Luxury Marketing: Reaching Those Who Seem Untouchable
How do you define luxury? Is it something that’s rare, expensive, exclusive, even unattainable?
The truth is, luxury can be hard concept to define, and ultimately, an even harder concept to market.
How well your brand delivers a unique experience, portrays a rich aspect of mystique, presents a high performing product – these are all important factors to consider when it comes to selling a product or service that’s a step above the rest.
While a respect for traditional heritage isn’t dead, it’s certainly no longer enough to satisfy the younger, ‘digitally native’ luxury appetites. So, while you’re trying to grow significantly beyond the small circle of those happy-but-few historical customers, how do you implement a marketing strategy that doesn’t put you out of the luxury bracket?
While we do not recommend an approach based on self-sabotaging your brand’s lexicon, we do remain steadfast on complying with the narrative that your brand is not available to just anyone.
Today, luxury is still characterized by striving to capture ‘the best’ of the market. However, new defining criteria are continuing to emerge based on shifts in buyer experiences and new priorities in consumer demand.
In order to continue to capture the zeitgeist of historical luxury while corralling the influential digital voices of today that prioritize cultural relevance and authenticity, you need to implement a marketing strategy that ultimately breaks the mold.
How, then, do we reach those that seem untouchable?
We communicate powerful statements of distinctive status by embracing a disruptive attitude.
Luxury marketing must show that your product or service is worth more than your competitors. Whether it be cars, handbags, jewelry, or concierge services, your brand should capture your audience’s attention before the competition does.
First, you must conquer two levels of performance to prove brand value.
Product: Here you must leverage elements of singularity such as superior artistry, precision, quality, uniqueness, and craftmanship.
Experience: This is where you must provide your audience with an unmatched, immersive experience that aims to surpass expectations.
What Brand Does This Well: Tesla. While delivering superior modernization and consumer experience combined with a strong referral program, the brand relies heavily on the use of digital marketing to target determined and ambitious middle and upper-class consumers. Even further, these are consumers that are seeking symbols representative of status and mindful consumption, combined with a uniquely valuable experience that is backed by long-term cost-effectiveness.
At the heart of consumer marketing is this concept of positioning, which is the proposed difference that creates the preference for a given brand over its competitor. No sector is more foreign to this marketing approach than luxury.
When it comes to luxury, being unique is what counts, not how a brand compares with its competition. Luxury is the expression of a specific appetite, of an original yet creative identity. It dares to make the bold statement of “this is what I am,” not a wavering identity that positioning implies.
It is identity that gives a luxury brand that particularly powerful feeling of singularity, timelessness, and authenticity, all of which imply permanence.
You cannot divide an identity that has been earned; it is not debatable – it just simply is.
What Brand Does This Well: Tiffany & Co. focuses on the element of consistency in identity. Take for example, their iconic brand color. Tiffany Blue was first introduced in 1845 as the cover color of the Tiffany Blue Book catalog, which was then later applied as the Tiffany Blue Box. The founder insisted all jewelry must be packaged in this iconic blue box, ensuring brand association with the blue color for years to come.
Throughout all aspects of marketing, engagement matters. But when it comes to luxury brands specifically, they have always been good storytellers to a point of creating an experience around their product or service. As consumer behavior has shifted, they will now need to learn the art of leveraging co-created narratives and immersive brand experiences.
In an era dominated by digital communicators, there is a need to craft opportunity for added conversation based on ideals that consumers can relate to. It is the concept that you are not selling, but rather informing and inspiring.
In this spirit of celebrating the best in life, luxury’s great lesson may be to find inspiration in unique moments, achieved by providing an experience that stands out in a sea of influence.
Driven by a commitment to being the best at who they are and what they do, the brand experience should automatically be elevated. Now whether this in via their digital presence, in-store activations, or overall purchase experience, there are ways to create a one-of-a-kind brand activation that may even surpass consumer expectation. Don’t sell the product or service, rather, sell excitement around the unexpected.
What Brand Does This Well: Burberry’s approach to marketing has been all about building brand advocacy through telling distinctive and meaningful stories in a way that creates an omnichannel brand experience, ultimately driving engagement and deepening the emotional connection with consumers. One example was the implementation of various large experiential brand activations across core markets such as China and South Korea, focusing on the unification of the best of luxury physical retail and social media.
As we move further through our exploration of the strategy behind luxury marketing, an important concept to consider is the new paradox of luxury.
At its core, the luxury industry has always been defined by a simple paradox: a luxury brand is generally only accessible to customers “of a certain age” and relatively high income.
Perhaps it is the final irony of affluence that today, as buying power has changed amongst various generations, the luxury industry may be losing its historical ability to excite the imagination of continuous generations of aspirational consumers.
Therein lies the keyword – aspirational. When marketing what is deemed a luxury good or service, there are those consumers that are aspirational, and those that can act immediately, and ultimately at a higher dollar figure.
Let’s consider Cartier – would the brand market their ‘entry level’ products that are available at a price point of close to $5,000, using the same placements as the brand would to market their High Jewelry items? The answer is simply no.
That being said, let’s move onto some other strategies that can often be implemented when your brand is speaking to those immediate actors rather than an audience that may fall into more of the aspirational category.
High-end brands are typically well-known and well-established. One could even go as far as to say that this long-standing history even encompasses components of experience, identity, and performance as previously discussed.
By focusing on brand history and heritage, marketers can emphasize a long-standing reputation of excellence. Ideally, however, you should maintain a balance between innovation and tradition in your luxury strategy.
Expand on the rich history, lineage, and mastery your brand is built on while building in a message of novelty.
What Brand Does This Well: Luxury french brand Louis Vuitton maintains a long-standing market presence while exploring new avenues such as various collaborations with artists including Yayoi Kusama, Stephen Sprouse, and Jeff Koons.
By focusing on the luxury of rarity, or the exclusivity of the product or service, a brand can institute a marketing campaign that focuses on the celebration of the craft. There’s an unspoken romance in the genesis of a brand that thrives on rarity: from the inspiration of the founder, the birth of the idea, the physical creation, and the panoramic journey all of which make up the final experience of the customer.
Emerging shifts in the scarcity of certain experiences and new priorities in consumer demand allow brands to thrive on the notion of exclusivity. Better yet, brands can provide a behind-the-scenes look into what goes into creating products and services that are defined by the laborious processes behind creating these luxury experiences. A world of painstaking detail.
What Brand Does This Well: Gucci’s 2019 Aria collection magnified the Italian brand’s equestrian roots, while also revisiting its ’90s heydays under then creative director Tom Ford. The launch campaign titled the “Ontology of Desire” celebrates The Savoy as an impetus behind Guccio Gucci inspiration into founding the House of Gucci.
Above all, make sure that your messaging is consistent – from your website to your social media posts to your print ads, everything should reflect the same sense of luxury that your brand is trying to convey via its marketing efforts.