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How India’s luxury goods market is using social media

Last month, designer Tarun Tahiliani launched his collection for bridal week called, “The Modern Mughals”. The phrase could just as easily apply to India’s ‘HENRYs’ (High Earning Not Rich Yet individuals) who are driving the luxury market. These ultra-high network individuals’ have a net-worth of over 600 billion dollars. And catering to them – according to a report by AT Kearney – is the luxury goods market estimated to touch 15 billion dollars by 2015. In India, apart from the metros, cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai and Kolkata are further fuelling this growth.

Instagram and Luxury PR

Helping luxury brands to connect via PR are social media channels such as Instagram which have a natural fit with the nature of luxury. It is no longer about just celebrity endorsements.

Gauri Kohli, Luxury Head, PR Pundit says that, “Luxury PR has gone beyond the traditional route of being limited to magazines or celebrities – now we see a new and developed influencer set who is talking to these consumers about various luxury brands through their social media handles.”

PR Pundit handles luxury clients, Christian Louboutin, Chopard, Dior Timepieces, Clinique, Estee Lauder and Bobbi Brown among others.

According to a recent international study from L2 Think Tank, 93% of luxury brands are now on Instagram which generates 15 times the level of luxury brand engagement as Facebook, despite having only one-tenth of Facebook's reach.

Gauri agrees that luxury brands also make sense on Instagram because these are often companies with products that put design first, ahead of price, and so they stand out in photos, behind the scenes making images or even video. A fashion show in New Delhi or New York can be seen in flashes of images and videos instantly.

While brands such as Christian Louboutin, Prada, Burberry, Gucci and Ralph Lauren have a strong Instagram fan following all over the world, Gauri says that, “In India this trend has caught on with fashion designers like Gaurav Gupta and Masaba and Pernia Qureshi, with hundreds of fans liking each update.”

Designer Masaba Gupta told PRmoment India that, "Instagram is a great way to reach out to people from any part of the world. We even get orders on Instagram for garments. Instagram also helps me understand the pulse of the youth and what they want!"

Gauri adds that, “Apart from an increase in e-commerce and international brands shipping directly to India, today sales for luxury goods are happening even over WhatsApp from the store manager! It’s about giving the customer the utmost customised service.”

Curated experiences and content

Gauri says that with luxury brands it’s all about couture communications. Giving an example of the launch of a new fragrance for a luxury brand, Gauri says this was curated, “Through an Editors’ only lunch. The update on the launch on Vogue India’s Instagram handle alone got us 1700 likes in less than 24hrs along with additional exposure in each publication and peoples personal handles. Exclusive stories with each publication, online and bloggers are worked on after the event. Beyond media, influencer seeding has to also be curated.”

Vogue tweet on the launch of Modern Muse perfume

Blogging and Luxury PR

Unlike international markets, India is yet to have a strong luxury blogging community. Neha Mathur Rastogi, CEO & Founder of WordsWork says that, “Bloggers worldwide are playing a more and more crucial role in the fashion communications mix. However, this is in a very nascent stage in India and has to be complimented with a complete social media strategy. Fashion in India is still heavily influenced by traditional media including fashion magazines, lifestyle supplements of daily publications among others. In a market that feeds on international trends and a handful of local designers, the me-too approach to fashion also depends heavily on celebrity endorsers. And by that, one means 80% Bollywood. Even international brands including Ferragamo have roped in Indian brand ambassadors like Sonam Kapoor.”

WordsWork handles luxury brands such as Baume & Mercier and Lladro.

A Lladro batsman

Gauri however feels that, “Fashion bloggers like Akanksha Redhu are making their blog posts more popular by cross-pollinating with Instagram.”

Challenges to the growth of Luxury PR

Neha says that, “The challenge is not the number of clients but the value currently associated with PR. While working directly with international clients helps, locally the industry perception is still very driven by ad spends and PR spends are limited. This must be tided over given that if PR is the art of story-telling it holds true to the maximum effect for luxury brands.”

Other challenges including the pressure to look the brand. Gauri admits that, “There is an unspoken house code for luxury PR professionals, they have to promote what they stand for, they have to embody the good life and filter down what they represent. Basically a luxury PR professional has to also ‘walk the talk’. The pressure to maintain standards – what you wear to an event, how you conduct yourself, where you go – it never lets up.”

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