A common misconception when it comes to prestige brands is that companies like Tiffany & Co. and Christian Dior earn this title solely because of a high price point. There are actually many things to consider, one of the most important of which is legacy—how iconic is the brand in question? Has it maintained its reputation for superior aesthetics and quality over not just decades but generations? Is it a fashion house or a hotel group or jeweler whose name evokes both immediate aspiration and thoughts of, ‘One day, I’ll share this with my children’?

 

Like class, a hard-won, tried and tested reputation can’t be bought.

 

This is not to say popularity doesn’t play a significant role, too. It certainly does. And because every few months a new web technology, innovative digital strategy or online celebrity endorsement can launch a new brand (or relaunch an old one) into the prestige spotlight, a strong digital presence is fast becoming how new icons in the luxury market are crowned.

 

Because digital significantly lowers the cost of entry, even the most fledgling prestige players can join the game. Whereas before, when the only marketing options were costly (print, TV, in-person promotions, etc.), now, through e-commerce and social media, any brand can engage in direct consumer communication.

 

To put this in perspective, in our 2011 Digital IQ Index: Fashion, digitally-savvy Kate Spade (est. 1993) notched the number two spot in the Index. Though Kate Spade has neither the scale nor the legacy assets of fashion heavyweights like Prada (est.1913), Balenciaga (est. 1914) or Hermès (est. 1837), these luxury legends all scored far lower due to their failure to keep pace with the rapid pace of digital innovation.

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