This Sunday morning I was surfing Facebook looking for fashion gifts. A good way to isolate and connect with any brand, Facebook today also revealed a high fashion AND a little about branding and social media too. Armani to Hugo Boss and beyond, famous brands have different ideas of social engagement online, it’s clear. Look.
A lot of our consulting work revolves around social media, branding, helping companies engage via Facebook and Twitter, even Google’s g+ and other social networks. One theme that arises in every case is credibility, the symbolic branding component of online presence, let’s just say. Whether you are running your softball team’s Facebook presence, or managing SM for Chanel, how your effort is perceived is a vital component. Let me illustrate.
I rate these Luxury Brand’s presences on Facebook on a scale of 1 to 10:
Armani – Alphabetical Excellence
Okay, the Armani brand gets a lot of traction because the business starts with “A”, no doubt. If you are shopping high fashion online, any pull-down menu search for skirts or shoes sort of begins here. As for branding on Facebook? 3.6 million fans get informed daily via Armani’s SM peeps. The effort there shows whoever runs the show online knows not only the brand, but how to broadcast it efficiently, and without seeming to “broadcast”. Relevent items, people, and ideas are reflected in imagery, video, and even the occasional comment.
Armani could do more – the profile seems a bit clinical. One essential component of social media marketing and PR – being personal. While fashion brands may need to maintain an air of superiority, ellusiveness even, really engaging with potential customers demands a less cool tone. Armani’s Facebook is ultra cool, it could use some warmth and innovation. Rating: 6 of 10
Karl Lagerfeld is a creative genius, this is widely known. I would not be surprised if he did not have some hand in styling the Chanel Facebook look, not at all. Regardless of who values which luxury brand most this or that, Coco Chanel’s company is in my view, the most widely known name in the world. And with this brand excellence comes an almost monumental responsibility to that brand. Chanel, on Facebook, largely lives up. From Lagerfeld’s own new eye wear collection, to style illustrated from Spring-Summer 2013 Ready-to-Wear show, even the little things like the Chanel silhouette avatar, the Paris legend does a nice job SM wise.
Still, not much on Earth is perfect, and Chanel could spray about some No. 5 testers onto their millions of faithful FB fans. Rating: 7 of 10 (for mostly creativity and style)
The sense of style and beauty that came into being on the coast of Normandy, where Christian Dior was born, lives on today in a brand known worldwide for esquisitve products. Run today by Bernard Arnault, the world’s largest luxury brand has had their share of ups and downs. PR nightmares, uncertain artistic paths, a mediocre acceptance after the departure of the flamboyouant John Galliano, Dior still remains an iconic luxury name. What about their idea of social media engagement?
Most big businesses believe it is enough to pay lip service to social media. Who knows, maybe if the brand is big enough, nobody will notice how cold and calloused those champions of fashion are? But then, Dior and the other fashion houses can never know what they lost by way of customers and brand value? If you don’t see my point, I am sorry. A post here and there, some lovely models wearing your shoes, of course this goes a long way toward “impying” your company’s differentiation. But if you look at all these luxury brands on Facebook!!! Whoever wanted a Paris fashion legend that was a cookie cutter brand? Rating: 3 of 10 (just for the shoe collection above)
The Florence brand associated with this famous shoe designer is still an innovative powerhouse of a luxury brand. A quote from the founder himself should suffice to reflect what his company has been about:
“There is no limit to beauty, no saturation point in design, no end to the material…..” Salvatore Ferragamo
Unfortunately, though I totally agree and always have with Salvadore’s ideal up there, even the most progressive and “hip” companies have a hard time translating one form of creative excellence onto other genres, in this case the digital canvas. Ferragamo, like most of the other luxury brands mentioned here, seems to be a little clueless as to who and what to focus on on Facebook. I would bet anything, this inadequacy is apparent on Twitter as well. Ah! I won again, Ferragamo broadcasts their narcissism to 35,000 plus followers, they follow (or care about) 160 profiles on Twitter. All I can say ab0ut (or to) this brand is “call us” ;( Rating: 3 of 10 (for some beautiful creations)
Hermes – Social Messenger
Rated the tippy top of luxury brands, Hermes has super broad appeal. Interestingly, their Facebook profile has less than a million fans? Again it seems pretty apparent the design world does not know exactly where to look for how to do social media, but they do know what to post on their profile by way of images. Images on the Hermes FB wall show off the wonderfully engaging colors, tones and styles of their latest collection. The profile also offers up some insightful info about many things fashion too.
But. In the case of this Hermes, the messages are basically only one way like most others. Pretty, pretty pictures, even Van Goch art, does not listen very well. If you want to express to this luxury brand, you’re expecting too much. Infrequent broadcasting even, takes Hermes down from the tippy top in my view. Rating: 3 of 10
Hugo & Boss – Versatility Online?
Hugo Boss is one of my wife’s favorite fashion brands, and I understand why. The company wreaks of the chic coolness of Armani, fused with the stylish snobbishness of Prada, and imbued with a unique versatility that brands the company, somehow, accessible. What I mean by that is, Hugo Boss fashion’s most versatile component is a bit like “affordability” – whereas a Louis Vuitton or Versace may seem to exclusive and even expensive, Hugo Boss is fine without being inaccessible. I wish their Facebook branding where as “personal” and engaging.
Hugo Boss’ social media engagement on Facebook reflects little of the crisp, yet warm texture anybody can feel in the design clothing, smell in the fragrances, wrap up in for that important business affair, even show off in at the local coffee shop. This is one profile I would be interested in dissecting for you, but suffice it to say just this. When you get 129 comments on just posting some pictures, regardless how many millions fan you, your company is well advised to respond. They do not so often. The Facebook user may as well bookmark the Hugo Boss website. Rating: 3 of 10 (not so versatile as the fashion)
Louis Vuitton – Full of Social Surprises
I bet if I suggested Louis Vuitton as one of the most engaging and “people oriented” online engaging companies to you, you would either laugh or scoff at me. Fact is, the company founded so long ago in Paris, actually is. Ten million fans, in this case, says a great deal about a company that provides some kind of great value. Even if LV is only about the name and massive exclusiveness for most of the world – that is what branding is, after all.
LV is the world’s most valuable luxury brand, in case you did not know, and one thing other luxury names can learn from all those billions in valuation is – “a brand has an obligation to itself!” All that said about a “nicer” luxury brand engagement, LV too has its problems conversing with so many fans. Hundreds of comments should ALWAYS induce at least a “thank you” to all the commenters. And, posting things from the LV lover at large is always a plus. LV is great on FB, but they could rule. Rating: 7 of 10
Prada, the Devil, and Facebook
Anybody mentions the brand Prada, and immediately an image of Meryl Streep looking down her nose at Ann Hathaway comes into our mind’s eye. The Italian brand that Mario Prada launched way back in 1913 would be largely unknown to the common folk if not for The Devil Wears Prada. In one slick move, an inaccessible brand of fashion came into view for millions who might just save their pennies to own a pair of pumps, a purse, that movie was a branding miracle.
Enter the social sphere online and every company’s chance to “engage” all those would be Prada wearers. Even if a woman can only stow a treasured Prada creation deep in her closet for safe keeping, it seems to me all the ladies would love that one item. There is the huge benefit of the social web, as well as the sad misuse thereof. Prada, like so many other fashion brands on Facebook, only passably engages their fans. The social media contingent of the company considers endless video of runway walks “speaking to” their audience. For me, that pair of ruby red Prada slippers may actually come from the Devil. Seriously, this brand does not “get it”. Rating: 3 of 10 (some points for pretty runway models)
Gianni Versace would have loved Facebook and social media. Imagine how much more powerful “That Dress” worn by the wonderful Elizabeth Hurley would have been! As it is, Versace’s sister, Donatella Versace, runs a company that still makes statements. However, the characteristic bold colorfulness and unique ideas that made the brand so famous are a bit absent on Facebook. There is, however, a nice photo capturing of Lady Gaga’s little identity crisis of late going on.
Like some others among the fashion elite on Facebook, Versace seldom sees fit to actually enter a discussion on Facebook. American Airlines actually does a much better job. I bet that wealthy lady picking up the bag above in the store, I bet she expects a salesperson to at least smile her way. You see my point, I know. Rating: 4 of 10
Victoria Beckham – Just Send Money
Looking at Victoria’s brad on Facebook reminds me of this pompous rich fellow I once knew. A prep-school type cut from that cliche cut of Egyptian fabric, I remember many a time hearing him joke after asking his father for funds on the phone; “I really wanted to tell him, just send the money.” About the only positive thing I can say about this luxury brand is that the SM manager does use the word “my” a lot more than “I” – but that is not much difference, now is it? I point to Gaga because she always seems to find time. Get an damned iPhone Victoria.
If your brand is all about “me, me, me”, and if you could care less about actually getting a following like Gaga’s “Little Monsters” – emulate Victoria Beckham. Beckham is actually a sort of “sub-brand” under Hermes, but notoriety like this demands a brand awareness campaign. Now I know why people pay so much for Versace and Louis Vuitton. Rating: 2 of 10
Finally, being at the top of any game, any genre, carries with it a symbolic and real responsibility. The billions these and other companies make from their inventivement, ingenuity, art, and business sense, those billions should in part be directed at engaging people like you via any means out there. Social media, being what it really is, demands a two way and reciprocal presence. If the brands I critiqued above will look, it is easy for them and you to discern what needs to be done.
Invest in engaging people, really engaging. And there’s not telling what can come of that. I bet Coco Chanel, on reading this, will ask somebody to look into it. Cheers for now.