IWC

The luxury of Instagram by heathrowkennedy

@Gucci has over 3.3 million followers on instragram. @fikanewyork a Swedish coffee show chain in that city that I frequent has just under 2,500 followers. I follow them both. Instragram is a social medium phenomenon which luxury brands big and small need to harness and harness well. With over 300 million monthly users and, after a major purge of fake users followers, it is a serious and relevant channel for brands which crave the engagement of their fans and customers.

For a channel which allows the posting of one image (or a mosaic of images displayed as one image) a little text and some hashtags (more about these later) the ability to excite and engage consumers beyond other mediums is outstanding. Instagram outperforms twitter and Facebook to an extraordinary degree and it is a democratic channel. A brands efforts are not limited by budget but only by creativity and authenticity.

Why does Instagram resonate with the user so well and why is it a perfect medium for luxury brands ?

In my opinion it's all about experiences and travel. It is a social channel which requires very little effort by the passive user - just selecting the brands, organisations and people you are interested in following and either ignoring, liking or occasionally commenting on what you see. It is also a pure experience with none of the usual noise (twitter / facebook) or complexity (pinterest) that other social media channels bring.

It's an effortless scroll through a world of experiences. I ( @markaizatt) follow just over 500 brands, locations and people. The things I follow reflect my interests - luxury, travel, food, drink, aviation with some random items thrown in. Serendipity plays a great part in Instagram hence I follow @deluxehomediary (a London based Instagramer who turns the most mundane domestic occasions into a visual feast) so over time you start to follow people who have similar interests and passions.

In many respects it is a passive distraction when you need it most (during boring commutes or first thing as your mind wakens up - I enjoy reviewing where my friends have dined in NYC the previous night) or an active pursuit when travelling. Sharing what you are doing.

And this is where luxury brands can either get it right or fail. A brand Instagram feed is not about constant product shots (boring) but many brands make this mistake and some even run their feed as a fan club for their CEO - nothing will turn off followers more. Instagram is a window to make your brand a relevant part of your target audience lifestyle. So posts have to be dynamic. It can't be all about the brand even when it clearly is. An example of a brand trying to escape product focus and engage more is @IWCwatches. Lots of posts of static watches = BAD. Running a competition to engage follows = GOOD. @Cartier is another good example of bringing a more informal feel whilst still being true to brand values.

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Hashtags (in a restrained manner) are a way of tapping into trends and helping others find you through relevant terminology. Particularly important if you are a new brand. Try and own something which is "on-brand" but going to be picked up by your demographic. Don't overreach - some brands do this and the result is an air of desperation.  Instagram is also 'of the moment', there is little point in posting after the event - for example 48 hours after the Oscars.  You'll also come across powerful consumers who have a large following but are committed to the brand. They'll curate their own purchases and tag your brand. These fans are vitally important and they need to be encouraged and engaged - trust me they enjoy the recognition

Like swimming Instagram is best experienced by jumping into the deep end. If you simply want to consume but especially if you want to establish best practice for your brand.

Luxury brands by their very nature are visual - Instragram needs to be at the heart of your engagement strategy.

A ticking time bomb ? by heathrowkennedy

Summer has finally arrived in London so I took the opportunity to have a more meandering Sunday stroll through Mayfair and along New Bond Street rather than the usual fast-paced, head down rush between meetings.

That gave me time to take in the sheer size of the, soon to be opened, flagship Breitling store on the corner of New Bond Street and Grosvenor Street.Image

I'm in two minds about this rapid "retailification' of the luxury watch industry - this is not borne out of a disregard for watches, I'm a fan of everything under £100 and everything over £10,000 !     It is, however a concern that a lot of watchmakers are, sooner or later, going to be caught out through an over expansion of the own retail space.   For many it has been an effective way of securing a share of the almighty Chinese Yuan and building awareness eschewing a reliance on multi-brand specialist and department stores.  As the spaces have become larger and larger with ever more costly leases it raises the question how profitable they will be when sales growth lessens, as it has done already for some brands.

On the plus side brands which attempt to build a cathedral to their product, creating environments which imbue their values, (a good example of this is the excellent IWC store on Madison Avenue) and that of their target customer, have less to worry about and this store should do that for Breitling.   To quote their news release  "The shop will carry Breitling's regular watch collections as well as limited-edition timepieces, and there will be a watchmaker installed in the store whose workshop will be visible to customers."

Installing a watch-maker, bringing the craftsman into the retail environment - up close and personal - is a savvy move.   It is a reason for the space and brings a new function and theater to the experience.    Luxury brands, especially those with long heritage, need to underpin their price points without overly justifying.   Bringing the atelier to the customer when you cannot bring the customer to the atelier is a winner.