We have all read a bunch of articles about the reluctance of luxury brands to go online due to a fear of brand dilution (translation: they don't want to lose their luxury status by putting the brand out there with everyone else, and losing the ability to control their brand message). Now that the luxury players are developing their own websites and some limited e-commerce capabilities, they are still unsure of how to proceed with interactive marketing. However, regardless of whether or not a brand decided to play the online game, people will talk about a brand. They will say great things, terrible things, true and untrue things... they will make spoof commercials and fake marketing campaigns.
The only good defense a luxury brand can have is a good offense. If they put out a website that's substandard... well, that's not very luxury, is it? But, if they do it well, there's really no better way to protect the brand, distinguishing the "real thing" from the posers.
I was thinking about this today when I came across a spoof on a campaign for Emporio Armani underwear. You know the Beckham ad I'm talking about? Armani spent more than £32 million to have David and Victoria pose for a series of shots in the EA underwear, and the ads were posted on billboards around the world (including a rather fetching one of David, here in Milan). Well, it appears that a couple of married pranksters (sic.) decided to do their own version. Back in February, the UK's 70-year old TV magician, Paul Daniels and his wife, Debbie McGee, set up the same shot used in the EA campaign, down to the drawn-on tattoos. The photo was published in the UK's Closer Magazine, and across various websites around Europe.
My point is, if you're a known brand, people will take your marketing messages and make their own messages, irregardless of the medium. User-generated content and remixes have been around a lot longer than the internet (see thumbnail, courtesy of me). Once the luxury companies get a handle on Web 1.0, Web 2.0 (or, some would say Web 3.0) can offer exactly the sort of customer attention and user-experience that the luxury market expects. Might as well play the game!