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High-end print magazines, once the familiar home for luxury brands looking to advertise to their customer base, are cutting back, converting to digital, or closing down entirely. Online advertising is an overcrowded space, and social media isn’t always an easy channel to get people’s attention.

Old school marketing in a new school marketplace has proved challenging for many luxury brands. So how can a luxury brand still reach its customers when every avenue previously used is no longer achieving the same results it once did?

Challenge: More People are Shopping Online

Luxury brands, for the most part, have had to jump on the ecommerce bandwagon like any other brand. But how can we get people back in those stores?

That’s where sensory branding comes into play. We’ve long heard of brands who pipe the smell of fresh-baked cookies into their store or play soothing music to get shoppers to spend more time there. There’s a reason for that: it works.

Adding components to appeal to each of the senses — touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing — can build rapport between a brand and its customers and make that store an experience in and of itself.

And speaking of luxury experience, let’s give customers one they’ll never forget. Have the guests meet the watchmaker, the fabric designer, the artist. Pull back the velvet curtain and let folks become a part of your brand story. This will not only get them in your store and off of the internet, but it will also turn clients into brand evangelists.

Getting customers into the store also requires unique rituals. That might mean offering a customer a cappuccino or champagne when they walk through the door, letting them hand-blend their selection of bath products, or inviting customers to pick up their new Porsche off of the assembly line. Invite them to a VIP guest appearance after store hours. Make them anticipate those rituals and continue to surprise and delight!  

The Challenge: Cat Food Marketing Techniques Don’t Work Here

If luxury brands can’t reach consumers through channels like print magazines, should they try Facebook ads or Twitter? Email marketing or blogging?

The problem is: luxury brands can’t mimic others outside of their world and expect to get results. Just as Purina wouldn’t spend $1 million to advertise in Vogue, Hermes wouldn’t be very successful with a pay-per-click ad on Google.

The fact is: luxury brands do not sell products. They sell lifestyle, or perceived lifestyle. We don’t want the Omega watch Cindy Crawford is wearing, we want to be Cindy Crawford. Or George Clooney. Or that carefree guy on his sailboat. So we buy the watch, the shirt, the car, in an effort to get as close as we can to that lifestyle.

Before we can hope to choose the appropriate marketing channels for luxury products, we must focus on what makes these products unique. Their origin, craftsmanship, and other distinct features all need to be a part of the marketing story tell.

The Challenge: Flagship Stores, While Building Brand, Often Operate at a Loss

Tiffany, Louboutin, Bergdorf Goodman. These brands — along with their flagship stores — have become icons in the luxury market. A shopaholic’s trip to New York City isn’t complete until she’s got bags from the best-known high-end stores swinging from her arm.

And yet, the very exclusivity of these stores may mean that they’re in the red. When the economy tanks, sales do, too. While we don’t want to hold a fire sale to get shoppers streaming in, there’s got to be a way to ensure that flagship stores don’t sink the brand.

Customization offers are one way to boost revenues and attract more sales. Luxury products, by their very nature, are exclusive. What better way to make people feel like they’re part of an elite club than to personalize their products? Letting the customer select the color, material, or design gives a bespoke feel, which will naturally attract new customers.

The Challenge: Social Media is a Tough Nut to Crack

Luxury shoppers aren’t scouring Twitter for coupons, nor are they using animal filters on Snapchat. But the power of social media is still there. It’s just important to ensure that the content published is a) on the appropriate channel to reach a very specific luxury market and b) valuable to that audience.

Bergdorf Goodman uses Tumblr not to sell but simply to curate images of products, as well as scenes from photo shoots on location. And Louis Vuitton leverages the celebrity influencers who wear the brand on Instagram, giving followers a taste of what the brand’s lifestyle is all about.

The Challenge: The Same Old Blog Post Isn’t Going to Cut It

A post on fashioning a scarf isn’t likely to generate much excitement for a luxury brand. That can be found anywhere. Instead, luxury consumers want exclusive content.

Barneys New York gets this. Its branded content hub, On The Window, isn’t overtly branded as Barneys property. It just looks like a blog about high-end fashion. And yet, Barneys cleverly places a “Shop the Story” section at the end of a post so that readers can do just that.

Many luxury brands are testing out branded content, both in print and online. Because it’s more likely to get read than an ad is to be studied, this is another way to get relevant content in front of a luxury-buying audience.

In the end, luxury brands have to have a clear sense of how and why customers buy today.  The sales place is changing, and it’s clear that old tactics will no longer work.