Is the Power of Social Media Advertising Overstated for Luxury Fashion?

Forget social media, it looks as if print advertising for high fashion could be set to reign supreme!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, it is likely you’re aware of social media’s presence and its influence on our world. And when I say our world, I am of course referring to the world of luxury fashion. Social media has been especially important when it comes to advertising luxury goods.

However, a recent report suggests that print media could be a more effective advertising tool than social media when it comes to the marketing of luxury fashion.

A popular Hermès ad found in Vogue Australia Photo courtesy: Hermès

A joint report by Ruder Finn and Consumer Search Group that surveyed Hong Kong consumers has revealed that 39% of Hong Kongers claim that advertisements in magazines and newspapers influenced their luxury purchase decisions, compared to just 24% whose purchases were influenced by social media ads.

Data source: Ruder Finn and Consumer Search Group Photo courtesy: Vogue Business

And fashion brands are certainly picking up on this. Vogue Business revealed that brands invested $1.2 billion in print in 2017. Furthermore, PwC expects traditional advertising revenue to continue growing through 2022, says Cecilia Yau, the consultancy’s Hong Kong entertainment and media leader.

But the question remains, is social media’s lack of influence over luxury purchasing decisions just true for Hong Kong or could it be worldwide? Well first of all, it’s important to understand that Hong Kong has become a big player in the luxury fashion industry in recent years. According to Euromonitor data, the region of China had a per capita luxury spend of $1,576 in 2017. The launch of Vogue Hong Kong back in March earlier this year seems to have consolidated the region’s reputation as a fashion hotspot. Could fashion-forward Hong Kong be leading the way in the rejection of social media marketing for high fashion?

Photo courtesy: Nick Knight/Vogue Hong Kong

Social media undoubtedly has its benefits. A report by DigiMind revealed that 93% of consumer engagement with luxury brands happens on Instagram. In addition it stated that 40% of luxury purchases are influenced by what consumers see online. The report stated, “the impact of social networks and online channels on a luxury brand’s visibility and reputation cannot be understated.” The report emphasized the importance of monitoring trends in conversations on social media.

The newly launched Hong Kong Vogue clearly understands the advantages of using social media. Vogue Business reports that the publication is focusing its digital efforts on platforms like Instagram, where it ran teasers and even an ad for skincare brand La Prairie before its launch.

The publication already boasts over 25k follows on Instagram Photo courtesy: voguehongkong/Instagram

This leads to the conclusion that social channels are certainly significant when it comes to brand image and staying relevant. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean social media is a better advertising tool for luxury fashion than more traditional approaches to advertising.

Has the buzz around social media, still very much in its infancy, got us all dizzy? Have we, for too long now, overstated social media’s value when it comes to advertising luxury fashion? It may be so.

Hermes Spring/Summer 2010 ad. Photo courtesy: Hermès // Luxuo

The joint report by Ruder Finn and Consumer Search Group revealed that recommendations from friends were the most effective advertising tool for luxe fashion among Hong Kong consumers. The irony of word of mouth still being the most effective advertising tool in our faced-paced, supposedly social media-driven world is surely not lost on you. But perhaps where social media was once seen as an extension of “word of mouth” communication, it is now more closely associated with well thought out advertisements and sponsored posts from accounts boasting large followings.

Writing for Digital Marketing Magazine, Autumn Wilberg reflects, “Millennials are thought to be less trusting of traditional forms of advertising — often perceived to be over-planned and misleading.” Therefore, it could be that millenials are the driving force behind social media fashion advertising and other generations favor more traditional forms. We could thus see a change in the dominance of traditional forms of advertising as younger generations become a larger percentage of luxury fashion consumers.

Birkin friends. @PurseBop

It is unclear what the future holds for luxury fashion advertising. But what we can say for sure is that traditional marketing forms don’t seem to be going anywhere just yet. So if you prefer flicking through the carefully curated advertisements in the glossy pages of magazines instead of scrolling through your Instagram feed, just know you’re not the only one.

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