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5 tips to help luxury brands build a mobile strategy

January 23, 2012

Damian Bentley is managing director at Tangent Snowball

By Damian Bentley

Mobile phones, much like the Web in the early days, have in the past been overlooked as a marketing channel by the luxury sector.

Mobile was not seen as premium enough to meet the exacting standards set by luxury brands, thanks to tiny monochrome displays, pixelated LCD screens and clunky user interfaces. These issues hardly endeared mobile to the marketing departments of brands that ideally project quality, depth and aspiration.

However, the advent of the smartphone and, in particular, Apple’s high-end devices, have opened mobile up to the luxury sector.

As a result, marketers have been presented with a new challenge: getting the best for their brands through this medium.

So, here are five things to remember when marketing for luxury brands through mobile:

1. Luxury customers love their mobile phones
Research has shown that 20 percent of customers with at least $5 million of assets shop using mobile channels.

In addition, 44 percent of affluent mobile phone owners have a smartphone.

We know that as penetration increases so does usage and, accordingly, the value to brands.

Activity from luxury leaders such as Aston Martin, Chanel and Dunhill backs up this move to mobile – it now makes sense for luxury brands to have a presence there.

2. Make sure you optimize the experience
Too many mobile campaigns focus on the mobile side of the experience and not enough on the broad user experience across every point of engagement.

A great example of this is using QR codes as a means of directing people to Web content that has not been optimized for mobile: what is the point of adding a QR code or ‘like’ button to an advertisement that opens in a mobile Web browser? After all, no one uses Facebook Mobile as a Web site – everyone uses the application.

3. Have a clear device strategy
There are hundreds of mobile devices available and no app or Web site is going to provide a great experience on them all, so it is essential to be clear about your device strategy.

In particular, bear in mind that the larger, HD touch screen space provided by tablets such as the iPad creates fantastic opportunities for beautiful interactive campaigns.

Likewise, brands should carefully consider the virtues of a native app versus an HTML Web app. As a luxury brand it might be worth sacrificing some inter-device operability for the greater control and immersive experience that a native app provides.

4. Consider your objectives carefully
This sounds so obvious, but it is still amazing how many people lose sight of core business objectives the moment a new technology arrives on the scene.

The potential of mobile platforms for luxury marketing is immense, but only if the brand or product actually has a reason for targeting the consumer on the go.

So when developing a mobile strategy, consider whether you are looking for sales, brand awareness, social media engagement, customer acquisition or VIP reward.

For example, a mobile ad campaign aimed at customer acquisition would be markedly different to one aimed purely at brand awareness.

The former would feature data capture fields and strong calls to action, whereas the brand campaign might focus on video, imagery and interactive elements.

5. Maintain your air of exclusivity
Luxury brands remain popular and aspirational because they maintain this air of exclusivity – not everyone can be a luxury customer and that is what makes them special.

Mobile is a mass-market format such as the Web and social media, so as with those latter two it is essential for luxury brands to retain that inner-circle feeling. They can do this by using a mobile app to deliver exclusive, behind the scenes content of shows or product launches, or by including special locked areas for customers only.

Also, brands can satisfy their vital aspirational and “masstige” consumer demand with unique brand experiences such as Aston Martin’s Explore iPhone app or Rolls Royce’s Phantom iPad app.

TO CONCLUDE, mobile can be a highly effective marketing channel for luxury brands, but only if it is handled the right way.

Luxury marketers should not be afraid of what mobile has to offer, but neither should they jump straight into the deep end.

Damian Bentley is managing director at Tangent Snowball, a digital and CRM agency based in London. Reach him at

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