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Image: Bottega Veneta

“Without warning and without any explanation, Kering-owned Bottega Veneta closed down its Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts earlier this week,” Forbes reported on Thursday. The “abrupt halt” to the 55-year-old Italian luxury fashion house’s regularly-occurring social media presence and promotion, which has left the luxury fashion world stunned, the publication’s Pamela Danziger wrote, appears to be one of the boldest steps to date in the fashion brand’s enduring attempt to overhaul its marketing and its creative direction more generally since Daniel Lee took the top creative job at the Kering-owned house in 2018. 

Reflecting on the move, which comes as brands across industries continue to double-down on digital both in terms of e-commerce and social media (and the corresponding social commerce market, as well), particularly in the wake of COVID-created lockdowns and social distancing mandates, Danziger posits, “Isn’t authentic word of mouth what luxury brands want in order to deliver qualified leads? Social media is such a hodgepodge of divergent messages,” and it is not always clear where “luxury fits in.”

For Danziger, luxury simple “does not” neatly fit within the chaotic world of social media, with the analyst asserting that “social media is mass, not ‘class.’” 

To some extent, she is probably right. Yet, I personally do not believe that it is as all-or-nothing as Danziger seems to believe, especially when she asserts that “people who can actually afford luxury brands like Bottega Veneta” – a five decades old brand best known for its Cabat, Veneta and Knot bags, which exemplify its “renowned and instantly recognizable” (and trademark-protected) intrecciato weave pattern – “are not likely to pay much attention to the brand’s social media posts; they are too busy living their lives and they are over-marketed too, as well.”

Again, this may be true, to a certain extent, but it seems to ignore the fact that no shortage of luxury goods brands’ revenues come from the high-volume sales of more accessible and high-margin luxury goods, such as branded (and often licensed) eyewear, coated canvas bags, t-shirts, etc., which buyers often proudly show off on their Instagram – and increasingly, their TikTok – pages. Nonetheless, going full black-out on Instagram, as well as Twitter and Facebook, too, is a bold move by the luxury brand. 

What Danziger does absolutely get right is that consumers expect luxury brands “to be respectful of them and to personalize every interaction, [and] bombarding them with irrelevant posts on social media is not how to do it.” But again, it might not be quite so black and white – having a compelling social media presence and bombarding Instagram users with ads are two different things. 

It will be interesting to see if other brands follow suit, just as it will be striking to where, exactly, Bottega will allocate its digital ad spend in lieu of maintaining its own social media presence. And maybe most compelling of all: It will be striking to see if the brand really makes good on its seeming aversion to social by walking back on what appears to be very-widespread (but of course, not often publicized) practice of gifting its “it” bag offerings to heavily-followed social media stars as a sure-fire way of reaching consumers on precisely the social media platforms that the brand is looking to escape.