no longer a direct, one-way street — and that’s really what’s at stake here.

Indeed, letting go and relinquishing control over communication and/or marketing and entrusting an external third party to relay or endorse the message, requires a certain amount of maturity and trust. It points to the very essence of a company’s digital transformation, which expands above and beyond the communication and marketing departments ‘silos’ - which should no longer exist.

MN:  What role does or can influencer marketing play for luxury brands?

AR: Influencer marketing is ultimately becoming a critical challenge for luxury brands, as it requires flawless content mastery and an overarching brand content strategy. Influencer marketing changes the rules and the way we approach marketing at a profound level. It can boost brand awareness, online reputation and even revenue, but it all depends on your goal.

JM: Influencer marketing goes hand-in-hand with the overall internal thought-process and approach to digital transformation. In fact, it would be interesting to check when exactly the term ‘influencer marketing’ emerged, as it seems to be a contemporary facet of buzz marketing, as it extends much further than the concept of marketing that influences.

It’s about an internal cross-functional marketing practice that calls upon both marketing and communication teams and has a participatory element to it: the target becomes the actor or vector of the image and message. Could influencer marketing be a kind of Trojan horse for digital transformation of luxury brands? Its primary role is internal, and, as one says, what happens on the inside shows on the outside!

Externally speaking, influencer marketing brings the brand closer to its customers and targeted communities who would otherwise be more difficult to access, as they become impervious to traditional marketing. It’s an essential gateway to accessing millennials, one of the key targets for luxury brand development over the coming years. But it is also a way of gaining back some control over a brand’s rhetoric and establishing dialogue on social media, where over 78% of luxury buyers are now active (according to a Blackstone Digital Agency study), ensuring another channel for promoting brand's products.

Beyond the role of influencers, let’s not forget the role of their community which can set their own trends and generate recommendations, or positive reviews for the brand thanks to the permanently interactive nature of the online world (influencer marketing is one of the new cornerstones of buzz marketing). This social communication can be amplified by the community and status aspects of the luxury image.

MN:  What do you think luxury brands’ main challenges are with respect to influencer marketing? And why?

AR: Managing relationships with influencers is the number one challenge for luxury brands and it is the foundation of any successful influencer marketing campaign. Influencer programs need to be high quality, and nurturing relationships is an absolute priority. Rather than being one-shot, the relationship needs to be long-term and brands need to be well aware of this if they hope to successfully work with influencers. Getting equipped with efficient technology is another challenge, and identifying and assessing relevant influencers for the brand is an initial stage that has to be completed before moving to the next level. Using traditional tools such as a basic Excel spreadsheets isn’t enough anymore, as usage tends to become more professional. Looking at tools such as influencer marketing platforms or even social media monitoring platforms is a must.

JM: As mentioned earlier, learning to let go of some of the control over your brand communication is a process that lies at the heart of influencer marketing.

The next steps are:

  • Deciding on the message you want to convey
  • Identifying influencers
  • Selecting influencers
  • Analyzing their audience and audience members’ profiles
  • Establishing the type of relationship the brand wants to have with its influencer: for what period of time? Is it for a one-shot initiative such as a product launch, or is the influencer meant to embody the brand’s values and embark on a long-term partnership with the brand?
  • Pinpointing the defining criteria for your influencer choice: authenticity, affinity, embodying values that match those of the brand, emotional capital, communication themes, community size, quality of the community?

In addition to methodology, luxury brands need to consider the strategic side, too. Six out of every 10 sales in the luxury sector are today influenced by the web (Boston Consulting Group 2016). Alongside this, consumer behaviour in luxury buying is undergoing a profound overhaul, with the rise in millennial (18/35-year-olds) purchasing power and new consumers from emerging economies who are irreversibly changing the nature of luxury consumer goods as we know it. As an example, in France 76% of luxury customers have placed at least one order online and 25% now use their mobile phones to make purchases. (Source 2017)

Curious about learning more about how luxury brands collaborate with influencers? Be sure to check out the second part of this interview when it is released next week. In the meantime you can download Traackr’s white paper Influencer Marketing: 9 Challenges for Luxury Brands.