Luxury Heritage Brands De-age With Digital

Luxury OnlineLuxury brands used to benefit from their heritage. But nowadays “you have to reach an audience that may not have inherited that sense of legacy,” said Moet Hennessy digital director Jessica Holthaus at a Tuesday panel hosted by German publisher Axel Springer, WatchTime magazine and Martini Media.

Holthaus said online video is a crucial part of bringing that heritage to a digital world. It’s especially true for a company in the wine and spirits industry, where there are heavy restrictions on the branded content allowed on television, but advertisers across the industry are shifting budget to online video.

According to a ZenithOptimedia report released on Monday, online video is the fastest growing sector across all advertising categories, driven by better transmission technologies and interconnected devices like smart TVs, which give digital ads the kind of branding opportunities that were until recently applicable only to broadcast.

Sotheby CMO Alfredo Gangotena echoed the point, saying, “[S]torytelling has to drive digital.”

Sotheby’s also sees new opportunities online where marketers would have once focused on television. The auction house, famous for art purchases that stretch into eight or nine digits, opened its branded eBay page on Wednesday, which Gangotena playfully described as “the princess marrying the commoner.”

“EBay is a window to almost 150 million clients, like television was 20, 30 years ago,” he said. Even for a blue-chip auction house like Sotheby’s, new ventures are being infused with the language and perspective of digital advertising.

And this isn’t just about the technology involved in streaming live video or identifying audiences.

“It can seem like the luxury industry had baby boomer sensibilities, and then went into hibernation during the recession, and has since re-emerged with millennial sensibilities,” said Stephen Kraus, chief insights officer at research firm Ipsos MediaCT.

The “millennial sensibilities” adapted by the luxury industry are the effect of an emerging digital mindset. A recent Martini Report, which surveys affluent audiences online, shows that younger consumers in particular are increasingly comfortable making high-end purchases online.

Where it once would have been unthinkable not to see and touch a luxury product before making a purchase, digital media has supplanted in-person sales associates and recommendations from family or friends as the most trusted source for luxury product research.

This is all pointedly relevant for a brand like Sotheby’s, which is now presenting some of the world’s leading art online. (Today’s live auctions included limited edition or one-of-a-kind prints from some of America’s most renowned photographers, including Ansel Adams, Walker Evans and Diane Arbus.)

As consumer sentiments around luxury continue to trend toward quality over exclusivity, utility over status, expect to see many of the world’s premier brands, from Rolex to Porsche, respond in kind to the creeping advances of technology powerhouses like Google and Apple, who aim at a broader swath of consumers and emphasize functionality over opulence.

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