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Though the desire for luxury is a constant, the specific brands and products consumers look to vary over time. Our newest NetBase Brand Passion Report: Luxury Brands 2016, has a few surprises on that front.

Using social media sentiment analysis, we tracked chatter about luxury brands over two years and found that, just like the seasons, things can change dramatically in even half that time. Here’s a sneak peek at the insights our research uncovered:

It’s all about emotion

We define luxury as something that’s logically pretty unnecessary, but brings enough pleasure to justify the expense and just screams you’re worth it. It might be the quality of a product, the showmanship of the brand, or, usually, a little bit of both. Who’s to judge? The point is, luxury products inspire an emotional response in consumers.

What’s challenging about the luxury market, though, is it’s as fickle as the super-food or fashion trend of the moment: one year you’re in, the next, you’re just Brussels sprouts. That’s why knowing what consumers are passionate about is key to staying at the top of their wish lists.

Doing that means deep social media listening, to get a dimensional view of their wants, needs, cravings, and more. The more you can appeal to their feelings about your brand, the better.

As Heidi Klum would say, “One minute you’re in…”

This year, lots of classic brands have been pushed out of the top 10 – compared to our year one checkpoint – while some are holding their own, for now at least. There are, however, some very noticeable changes in the discussions about what consumers really want:

  • In the wake of the Apple Watch launch, watches overall account for 7 percent of mentions among the top 45 luxury brand conversations.
  • Digital retailers are very, very in. They account for around 10 percent of the top 45 mentions, which is a nice reminder that the digital shopping experience must be top notch for a brand to remain relevant.
  • Globally, European brands are still “très chic.” Out of the top 45 luxury brands, about 50 percent are European while only 30 percent are American.

Pushing into the European corner – and beyond

Expanding on that last point, European brands always seem to have a leg up on American brands when we’re talking about luxury. If you’re an American luxury brand, you definitely want to be paying attention to these conversations and find out how to give these consumers what they most desire.

But there have been a few surprising shifts since our last report:

  • Chanel overtook Louis Vuitton as the number one luxury brand. Gucci stepped in at number two.
  • Though Apple as an overall brand dropped two places to fourth, iPhone is still securely in the top 15, and the Apple Watch debuted there (at numbers 11 and 13 respectively).
  • Speaking of that watch, Apple bumped Rolex down seven places to the 14th spot in the second year.
  • eBay moved all the way up from the 27th spot year one to number five in year two – we told you digital retailers were hot.
  • Always trending? Vintage fashion and design as a category, which held in the 8th spot in both years of the study.

Overall, it’s clear that no position is ever guaranteed, even for “classic” brands used to being on top. Given the always-changing nature of social opinion, relying on last year’s data (or last month’s for that matter) can be to your detriment. Watch your back, Rolex.

To keep yourself top of mind with any audience, you’ve got to listen to everything consumers are thinking and (especially) feeling on social, and apply insights in real-time. That’s the only way to be sure your brand is on their wishlist this season – and each hereafter.

There’s much more in the NetBase Brand Passion Report: Luxury Brands 2016 – download it to see! Or reach out to learn more about what real-time insights can teach your brand about the competition.

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