Monday, May 10, 2010

The Steve Rubel Lifestream: Social Luxury is Personal

The following piece was also cross-posted on

Social Luxury is Personal

Social networking started out as "things" - destination sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube that we browse to and use to connect with our friends, family and co-workers. Now, however, it is poised to become "everything."

Just like water blankets the Earth's surface area (and sustains life), social networking technologies will soon cover 70 percent of the web. This will breathe ubiquitous global social connectivity into once solitary experiences. The impact for luxury brands will be dramatic. For decades, luxury brands have appealed to an insatiable emotional need that millions share. As a society, we aspire to purchase products and services that make us feel wealthy, either financially or emotionally. This often changes with the times - and it's steered by local cultures as well - however, the trend spans centuries.

This raises a key question: in an era of ubiquitous social networking - one where every online and mobile experience is enhanced by the lens of our friends - how will luxury be defined?

Where once a single TV show or a celebrity could define luxury, that's no longer the case. The media environment is too fragmented today and it's increasingly personalized by the connections we keep. This means that luxury is fractional. A brand that's achieved luxury status among thirty-something moms in LA could be considered taboo by the same demographic in NY - all because of the types of social connections we keep online and how they shape our worldview.

With this dynamic in mind, here are three steps that luxury brands should consider to either maintain or grow their iconic status...

1) Make every online experience a social one

Every day consumers are talking about luxury brands online. This means we form opinions based on what we see/hear from our friends. To succeed, luxury brands will need to turn once static experiences into social ones that are personalized so that the right message is communicated at the right time to the right group of individuals in the right context - all while appealing to their higher emotional needs.

Facebook's new social tools, introduced last month, are a great first step in this direction. Levis (an Edelman client) have deployed them across their web site, turning every experience into a social one that's filtered through our friends.

2) Develop coveted social objects

Luxury goods are coveted. Many of us want to be seen carrying our Louis Vutton handbag or wearing a Coach watch. This could translate online as well. Just as millions hope to one day be able to afford luxury brands, they also might want to achieve some level of similar status online within their social network.

Enter luxury brands. Every single one of the iconic companies on this list has the opportunity to create and launch social objects that consumers can earn the right to embed and/or share on their social profiles.

3) Map and tap networks

Every individual has role models. It used to be, however, that celebrities dominated this space. Today, however, it's possible that our view of role models is changing, perhaps moving closer to the company we keep online. Luxury brands that can understand how role models are formed, map these networks and tap into their power will be in the best position to capture attention in a highly personalized environment. The Steve Rubel Lifestream

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