Worldwide luxury goods market revenues will break the €250 billion sales threshold by 2015; this according to Bain & Company, the leading advisor to the global luxury goods industry, in its Spring 2013 update.
Luxury brands have always been a fascinating space and luxury brand marketing one of the most complicated ones. What makes a luxury brand desirable? What are the ingredients/components that make up a luxury brand? Is it the physical / functional attributes like the product quality, craftsmanship, design, technology? Or is it the self-asserting emotional stimulation of letting others know that I’ve arrived and I have a penchant for finer things in life not common to many? Or is it that luxury brands are just the stepladder to move to the right circle or an appropriate thing to have or wear in that circle?
THE THREE MOTIVES FOR OWNING A LUXURY BRAND
Consumers who prefer luxury brand want to assert themselves, whether it is to fit in or to make a statement. They want to be exclusive.
Need for Differentiation
As more people join the ‘ownership’ circle, just owning a recognizable symbol is not enough .There is a need to “differentiate” in order to further confirm their social status and to stand-out among the equals.
Serial luxury brands purchasers usually have a genuine appreciation for product excellence. The consumers that buy luxury brands do so because they genuinely love the physical / functional attributes that the product delivers and because they have a profound connection with the brand and its story.
The Not- So- Secret 8Ps of Luxury Brand Marketing Success
Performance refers to the delivery of superior experience of a luxury brand at two levels , first, at a product level and second, at an experiential level.
At a product level, fundamentally it must satisfy the functional and utilitarian characteristic as well as deliver on its practical physical attributes , a recipe of quality or design excellence ingredients like craftsmanship, precision, materials, high quality, unique design, extraordinary product capabilities, technology & innovation. A luxury brand must perform at an experiential level as well, i.e. the emotional value of the brand the consumers buy into.
Many luxury brands have a rich pedigree and extraordinary history that turn in to an inseparable part of the brand’s mystique. This mystique is generally built around the exceptional legendary founder, making them an integral part of the brand story and brand personality.
So, when consumers buy a Cartier watch or Chanel perfume, it is not only because of the product performance factor, but subconsciously they are also influenced by the brand’s rich lineage, heritage and the years of mastery.
Over supply and distribution of luxury brands can cause dilution of luxury character, hence many brands try to maintain the perception that the goods are scarce. This is achieve through natural paucity which is triggered by scarce ingredients like platinum, diamonds, etc and/or those goods that require exceptional human expertise, for example handcrafted quality that constraints mass production. There is also technology-driven paucity which is as a result of the time involved in continuous innovation and research & development process. Tactical- driven paucity is more promotional in nature, such as the limited editions or the special series to generate artificial desire and demand.
The persona of a luxury brand is largely a result of its distinctive projection plus how all its marketing strategies come together across consumer touch-points.
The visual brand identity captures the brand’s personality, mystique and emotional values in a nutshell. The distinct and consistent orchestration of the identity is central to establishing the visibility, familiarity & common identifiable brand imagery. While the luxury brand’s visual identity is a fairly stable factor, luxury brand advertising is a more dynamic and versatile marketing vehicle.
Luxury brand advertising can be observed to be:
- More emotional and sensual in order to distance itself from mass-premium brands.
- Create a world and an aura that is truly exceptional to their brand signature
- Generate major differentiation in its production and execution
Public-figure or celebrities have been traditionally employed as one of the marketing mix in luxury brand advertising and they still continue to garner attention, credibility and impact. Public figures can span from film-stars to music personalities, from sports personalities to even the designer themselves.
Beyond traditional advertising, less in-your-face advertising tools are employed like accessorising or dressing celebrities for their public functions, product placements within movies and television programs. This strategy attempts to remove the appearance of “selling” while still promoting the product by making it seem as a part of the celebrity’s lives, thereby positively affecting consumer’s attitudes, brand value & purchase intention.
THE RETAIL ENVIRONMENT
The retail branded environment in luxury branding is all about heightening the consumer’s brand experience and amplifying the brand aura. Hence, the branded environment, is where it must “live” the brand by using immaculate detailing that engages all senses of the discerning audience. Many luxury brands have unique Flagship stores that provide incredible sensory experiences to the consumer. The choice of store location, the chain and impact of consumer touch-points, the salesperson’s presentation is critical in creating a unique indulging experience.
PR in luxury branding plays an enormous role in image awareness of the brand, thereby subtly influencing public opinion. It is also employed to convey other supporting messages and attributes of the brand which cannot be explicitly captured in advertising, but by no means are less important to create brand’s personality, mystique and emotional values.
It is also a sophisticated branding machine for maintaining on-going relevance and dialogue with the luxury consumer, especially so in fashion and technology.
Pricing plays a big role in the way consumers perceive luxury brands. Consciously or sub-consciously, consumers tend to generate a mental luxury stature or image with the price range that the brand operates. Therefore, it is important for luxury brands to price themselves right ,as setting the price lower than the consumer expectation and willingness to pay can potentially harm the brand value. The reverse is also true in that consumers will not pay more than what they feel is justified. The luxury-brand must therefore justify their price through the interplay of the 7P’s mentioned on here, thereby keeping up and maintaining a higher perceived value.
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