Written by a Master's Student of the Lund University School of Economics and Management
The Montblanc Case I Learning From the ‘90 Years Campaign’
Based on the previous discussion about and comparison of the two concepts of exclusivity paradigm and the open source character of social media, the maintenance of exclusivity while opening their communication to millions of users emerged as main challenge for luxury marketers. As mentioned before, luxury marketers have pursued a very exclusive communication strategy targeting their consumers directly. By using social media this exclusive communication and targeting is watered down. This development is one of the most significant paradigm shifts within their history (Costa and Handley, 2011). Now every user can communicate on the brand publically. Luxury gets accessible for the mass and exclusivity might suffer from the open source character of these platforms while key success factors for luxury brands are still missing.
Due to the limited openness in communication and interaction, it still seems like luxury marketers still have not fully arrived in the digital era (Heine and Berghaus, 2014). Most luxury brands still use their social media channels predominately for a one-way communication in order to keep UGC as small as possible (Heine and Berghaus, 2014). Leading brands like Chanel or Louis Vuitton still do not answer user comments on their posts or allow external posts on their sites (Chanel, 2015, Louis Vuitton, 2015). These cases highly reflect the results of a recent study by Vernuccio (2014). According to this study most luxury brand can be described as ‘selective strategists’ in their social media strategy, as the majority of luxury brands pursue a medium-to-low openness orientation with users (Vernuccio, 2014). It illustrates that luxury brands are still not sure how transparently they should interact with users. But since the communication on luxury brands takes place online either way it is time for luxury brands to finally get involved and to face up to the open source character of social media. In order to derive key success factors for luxury brands and their brand management in the open source environment, the case of Montblanc will be studied in the following section.
Founded in 1906, Montblanc offers its customers already more than a century different luxury accessories like high quality writing instruments, watches, jewelry, and leather products (Stern, 2006). Their flagship product, the ‘Meisterstück 149’ fountain pen with a price of 730€, clearly reflects the premium price segment, high quality and exclusivity of Montblanc (Montblanc, 2015). Hence, Montblanc can be defined as luxury brand. As the Meisterstück has celebrated its 90th anniversary last year, Montblanc has launched the biggest global brand campaign in history in 2014. With Hugh Jackman as testimonial, a global TV Spot and different print ads constitute the center of the ’90 Years campaign’ (Horizont, 2014). Additionally, the campaign was spread extensively on different social media platforms. Montblanc did not only create an all-new campaign website but also shared the campaign on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube (Itellstories.com, 2015).
But why should Montblanc be considered as best practice case? With this campaign Montblanc successfully show how luxury brands can pro-actively interact in the open source character of social media and can facilitate UGC that fits to a brand’s identity. Montblanc created multiple contents on the different channels and an all-around brand experience. The following three examples give an insight into the social media campaign and the successful brand strategy.
’90 Facts’ on Facebook and Twitter
As Montblanc celebrated the 90th anniversary of the Meisterstück, a ’#90facts’ campaign with facts about the Meisterstück, its history and manufacturing was introduced on Facebook and Twitter (Montblanc, 2015c, Montblanc, 2014). These posts provided users with interesting background information on the product supported with high-quality images transferring Montblanc’s exclusive brand image. Users invariably have the possibility to like, share or to comment the different posts of Montblanc. But particularly in the context of the ‘#90facts’ campaign, Montblanc realized a high interaction rate with its users (Montblanc, 2014.). Customer requests or complaints about products were often replied within few hours by Montblanc (Montblanc, 2014). Several users liked or answered to Montblanc’s replies to thank them (see image). This illustrates that many user of the site highly value the direct interaction with the brand.
Image 1: Interaction with Users on Facebook (Montblanc, 2015b)
The ‘I Tell Stories’ Website
Furthermore, Montblanc launched a special “I Tell Stories” website at the beginning of the campaign which has been converted to a product site in the meantime (Itellstories.com, 2015). On the platform, customers were able to submit their personal stories about their Meisterstück which would then shared by Montblanc on the website (Itellstories.com, 2014). Hence, Montblanc actively initiated UGC by users and was additionally able to control when and which of these stories were published. With these stories Montblanc was further able to strengthen their personal relation to its customer and create emotional content.
The ’90 Years Contest’ on Instagram
Another channel that Montblanc actively used to generate UGC was its Instagram account (Montblanc, 2015b). Due to the high focus on images, Instagram particularly suits for luxury brands to transfer emotions and exclusivity (Adler, 2014). On Instragram Montblanc asked their users to share their personal ‘Spirit of Meisterstück’ picture while using the hashtag ‘#Meisterstück90years’ and ‘@Montblanc’ in the picture capture (Montblanc, 2015b). By using these hashtags it was possible to link user pictures to the company’s Instagram site. Under all attendees Montblanc afterwards awarded the three best user pictures and re-posted their images (Montblanc, 2015b). With the help of this contest, Montblanc motivated users to create UGC and thus, was able to use the numerous personal pictures of users, which are consistent to their brand identity for its own site.
Making Social Media a Success I Key Success Factors
This case illustrates how luxury brands can successfully sustain a high quality and exclusive character in their interaction with users. Based on the theory of the two concepts and the Montblanc case the following three key success factors for luxury brands in the open source environment have emerged above all:
In order to sustain the exclusive and prestigious image that characterized their traditional brand communication, it is of paramount importance to transfer the intangible and emotional value proposition into the digital world. Therefore, a consistent brand identity and tone of voice in their communication are key success factor for luxury marketers (Meffert, 2012). The tone of voice ‘embodies and expresses the brand’s personality and set of values’ – in this case the values of exclusivity and high quality (Cummings, n.d.). In order to be perceived as authentic, luxury companies thus need to apply a consistent language that is remarkable and reflects exclusivity (Cummings, n.d.). This special tone of voice should also be reflected in the communication with users on social media platforms.
Moderate and Co-Create!
The Montblanc case illustrates, that the role of the brand manager has changed from a creator to a host whose main task is not to try to control content in this open source environment but to facilitate a content sharing that fits to the brand’s identity (Christodoulides, 2009). As in the case of the Instragram contest, Montblanc did not create content but moderate its creation. Regulating consumer empowerment too much – as it is the case for most luxury brands – frustrates users, while too little moderation can cause reputation damages (Meiselwitz, 2014). Thus, marketers need to act as co-creators who need to balance the interests of active users and the interests of the brand (Henning-Thurau, 2013). With regard to the ‘I Tell Stories’ website, Montblanc found the right balance between these both interests: users could submit their stories and Montblanc could decide which stories suited their brand identity and are published.
Due to the open source character of social media the moderation of UGC in the event of negative content gained tremendously in importance (Henning-Thurau, 2013). Luxury marketers need to moderate such situations actively and facilitate de-escalation to keep critical UGC results from ending in a reputation crisis with significant implications (Henning-Thurau, 2013). Many brands have failed to de-escalate such situations by deleting customer comments or avoiding to react. Also in times of crises, it is of paramount importance to act as co-creator who does not want to solve the situation alone but interact with users (Henning-Thurau, 2013).
In the context of crisis moderation the importance of UGC monitoring becomes obvious. As mentioned in the last post, the focus of branding in social media has shifted from brand building to brand protection. It is essential for brand managers to identify and react to threats in the open source environment timely. Monitoring in this context does not mean analyzing the consumer engagement in a quantitative way but in a qualitative way (Henning-Thurau, 2013). Only by tracking the content of consumers on a qualitative basis, luxury marketers will be ready to quickly identify crises. Therefore, new methods to measure UGC and a risk management become indispensable for luxury marketers.
To Sum it up!
Although many luxury brands still dwell in their infancy concerning an open interaction on social media, brands like Montblanc show that the two concepts of exclusivity paradigm and open source character do not necessarily have to be in conflict anymore. If luxury marketers orientate themselves to the aforementioned key success factors it is possible to maintain exclusivity by moderating and actively facilitating content that reflects a brand’s identity. In the future, not the most exclusive price but the ability to transfer the special brand image to the digital world will decide which brands will perceived as luxury. However, these key success factors and case only provide general guidance. Further research into strategies on how to manage negative UGC is necessary taking the special tone of voice and exclusivity paradigm of luxury brands into account.
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