“The Difference Between Giving a Speech and Having a Conversation.”
I’ve just returned from Luxury Interactive 2008 in New York. Having attended this show in NY a year ago and in London six months ago, I was very curious to see how the mood of the crowd may have shifted. And the shift was significant.The show features attendees from many of the world’s best known luxury brands. Gucci, Bvlgari, Conrad Hotels, Sub-Zero, Frette, Ritz Carlton, Net Jets,Tumi, Estee Lauder, Sony, IBM, Lacoste
and Coach just to name a few. Total attendance was somewhere around 400 – easily double last years gathering. And it was the “right” people. Most participants were senior executives with an emphasis on marketing – but also included strategic planners, product developers and others from the executive suite.
A year ago most attendees were “studying the online marketplace.” Six months later, in London, the group seemed to have moved on to “testing small budgets online.” By this years show, much larger budgets seemed to be committed and attendees were sharing success stories and talking about how they intended to dramatically expand their online presence in the coming months.
In an effort to provide a broad perspective, I thought it might be fun to share with you the thoughts from a few of the folks I talked with at the show. While their backgrounds varied dramatically – the consensus seems to be that everyone recognizes how important it is for their companies to be represented online – and they were all eager to hear real life experiences from their counterparts in
attendance. The speakers for the most part were excellent this year, but for me, the most exciting conversations were being held during the breaks and on the trade show floor where attendees were sharing successes (and a few failures) and talking about “what comes next.”
Roberta Rinker Ludloff, VP Brand Performance for Conrad Hotels, gave a great presentation outlining many of the opportunities available to luxury marketers today. She spoke about “an explosion of choices.” And that really was one of the most persistent themes throughout the show.
Christopher Parr of Sub-Zero and Wolf offered the following summary:
“This was my second year attending Luxury Interactive. With the downturn in the economy and affluent consumers spending less, the conference was more relevant and targeted compared to the previous year.
The conference reinforced what we know and I experience firsthand everyday; the affluent are online, they’re doing their homework. We’re seeing this shift away from TV and print, the Internet is becoming the most important channel for the luxury consumer. Is print dead? Not today. In 5-10 years, we’ll see a change. The affluent are not just seeking expensive labels or badges, they’re seeking value. It’s beyond just status — it’s all about an experience. If a luxury brand isn’t dedicated 100% to creating an
effective online destination, that’s a brand that’s on the verge of becoming instinct. We need to add value throughout their entire interaction with us, pre and post sales.
We, as marketers, need to be more relevant to the affluent customer.”
This year, social networking sites seemed to be part of every conversation. And along with that there was a lot of talk about blogs and whether the luxury brands should be engaged in these dialogs. Perhaps the best quote I heard the entire show came from Brian Sugar, the founder of PopSugar, when he said “blogging is the difference between giving a speech and having a conversation.” Wow. Well said, Brian.
Janet Krause, the CEO of Spire.com, continued on that theme when she drew the analogy of a great social community site being like a good cocktail party. You need “in the know insights” to really create some Jazz. “Of course, just like a cocktail party, you also need a great host, a good venue and the “right” people attending,” she said.
I asked Olivier Stip, the SVP of Marketing and Communications of Cartier, how he had been able to convince the folks in control of the ad budgets to commit so strongly to online as part of their recent campaigns. His answer was simple and elegant, just like the brand. He said ” small successes. We took small steps at first and then built on those successes.”
Larry Promisel from Barneys gave a very interesting presentation in which she explained how she was “always looking around the store trying to figure out who our customer is.” And she takes it a step further noting that she also shops other stores and tries to figure out – “are these my customers too?” Noting that her customers can be found in lots of places, she stressed how important it is for Barneys to be advertising on a variety of sites. And to be participating in the blog dialog.
Speaking on a panel, Halogen Guides founder and CEO, Greg Shove, said “Blogging is the greatest marketing tool invented since television.” I believe Greg is a visionary in the online marketing industry and while this statement could certainly be argued with – there was no one present who wanted to dispute the possibilities.
Dennis Syracuse of SONY spoke persuasively about their “100% multi channel effort that facilitates the sale in EVERY channel.” He showed an incredible video which demonstrated their new focus on the SONY-style channel and their new online efforts to promote the brand.
But not everyone was talking about successes. One of the most interesting speeches of the show was given by Guy Salter of Walpole. In explaining why so many luxury brands had been slow to embrace online marketing, Guy made the observation that “luxury is largely about looking back. It’s about heritage and an earned reputation of excellence. It’s not about leading edge technology.” Although he lamented the fact that we do not have enough leadership coming from the luxury brands today he challenged us to think differently and noted that this has not always been the case. “Louis Vuitton” was the Steve Jobs of his day” said Salter.
And that gave us all something to think about.
*A special thanks to Worldwide Business Research for contributing Luxury Interactive 08 photos
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