Social Media Insight into Luxury Brands

Data or insight?

“Insight is one of the most overused words, and gets misinterpreted [to mean] ‘information’. It isn’t that – insight is a key, distilled thought that you can use", according to Ann Constantine, Head of Insight and Marketing Effectiveness at Direct Line Group in a Marketing Week article published last month.

Recently, there has been a flurry of published social media research around luxury brands. Most reports looked at specific metrics such as volume, sentiment, engagement and reach to determine key brands’ popularity with consumers, based on social media conversations. All contained good information and showed rigour in quantifying these brands’ performance on social media, but insight around the consumers behind these conversations was thin on the ground.

Deriving insight from social media is difficult. It requires a human touch, a research brief and the right people and expertise in gathering, organising and interpreting what people are saying and why.

We recently conducted a research study around Luxury brands ourselves, focusing on the meaning of conversations and inherent connection of consumers with luxury brands. We found some interesting differences in what drives brand connections and which audiences have the closest relationship, which affinity indexes alone did not reveal.

Identifying the drivers of consumer affinity with luxury brands

Kantar Media Brand Insight performed qualitative, in-depth analysis of organic, authentic, consumer generated social media posts from people expressing an affinity towards four leading luxury brands- Chanel, Dior, BMW and Mercedes-Benz in the USA.

Our focus was on understanding millennial and pre- and post-millennial consumers’ affinity with these brands. Beyond this we wanted to understand:

  • The key drivers of affinity
  • The profile of these consumers
  • The key messages which resonate with these audiences

In order to gather posts expressing an affinity, we developed a lexicon, including slang words, expressing degrees of brand love and appreciation. We then manually analysed 200-300 quality posts for each brand. Each post was given an affinity score from 1 to 3, with 1 showing some affinity and 3 showing high levels. We also identified the triggers and drivers of affinity. The posts below illustrate how we scored affinity and how we categorised the drivers of affinity for Mercedes.

We also verified user gender and assigned age based on user biographies and feeds. We also checked for indications of individual brand ownership and affinity towards other brands. This process enabled us to compare and contrast affinity drivers, map the intensity of affinity for each driver and build a detailed profile of brand fans.

Chanel had a much stronger connection with its fans expressing themselves on social media than Dior, while BMW and Mercedes-Benz attracted similar levels of affinity.

Mercedes vs. BMW

Women represent a large proportion (41%) of users showing affinity with Mercedes-Benz on social media. Most women (55%) and men (47%) are post-millennials or millennials. Ownership is a key affinity driver, with brand lovers showing off their “my Benz” frequently, such as “Love my baby #MercedesBenz #cla”. Owning a Mercedes-Benz is part of owners’ identity, with the brand’s heritage as a status symbol still strongly anchored in the consumer psyche. So using words such as “my, mine or your” in brand messaging would clearly resonate.

Brand affinity for Mercedes was strong among young females, particularly in higher education, suggesting content targeted at this audience could yield greater advertising ROI and build long term affinity amongst this demographic.

Unlike Mercedes-Benz, BMW brand lovers on social media tended to be male. Interestingly though, over half of female brand lovers were under 24 suggesting BMW may have a receptive and captive audience among post millennials.

A strong attachment to the brand itself defined consumers’ affinity with BMW, with the driving experience, aesthetics or product attributes not necessarily being key to driving this affinity. Newer, innovative models such as the e36 and i8 had a strong pull however.

Chanel vs. Dior

Not surprisingly women have the strongest affinity with Chanel and Dior. Chanel has a higher proportion of post-millennial brand lovers compared to Dior, with its aficionados being over 35. For younger brand fans, their affinity with Chanel is not exclusive and other more mainstream brands (Nike, Victoria’s Secret) are also mentioned by its fans. However, there is a core of Chanel lovers who are older and have higher purchasing power. They are journalists, designers, writers, beauty bloggers, models and fashion designers. The commonality between these two groups is the pull of Chanel’s unique style and heritage.

Dior’s celebrity endorsements, and in particular Rihanna, Jennifer Lawrence and Jonny Depp were a key driver for users to mention their love for Dior, as was brand ownership of its make-up products.

What have we learnt?

Beyond any affinity or brand love metric, there are key insights to be mined from understanding what drives consumers’ connections with brands and how these connections are formed. But this takes a researcher's mind set and clear thinking to structure the social media dataset, which is not something that tools alone can do. Automated tools help find relevant content based on keywords. Interpreting what consumers are saying and why, requires quantitative rigour with qualitative flair, a human touch.

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