Can Mid-sized Agencies Win Luxury Brands?

Posted by Carol Setter on June 25th, 2014 at 1:44 pm

Publicis Worldwide announced last week that they are developing La Maison, a new luxury marketing platform. The new venture teams Publicis with Google (for unique technology) and Conde Nast (for content). Together these partners plan to harness data insights, better understand device and channel use while also engaging customers through relevant content. This new platform would then fuel selected Publicis roster agencies with propriety insights to leverage luxury brands globally.

Publicis' model seems attainable. The proof will be whether they actually produce unique and market appropriate insights for their roster agencies, and whether those agencies translate these insights into rich brand experiences to drive sales. While LaMaison may engage customers with content and learn about behaviors, will the communication shift of knowledge to a roster agency produce viable results?

This type of super-tent over the luxury marketplace raises the question of whether large regional agencies, or those agencies without deep pockets, can compete in winning luxury brands' accounts. In the era of scarce dollars for business development, it's always a consideration in responding to and pursuing a luxury brand opportunity.

There are five considerations agencies should weigh in deciding to pursue a luxury brand.

  • Leveraging existing data. Despite the propriety claim on data noted above, there simply is a lot of very interesting data available on affluent consumers. It comes from diverse sources and sometimes provides interesting viewpoints based upon questions investigated. If agencies want to pursue luxury brands, they must have skilled individuals who can source and assess the data to develop compelling insights and strategies. For example, how can you leverage the data that millionaires are shopping at Costco, Target and Home Depot? (http://bit.ly/1eQ3vn2)
  • Creating proprietary knowledge. No matter how much data you collect and interpret, clients often say, “I still want to know about my specific customer.” The value of persona development cannot be under-estimated. It's a powerful tool to understand diverse audiences: what they value, how they research and barriers to purchase. These "living" personas can continue to be refined across channels and provide actionable insights not based upon supposition, but upon listening directly to the words and intentions of buyers.
  • Showcasing customer journeys. Agencies typically try to interact with consumers on an existing brand journey or interrupt the journey to garner attention. Insightful customer journeys can be developed by agencies of any size – and they are a profoundly important way to show that customer understanding, competitor insights and brand differentiation culminate in a memorable experience.
  • Delving into intent to buy. The Moment of Truth when a luxury buyer moves from investigation to intent to buy is a moving target. It was long assumed that intention coincided closely to the act of purchase. However, as reported in the Center for Media Research (June 2, 2014), the #1 place millionaires buy is on Amazon. Was there a complex interaction of social, WOM, and ongoing brand experiences over a lengthy cycle? Or was the purchase decision made based upon value statements expressed by the brand and buyers on Amazon? The answer may not be the same for all brands, since there could be other variables. But with a preference to research products at retail at only 14%, where did consideration shift to buy?
  • Pitching your own tent. Just as Publicis put together a partnership to strengthen their hand, so must smaller agencies. Remember that luxury brands typically think global. They want someone to lead their business, not lag behind. Agencies need to consider who they can partner with to build a strong infrastructure to amplify brand voice.

These considerations require an assessment of manpower, skill set, research depth and ability to team with others. All the steps are attainable, but they require a frank, realistic assessment to determine if the agency has the potential to win before obligating resources to pursue a luxury category brand.

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