Luxury Wines Take Note: Social Media Activity Gains Among High Net Worth Consumers
Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton, Rolex, Cartier, Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Gulfstream are some of the world’s most recognizable luxury brands. What do they all have in common, beyond having achieved status as the high-end leaders in their respective industries? They are all highly active on social media, enjoy a robust following and engage their audiences across numerous platforms. These brands are using social network sites to connect with both high net worth individuals as well as the millions of “aspirational” consumers who wish they could afford brands such as Jimmy Choo, Hermes and Porsche.
Once viewed as “down market,” social media is gaining steam as a communications vehicle for luxury brands as high net worth consumers increasingly participate the online activity. According to a recent wealth management study, the “futurewealthy” (those with an average $1.9 million in assets) spend at least six hours a day online and 71 percent already have a presence on Facebook. Another study found that 47 percent of U.S. ultra-high–net-worth investors (those with a net worth of $5 million to $25 million, not including primary residence) now use Facebook. Social media offers a built-in audience that fits the demographic target.
The world of wine also has its ultra-luxury brands, with new releases costing upwards of $150 per bottle and occasionally reaching four figures. Napa Valley’s Screaming Eagle, Silver Oak, Schrader, Opus One, Harlan, Caymus, Shafer, Dalla Valle, Dana, Derenoncourt, Araujo, Peter Michael, Gracy Family, Moone-Tsai, Tor, Plumpjack, Hall, Spottswoode, Kenzo Estate, Carter, Inglenook and Beckstoffer are among the crème de la crème of luxury California wines. What these pricey, blue chip wine brands all have in common are high scores from influential national wine critics and the perception of scarcity. What might be surprising, though, is that only half of the aforementioned brands have a presence on social media.
A 2012 paper by Simon Frasier University, entitled “Luxury wine brand visibility in social media: An exploratory study,” examined the visibility of Bordeaux first-growth brands in the social media environment. It found those brands using social media did not have a clearly defined strategy, and several simply did not use social media at all.
What’s driving the lack of participation by some luxury wine brands on arguably the fastest growing and among the most influential marketing and communications platforms? Maybe, that they are already easily selling out every vintage and having waiting lists that host thousands of want-to-be buyers. Some brands may believe that social media’s open forum diminishes their mystique or runs counter to the elusive perception of say a bottle of Bryant Family or Colgin.
With high net worth individuals (or those aspiring to be) researching, shopping and sharing online, the reality is that luxury wine brands without a defined social media strategy, or those choosing to not have any social media presence at all, are eliminating one of the world’s most effective communications tools – and source of present – and future – brand loyalists. Those potential brand loyalists, the Millennial generation, will become the largest consumer demographic in the U.S. by 2015, and luxury brands need social media strategies specifically geared toward this audience.
Case in point, Ferrari boasts a staggering 11.8 million likes on Facebook, while the company only produces a few thousand vehicles a year. You can bet those aspirational fans will snap one up if/when they have the means to do so.
Here is how wine brands, regardless of price point, can absolutely benefit from social media:
• Continue to increase brand awareness. No matter how much publicity a brand receives, social media can only increase awareness of the value of a wine and the legacy of its producers.
• Leverage current winery talent and stake a claim for competitive achievements. Many luxury wine brands work with the most acclaimed winemakers; social media is a vehicle to let them help contribute to the brand’s voice. It is also a key place to tout or link to accolades and achievements.
• Engage with customers, both current and future. Communicating through social media builds long-term brand loyalty. Social media allows for direct engagement with customers, on a daily basis in many cases, and allows them to feel more connected to the brand.
• Provide instant gratification. Social media allows for real-time communication about what’s happening, unlike a once monthly email newsletter or twice-annual hard copy letter.
• Establish brand loyalty for those who are not yet customers but hope to be (whether it’s being added to a mailing list, or aspirational customers – a younger demographic or those not yet able to afford a first purchase.) Build an admiring audience who will continue to spread the “legend.”
• Provide an experience. Social media allows for ongoing storytelling, compelling visuals of the vineyards, the winemaking process and building anticipation for upcoming wine releases, as Caymus does here.
• Connect your customers with real people. Since many luxury wines don’t have tasting rooms, and even if they do, some customers may never have the chance to visit. Social media allows brands to introduce customers with the people behind the wine,
creating a more personal connection, as Peter Michael does here.
• Keep wine journalists updated near daily without endless streams of press releases. Journalists are highly active users and social media is any easy way to communicate about new releases or what’s happening in the vineyard and at the winery. Keep your brand front and center among the influencers.
• Monitor what’s being said about your brand. At a minimum, social media allows a brand to monitor its reputation in the marketplace and provides a vehicle to redirect the conversation and correct misinformation.
• Tell your story first. No one wants a crisis, but when crisis strikes, say a product quality issue or unexpected change within the organization, conversation will first begin on social media…and fast. Having an existing social media presence will allow even small, cult followings the chance to hear the brand’s side of the story first, and share critical information with their networks quickly. Existing social media networks and profiles will cut short the lifespan of a crisis significantly and add credibility when it is needed most.