Artificial intelligence and messengers: what voice for luxury brands?

While Apple’s Siri and Google’s OK Google conversational interfaces are getting closer to human intelligence everyday, other companies are joining the artificial intelligence race. Whether it is with Amazon’s Alexa assistant, or Facebook’s virtual assistant M, brands now have more opportunities than ever to reach consumers, and to offer a personalized and on-point experience.

As of now, Facebook’s M is not available to all users nor to brands, but it will very likely change the way brands do customer service online. Brands can already use Facebook Messenger to improve their customer service and dialogue with customers as they would chat with friends, while answering requests and providing recommendations, etc. The trick is to adopt the codes of Messenger and become as close as possible to a friend. And this means carefully choosing a brand voice.

When using services such as Messenger, consumers are expecting to be treated as greatly as they normally would be by a great customer service rep. This includes: omnichannel consumer knowledge, quick answers, personal recommendations, and friendliness!

everlane

Now, if you’ve been to a luxury store before, you know friendliness and proximity aren’t always sales reps’ main qualities. Efforts are usually put into great service, professionalism, personalized recommendations, and status. Let’s put it that way: sales reps are not acting as friends.

If we consider digital marketing, it’s more or less the same. Brands use display ads, websites, apps and social media to share an exclusive, high-level and inspiring brand image.

But would you want to have a Messenger discussion with a luxury sales rep? Would you send gifs to someone only sharing product updates? I wouldn’t.

The challenge for luxury brands is to find their voice for conversational interfaces such as M. This voice may be different from the one they have in-store or online, but it should embrace the values that define the brand. You can be the best in our area, have the most elegant style, be rather exclusive, and yet be super friendly and thoughtful with your customers. It all goes back to the usual trade-off between the luxury’s exclusivity, and digital proximity and personalization.

Considering the fierce competition between brands to be the one consumers want to engage with, the ones mastering the voice their consumers want to hear will gain legitimacy and their consumers will be more likely to ask for advice on their latest products or to use their highest level of services, because they’ll feel like the brand understands them like a friend. It’s not about pushing products, or even engaging consumers anymore; it’s about exchanging with individuals in the most authentic way possible.

It may be easier for startups like Jam in France, or trendy brands like Everlane, to find their voice and successfully engage with customers via texts and Messenger, but it will be worth the effort for luxury brands to attract new customers and develop new services to achieve the most personalized and unique digital brand experience yet.

Why apps are the future of luxury

You’ve heard it a thousand times: “apps are the future!”, “go mobile or go home”, “mobile first”. It’s true, and yet, a lot of brands are still ignoring it. Mobile usage is extending (both in time and in ways of usage), and luxury brands (among others) have started looking at mobile marketing as a new touchpoint with their customers.

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Mobile apps vs web apps

A mobile version of a website is not an app. It doesn’t serve the same purpose on the brand’s side (at least, it shouldn’t) and it doesn’t answer the same needs on the customer’s side.

Web apps” are accessible through a navigator. The customer types keywords on Google, let’s say, finds your web app, and checks it. It’s a punctual need (details about a product, quick online purchase, etc.). While they’re easy to access (no need to download the app), they don’t create any sense of loyalty and usually don’t attract returning visitors.

On the other hand, “mobile apps” are specifically designed to be an app, and usually have a different purpose than the website. They can serve m-commerce purposes but usually go beyond that. They tend to create loyalty thanks to new contents, and they enable brands to use push notifications. Also, the small icon on the phone’s homepage is a good reminder to return to the app.

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Mobile apps have their own purpose

Apps are not websites, so they shouldn’t merely be a mobile-optimized copy of those. Let’s look at some successful examples.

Hermès launched its Silk Knots app, as I mentioned in a previous article, to teach customers about different ways to knot scarves. Customers draw extra value out of the app: they learn something that is not limited to the brand since they can use the knotting techniques on any square scarf. The app simply improves the way they feel about the brand.

Dior launched the app Dior Mag. Dior Mag is actually something that exists on the brand’s website. The app delivers stories about the brand, interviews, news about the shows, etc. Dior invites customers to discover the story of the brand and to get to know the brand better. This is key to a stronger connection with the brand and to returning visitors.

Finally, Louis Vuitton tried to solve this awkward moment when a customer flips through a magazine, looks at the latest Louis Vuitton ad and wonders which bag is shown, what it’s made of, etc. On some ads, an icon reads “LV Pass” and the LV Pass app enables customers to scan the ad to get information about the products, making-ofs of the ad, etc. This app is an example of how a brand can extend the customer experience at home, starting with an ad that would be in magazines anyway.

Takeaways: what an app should do

  • Have a purpose of its own: it should have its own message
  • Be user-friendly
  • Embrace the brand’s DNA: an app should be an extension of the brand and its values
  • Link to other channels (website, social media, messaging apps, etc.)
  • Reinvent the brand: an app is an opportunity to post new contents regularly, explore new possibilities of experience, make the brand memorable. Luxury is associated with exclusivity and quality; customers can be provided with a little bit of luxury anywhere and anytime they want thanks to apps. Whether what it offers is unique, useful, fun, etc., differentiation will make a brand stand out.

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Cheers, and enjoy the weekend,

Constance

Jaguar reveals your inner villain

I have always dreamt of driving a sports car, just to get a sense of it. Who hasn’t? With all those action movies and Formule 1 races on TV, most of us want to drive at an extreme speed and picture themselves as the next Schumacher, for a brief fantasy of our cooler selves. What a genius move it was from Jaguar North America to leverage this child dream of ours last year. The brand’s multi-channel “British Villains” campaign promoted the F-Type Coupe, the brand’s newest high-performance sports car at the time, which was to be launched in July 2014 in the US.

Credits: Jaguar North America

Credits: Jaguar North America

You may have heard of Jaguar’s 2014 Super Bowl 60-second spot… Yes, the brand really went for it! (It was Jaguar’s first spot during a Super Bowl, and we all know those spots are quite pricey.) Featuring three renowned British blockbuster actors (Sir Ben Kingsley, Tom Hiddleston and Mark Strong), the spot was filmed by awarded movie director Tom Hooper. It promoted the tagline “It’s good to be bad”, appealing to customers’ inner villains, and launched the hashtag #GoodToBeBad. A spectacular launch for a spectacular campaign, which helped the British brand challenge its competitors on the North American luxury cars market.

Let’s jump to the online side of the campaign (as cool as the spot may be, you are after all on a blog called Digitizing luxury). Aside from online ads and community management (what I like to call the classics, or basics, given nearly everyone does it), Jaguar launched an application process for wannabe sports car drivers. The idea was to create a Jaguar Villain Academy (keeping the marketing communications very coherent, as you can see) and make four lucky contestants win a trip to Austin, TX, to try the new car before its launch, in July.

The best part? Winners wouldn’t just drive the car; they would spend a full day with the car, testing its capabilities, performance and handling on the Formula 1 track in Austin. Yes, you read me well. Way cooler than playing Gran Turismo on your screen, right? How’s that for a motivation to share content about Jaguar on your social media accounts? The brand promoted the application page on social media and applicants were asked to indicate their Instagram and Twitter accounts, indicating a social media campaign (nothing surprising here). A few months later, contestants were contacted by e-mail and asked to complete challenges. This campaign encountered quite a success on social media, with loads of shares and retweets or regrams.

Sir Ben Kingsley, Tom Hiddleston and Mark Strong in the British Villains campaign. Credits: Jaguar

Sir Ben Kingsley, Tom Hiddleston and Mark Strong in the British Villains campaign. Credits: Jaguar.

Jaguar North America also leveraged the potential of branded content. Several partnerships were created, including one with Sports Illustrated. Jaguar sponsored an original video series talking about infamous sports villains on SI.com. The two companies thereby made their respective fields meet to increase both of their audiences. Another great idea was the partnership between Jaguar and Pandora Radio: subscribers were offered to contribute to a crowdsourced playlist (the GoodToBeBad Mixtape) of the best of British music.

Therefore you see that Jaguar went all in to engage with its fan-base, through those means and many other channels (I chose to focus on social media and branded content, but there were more channels used, including online). Featured in countless media pieces, this campaign sure made a buzz.