Luxury Branding is an art of control – Control on marketing just the right amount, neither more nor less. Any less and the impact is dampened, any more and the brand runs a risk of being labelled ‘run-of-the-mill’, or a ‘mass-brand’, which is simply trying to sell volumes.
Every owner of a Luxury Brand treads a fine line which separates Marketing and Sales. The oldest trick in the book is to market and promote the brand just enough (and in the right avenues) to ensure that there is a sufficient pull for the right customers and sufficient aura for the ‘fringe viewers‘
Luxury Brands can be classified into two broad types:
1. Luxury is functional (Superior Quality) :
Targeted at successful executives. While a lot of youth may be the customers of this sort of products, it fits the bill for the 35+ age group. The products are a form of muted luxury, wherein, it is the superior quality and class that is being projected by the buyer, instead of the brand name being flashed.
For instance, envision a customer wearing a Louis Philippe suit. Without making a conscious effort, he projects an image to all others that the wearer personifies success. But note one thing – this image goes because the other people can judge the quality of the fabric. They do not know which brand is being worn, be it a Louis Philippe or a Park Avenue. Hence, it is the quality of the brand which is a primary part of brand essence, which is automatically presented. Even the TG here defines the positioning – you would rarely hear a person boasting that he is wearing a Louis Philippe suit.
2. Luxury is for show-off (Bling factor)
These are the products which are more specifically targeted towards the youth. Why? – because the youth would have a much higher tendency to try and boast to others about the brands compared to a working executive. Here, the brand name is of more importance compared to the product quality (which, without question is excellent).
An example to take here would be Harley Davidson. It is the kind of brand that youth would be more inclined to buy, and ride into town showing it off to everyone who matters (or doesn’t matter ! ). Here, the luxury-factor is enhanced by the fact that a buyer would flash the brand name and proudly cherish it as a possession.
Another case depicting the above classification would be a Porsche (sporty and show off) compared to a Mercedes (oozing class and style)
So, given two prominent types of Luxury Brands, let us see what different kinds of promotions do these brands do compared to non-luxury (mass brands). [readers are advised to keep sample pairs of mass and luxury brands in mind while going through the comparative marketing plans below, such as Titan and Tag Heuer, or Godrej and L’oreal (hair dyes) ]
1. Ads (ATL) :
TVCs: A lot of Luxury brands don’t believe in TVCs at all. Some, which are at times at border between luxury and masstige, indulge in it. But even then, the ads are on the lines of showcasing class and quality, associating with the best of celebrities. (Infact, L’Oreal is a a classic example of this. L’Oreal Paris is endorsed by Aishwarya Rai, while another in-house mass market brand, Garnier, is endorsed by celebrities like Sonam Kapoor and Genelia D’Souza. See the different levels at which they are operating)
Luxury brands may also indulge in print ads, but selectively. They would be picky about the frequency (which is low) and the ads would be in very specific locations. You might find a Titan ad on any page of Times Of India, but only a Times Life front page would carry Tag Heuer ads. Ever seen Louis Vuitton ads in India Today? – You will have better chances of finding them in premium magazines like The Economist or GQ.
An effort is made to promote in a targeted way, so that the true customers are a major subset of the recipients. Hence, niche publications like AutoCar and OverDrive are apt choices.
2. Sales Promotions:
Luxury brands also do not offer frequent ‘sale’s, or mass discounts. Comparative to other brands, the no. of ‘sale’s, if at all organized, is much lesser.
3. BTL Promotions
BTL is something that luxury brands do endorse. This is where all the CRM comes into picture, maintaining databases, sending out personalized mails, season launch catalogs, invitation to high-society events and dinners etc. Luxury brands aim to please, make the customer feel happy at being taken care of.
A few luxury brands, especially ones that have been in existence for a long time (and I mean 50+ years here) also believe in building a heritage around themselves, of having served with excellence over many years (Heard about ‘Chevrolet: Since 1911‘, or ‘Skoda: Obsessed with quality since 1895‘?). An assurance of having survived the tests of time is the best quality assurance that a company can present.
The Harleys and Diesels of the world come in this category. Harley Davidson is quite successful in building a cult around itself – be it through the HOG (Harley Owners Group) Membership, Classic ‘we believe’ campaign, or BTL promotions of ‘a breath of fresh air’. It makes Harley Owners into a unique, super-exclusive cult of people, enabling the show off factor.
These above are all avenues which are trodden by marketers to the ‘rich and famous’, differentiating themselves clearly from the ‘others’ and building an aura of exclusivity around themselves.