Luxury brands are still unsure about how to engage the Web's unwashed masses

By Erin Griffith , written on May 24, 2013

From The News Desk

It's fairly incredible that, in 2013, with the threat of showrooming and predictions that physical retail will disappear entirely, major luxury retailers are still figuring out how to get this Internet thing right.

That's partly because, for luxury brands, preserving brand integrity comes above all else. A big part of their appeal is exclusivity -- not just anyone can own a $1000, or $10,000 purse. Brand integrity is precisely how they get away with those obscene prices.

So it's natural that the democratizing power of the Web is a terrifying spectre in luxury land. As Adweek asked in 2011, how do they go online without going downscale? From the article:

High-end fashion brands have a problem. Let's call it the "Kreayshawn quandary," after the young Bay Area rapper made famous by the Internet and her hit song "Gucci, Gucci," which has gotten over 16 million views on YouTube. Sample lyrics: “Gucci, Gucci, Louis, Louis, Fendi, Fendi, Prada...the basic bitches wear that shit so I don’t even bother.” It may have taken a rapper to say it best, but the message has been clear for a while: Luxury designers are losing their cachet. And the problem is only being intensified by the medium that made Kreayshawn a star.
If you're interested in this topic, I recommend checking out the full article. It's a solid dive into the way luxury brands have had to scramble to catch up to the new digital realities after years of dismissing the Web as "not for them."

Except not everyone has scrambled to catch up. Plenty of luxury apparel companies have remained in denial, the most notable of which, is Chanel. Since learning yesterday that Chanel is the most-pinned luxury brand on Pinterest, I've been wondering how that's possible. By the look of it, Chanel seems the most digital-averse of all the luxury brands.

For example, you can't buy any Chanel clothing or jewelry online, not even on the company's own website. offers up an infuriating autoplay flash video of the company's latest runway show when you navigate to the fashion section. There is a "new boutique" for purchasing Chanel makeup and perfume, presumably only because those items are sold in other stores like Sephora and Bergdorf's, and their corresponding Websites.

Meanwhile, Chanel's Twitter account is straight-up cold. The brand has tweeted a grand total of 469 times, and its Tweet stream consists of photos of celebs in Chanel or curt demands that its followers "Discover more on" None of it is Retweetable or engaging. Inexplicably, 1.6 million people follow anyways. And as one might expect from someone so disdainful of the unwashed digital masses, @Chanel follows zero other accounts on Twitter.

There is a Tumblr page for Chanel that's full of interesting, eclectic, and authentic images. In fact, it's so good that I'm certain it was created by a savvy fan and is not authorized. (Still, each post gets hundreds of likes and reblogs.)

All of that is why it was a bit surprising to me that Chanel is the most-pinned luxury brand on Pinterest. The distinction was won with little effort from the brand itself. Chanel isn't even on Pinterest. And yet, generates an average of 400 pins and 3600 repins a day. Of course, the pins are all product shots of makeup and perfume bottles from Chanel's boutique, since the site only offers flash videos, not pinnable images, of its apparel. It's almost as if the brand has taken pains to keep itself off of Pinterest.

My question is this: Is Chanel popular on social media precisely because it has iced everyone out? Is it one of those "we want what we can't have" things, where brand preservation, scarcity and the cold shoulder make us hungrier for more?

Or, has Chanel, with its seeming disdain for social media, missed a huge opportunity to engage with and leverage its fans online?

Compare Chanel's Twitter account with that of the number two and three most-pinned luxury brands, Christian Louboutin and Jimmy Choo. I am guessing these footwear brands sell at comparable price points to Chanel (since there is no online store I can't be sure), but their Twitter accounts show a much more accessible, engaging brand. @JimmyChooLTD Tweets in a conversational tone, shares many authentic-feeling Instagram photos, and even (shock!) ReTweets its fans. @LouboutinWorld posts behind-the-scenes images, questions to followers, and witticisms.

Their follower counts? 198,000 and 695,000, respectively. Paltry in comparison to Chanel's 1.6 million. In this instance, it would appear that whatever Chanel is doing is working for the brand. But I can't image the company will be able to avoid ecommerce for too much longer.

Image via