Luxury Brands Need VIP Treatment Online

Viewpoint: Interactive Strategy Must Mirror Exclusive Feel of Offline Presence

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There is nothing luxurious or glamorous about a banner ad -- no matter how rich or interactive it is.

Banner ads work well for many brands, but as more and more luxury marketers, such as Louis Vuitton, Dior and Lancome, add direct-to-consumer e-commerce to their online strategies, they need to expand their advertising mixes to include a greater proportion of interactive advertising.
Michael Koziol is exec VP-strategy for Nurun, a global interactive agency that represents a number of luxury brands, including Louis Vuitton, Clarins, Dacor, Loews Hotels, Maserati and others.
Michael Koziol is exec VP-strategy for Nurun, a global interactive agency that represents a number of luxury brands, including Louis Vuitton, Clarins, Dacor, Loews Hotels, Maserati and others.

Understanding the challenge
To understand the challenge luxury brands face with e-commerce and interactive-advertising creative strategies, you should first think about how they have historically advertised and sold their products. Luxury fashion advertising is typically limited to print, most often magazines and exclusive catalogs (think the Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog). In these ads, the product is always the focal point and is often supported by a model or celebrity. No detail is overlooked, and no expense is spared to get the right shot.

The in-store experience (whether in a stand-alone store or within a department store) is also targeted and specific, with extraordinary attention paid to product presentation. Unlike in standard retail establishments, there are no products on shelves or racks -- only museum-style exhibits that literally put products on pedestals. Entering a store gives the consumer an emotional payoff in the form of exclusivity and a high degree of customer service.

For luxury brands, advertising and in-store display are about finding the right setting for the product and presenting it with the highest level of clarity and elegance so that it excites and entices luxury-minded consumers. In the interactive environment, these brands must not only capture the production quality and image support of the print advertisements and the in-store experience, they also must elevate the product in a way that is appropriate for luxury items.

Star treatment needed
That means banner ads and Amazon-style e-commerce do not work. These brands and their products need star treatment. They do not belong on the margins of web pages, nor do they belong on every site. The context must be there, and the sites should be screened with the same level of consideration as the publications in which these brands advertise. The ads should be image-rich but not overly animated. And, to enhance the notion of exclusivity, creating advertisements with integrated video from fashion shows or VIP-only events never hurts.

More than the advertising, the online shopping experience must be created and handled with great care. Mass-market e-commerce standards such as thumbnail product shots, shopping carts and checkout will not inspire the luxury consumer; new processes need to be created based on the shopping experience of an individual brand.

Consumers who visit these sites are looking for theatrical presentations and experiences that draw them into the product descriptions. Luxury-brand sites should embody the experience of walking into an exclusive boutique or attending an event. Finally, the website must tell the brand's story and explain its history as well as its unique qualities.

There are rich opportunities for luxury brands through interactive marketing and e-commerce, but their entry into the space poses great challenges for the brands and the industry. Today's luxury marketer must create an environment appropriate for the luxury brands and interactive experiences that respect the ideals and exclusivity these brands have created in the offline world.
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