The enduring appeal of luxury media brands

The luxury industry continues to thrive, according to an expert panel at FIPP World Media Congress 2024, and so long as it maintains a focus on creating valuable content and adapting to changing consumer preferences, can offer exciting opportunities to explore non-traditional revenue streams.

Former FIPP CEO James Hewes was joined by Manuela Kampp-Wirtz, CEO, Burda Verlag; Xia Fan, VP, Huasheng Media; and Ntokozo Maseko, Editor, YourLuxury Africa, on a panel discussing the unique challenges and opportunities of navigating the luxury media market. These include creating content that continues to resonate with audiences, adapting to the digital landscape, and leveraging social media and community-building to drive attention to brands.

A thriving market

While the rest of the media industry struggles to navigate declining advertising revenue and budget cuts, ad spending in the luxury sphere is still going strong.

Manuela cited a recent collaborative and highly lucrative campaign with car manufacturer Audi, which included over 40 articles in print magazines, several fashion photoshoots and a number of private ads. Successful campaigns like this, she says, are built on significant trust between media brands and clients. “We still have a dedicated editorial team for each brand we work with, and we offer each client ‘content safety’ – so we never share content between magazines.”

Luxury has ‘enduring appeal’ to advertisers in South Africa, said Ntokozo Maseko. “By definition, luxury is a numbers game. YourLuxury Africa has a high value proposition for advertisers because we distribute 20,000 copies a month – 20,000 is a big number in the luxury market.”

Although the Chinese market is experiencing more challenges in this regard, Xia Fan said that the key to success is to continue to offer expert curation. “Although it is still strong, it is definitely going through some tough times – clients are reporting that their budgets have been cut. However, this challenges us to really curate the content to the client requirements.”

The ‘third revenue stream’

Xia highlighted how these changing client and consumer demands of clients are changing the composition of staff teams. “Our team used to be mainly people working in content, but since clients have started to look more for video production and event coordination, we’ve been looking for more people with events and technical video skills.” Three years ago, Huasheng created an in-house video production team to meet demand.

For Burda Verlag, said Manuela, branching into and maximising the ‘third revenue stream’ is a fundamental part of the business. For them, as for many, events are a key part of this brand expansion. “Our events have to fit with each brand – for ELLE, for example, we host yoga retreats, whereas for InStyle we have huge parties – and for a successful brand-first approach, you have to have a strong editorial team.”

YourLuxury Africa sees the next step as developing a podcast offering – providing an opportunity for additional revenue and as a way to reach new audiences in a competitive online space. “In South Africa, jokes circulate that social media has become a national broadcaster, and people have been cancelling their TV subscriptions. We want to capitalise on that by looking at podcasting in particular, which gives us a new platform while still giving us control over the quality of the content we put out as the YourLuxury Africa brand.”

Reaching audiences

Each panellist discussed the challenges inherent in engaging with a growing digital audience. Burda Verlag, said Manuela, has invested in a large marketing team, and has plans on the horizon for building ongoing relationships with audiences in new ways, such as memberships and paid content.

Audience engagement and brand differentiation is a particularly challenging problem in China, said Xia, where online engagement tends to be via highly regulated platforms WeChat and Weibo. “It’s getting more and more challenging for us – although a community building service like WeChat makes it easy to share content, it is difficult for us to stand out. It makes it all the more important to create good content that drives readerships to your brand.”

And, James asked, who is the luxury consumer? Ntokozo said that they are not a homogenous group. “I compare it to going into a Dolce & Gabbana store, where you get a mix of buyers and regular browsers – it’s not black and white. In townships in Johannesburg, we are also seeing a rise in ‘luxury subcultures’, for example those that are obsessed with high-end Italian fashion brands.”

Ntokozo was also keen to dispel the myth that Africa is only now ‘having its luxury moment’. “We see it very differently; we consider Africa the birthplace of luxury,” she said. “It has a documented history of empires that predated the West as economic giants on the world stage, and we were the earliest purveyors of luxury materials such as gold and precious gems. It’s part of our heritage.”

Online vs print

Print publications continue to provide gravitas and value in the luxury space, according to both Manuela and Ntokozo.

In Germany, which has an ageing population with significant spending power, the print market is still successful, with several Germans reading magazines for leisure either several times a week or several times a month – bucking the trends across the globe. Burda Verlag continues to invest in print products and is currently number one in terms of magazine print circulation, 150 years after the company was first founded on print.

While Burda Verlag continues to build on its status as a heritage brand, YourLuxury Africa intends to function as a heritage publication for the future.

“Print, for us, is about more than content production,” said Ntokozo. “Magazines play an important part in keeping a record of history, and it’s the same in the luxury space. When someone picks up our magazine in 50 years’ time, we want it to function as a living archive.”

Print also ties in well with the idea of luxury products, said Ntokozo. “Luxury is the language of craft, and of long-lasting collectability – and ultimately we want our print publications to function as an indicator of the lives that we lived.”


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