Why luxury brands need to deliver experiences, not ads

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In 2014, the Middle East was ranked 10th among the top global luxury markets in the world, according to a Bain & Co report, with the consumption of luxury goods surging by 11 per cent.

Three years later, the Middle East is now remaining stagnant with the exception of Dubai, also according to Bain & Co.


– ALSO SEE: Is the retail apocalypse a false scare story in the Gulf?


As the luxury industry in the Middle East becomes less profitable, naturally, ad spends are reducing. According to Statista, ad spends on luxury in the MENA are forecasted to go down by six per cent, while markets such as Eastern Europe, Latin America and North America are seeing luxury ad spend increase by ten, five and four per cent respectively.

Globally, the luxury industry spent over $1 billion on digital ads in 2016, a 63 per cent increase since 2013, while spending on magazines declined eight per cent over the same period, according to Zenith.

As the economic environment hardens and budgets shrink, it has become more important than ever to look for new ways of not just reaching consumers, but also engaging them.

– MUST READ: Will traditional retail survive?

Speaking at arab luxury world – the leading annual conference on the business of luxury in the region – earlier this year, Professor Carlo Ratti, Director of MIT Senseable City Lab, Founding partner at Carlo Ratti Associati design and innovation office, said that experiences are of profound importance in the luxury industry. “People share moments in experiences. Those stores that offer special experiences will survive.”

And so, ‘experiences’ have become the new currency for the luxury industry.


Case in point

An ‘experience’ doesn’t have to be restricted to the store. It also translates to the seamless integration of the online and offline world. For instance, consider the collaboration between Bulgari and weekly Arabic fashion and beauty magazine Haya, a sister publication of GMR.

The 360-degree campaign focused on delivering an ‘experience’ to anyone wanting to experience Bulgari’s product – across channels.

The idea was to deliver an experience that was relatable and yet aspirational. Enter Lebanese TV host Wissam Breidy and Tunisian model Rym Saidi.

Breidy and Saidi came in expecting a photo shoot. What they got was a preview of their own wedding, which was scheduled to take place just a few days later.


How was it done? The Haya team spoke to the couple’s wedding planner and Saidi’s agent, make up artist and hairdresser to get all the information needed to get the right look, clothes, and venue. The team also spoke to the caterer and florist to ensure that the experience was as authentic as possible.

Bulgari’s involvement in this was mostly behind the scenes. The brand provided the jewelry and costume for Saidi. This ensured that the brand was not overpowering the experience – merely enabling it.

– ALSO READ: The rise of experiential retail in the GCC



How it went viral? Breidy and Saidi both shot two videos each on the day: one with a message to their partner and the other recapping their journey to their special day. The videos were promoted across social and digital channels – including live videos that featured the makeup artist, hairdresser and jewellery worn. There was also a teaser on social media.

On the day of the wedding itself, the team collaborated with renowned social influencer Shirine Zaatari from fashionistabyshirine to cover the wedding on Haya‘s Insta Stories Live.

The ‘wedding’ was also promoted and covered across print media, including Haya’s 10-page cover story that was published one day before the actual wedding day.

The results? The campaign resulted in 173, 369 impressions from nine posts on Facebook alone with 94,739 unique visitors. On Instagram, it earned a total of 221,532 impressions from 10 posts, with a total reach of 186,228.

The collaboration between Haya and Bulgari saw the integrated use of traditional channels such as print and on-the-ground activations, along with new channels, such as digital and social resulting in a truly 360-degree ‘experience’. And, who doesn’t love a good love story?