As someone who writes a blog (part of a social network) about the IHT (not, but possibly, a luxury brand for younger people), this caught my eye:
Luxury brands discover social networks
PARIS: 'I love Cartier," writes Rockstar Mom. "Thanks for being so classic and timeless," adds Emily. Sting just gazes out broodingly from his publicity photo.
On MySpace, Cartier has many friends like these - 3,761 of them, to be precise. Some of them are famous, others less so, but the jeweler is counting on them to spread the vibe through the social network and beyond.
Cartier's presence on MySpace is the product of a recent agreement that makes it one of the first luxury brands to market itself in a big way on a mainstream social network.
The MySpace profile was set up to advertise jewelry in Cartier's Love collection. But visitors can also sample music from artists like Lou Reed and Grand National, including several songs around the theme of love that were composed for Cartier. They can watch film clips with a romantic story line. And, of course, they can click on any of those friends' pictures to visit their profiles.
The possibility of blending entertainment and marketing and spreading it through chain letter-style links has gotten many marketers excited about social networking. But luxury brands, worried about the company they keep, have been reluctant to get involved with the likes of MySpace or Facebook. Cartier took the risk, said Corinne Delattre, its director of communications, because it saw a "different way to talk to a young audience."
"To work in the luxury environment, it means being a step in advance sometimes," she said. "We work with people moving fast. They use technology. They are ahead in their way of life."
Actually, many luxury brands have been slow to move to the Internet more generally, let alone freewheeling frontiers like social networking. Some brand owners have spent years battling eBay, the online auction site, contending that it does too little to curb sales of fakes. Others have clashed with Google over its advertising system, which has allowed rival marketers to snatch away their trademarks as search keywords.
A number of fashion and luxury companies have advertised on ASmallWorld, an invitation-only social network aimed at wealthy consumers. Now some of them are getting their first exposure to mainstream, mass-market social networks. Some have "fan pages" on Facebook, which allow people to post videos of themselves wearing their favorite designers' fashions, for example.
But practically anyone can set up a page on Facebook, at no cost, which demonstrates two of the biggest problems with social networking as an advertising medium. One, for the advertiser, is a lack of control over the process; the other, for the network owner, is the lack of money changing hands - if "fans" of a luxury brand voluntarily tell their friends about it, why should the brand owner spend any money to do so?
Though ad spending on MySpace has trailed expectations, the company, part of News Corp., thinks it has solved some of the problem, with the Cartier campaign serving as a model. MySpace requires big marketers who want to create profiles to pay for the space, though it declined to say how much Cartier was being charged for its yearlong campaign.
In return, MySpace takes steps to drive traffic to advertisers' profiles and to ensure that the material that appears on them "respects the brand's objectives," as Damien Vincent, head of sales at MySpace France, put it. In the case of Cartier, that means weeding out some would-be friends. Candidates whose photos show them guzzling a beer at a party, for instance, are unlikely to make the cut, Vincent said.
MySpace is eager to show that its audience extends beyond teenagers looking to kill time after school. Eighty-five percent of American users are over 18, it says. "I think there's a huge potential market for luxury advertisers," said Jamie Kantrowitz, senior vice president of content and marketing at MySpace International.
Ben Hourahine, futures editor at the London branch of the ad agency Leo Burnett, said the use of social networks was appropriate at a time when consumer attitudes about luxury were changing. In a recent survey of U.S. consumers by the agency, only 7 percent said they thought "luxury" meant being part of an exclusive club.
"Luxury brands in the past had this unattainable aspect to them," he said. "Now they realize they need to connect and communicate with people."
International Herald Tribune
New York Times