“Luxury Is Aspirational, So It Has To Be International”
With annual growth around eight percent, the global luxury market is more than healthy, and “emerged” markets, such as China, have become the major contributors to its success. However, for the unfamiliar, marketing luxury brands comes with its own subtleties. Here are five things to think about when developing a successful strategy for a luxury brand:
1. Luxury is about selling a dream
The concept of luxury exists on a purely emotional level. Unlike marketing for products in most other categories, there is nothing rational about luxury. Diamonds are really just small rock formations found deep within the earth until they was imbued with deep emotional meaning and value. The same can be said of any top-level Swiss timepiece (isn’t the time on your smart phone more accurate and reliable?), designer handbag (there is nothing rational about having a bag that costs more than its contents) or bespoke suits.
2. Brands do not have to be relevant to people’s current needs or wants
Rather, luxury brands are at many times beacons of inspiration towards which make people aspire. We do a lot of research with consumers. But if faced with a choice between developing a strategy to match the brand to people’s needs vs. developing a strategy to shift people’s needs towards what the brand represents, luxury marketers would choose the latter. It’s not about “consumer closeness.”
3. Global > Local
Most marketers value local insights, a localized strategy and localized execution, above all else. In luxury, “Global” many times trumps “local.” Luxury is global. There is one campaign and one consistent brand around the world. And one set of executions. Indeed, they may need to be adapted but never overly localized. Luxury is aspirational, so it has to be international – underpinned by the fact that luxury consumers demand that the brand experiences they enjoy in China or Singapore is exactly the same as those of their counterparts in New York, London, Paris and Milan.
What makes Tiffany distinct from Cartier? Zegna from Dunhill? Céline from Bottega? It’s the little things – the way a visual is shot, the way a model smiles (or perhaps doesn’t), the subtle tone of copy. Maybe it’s the playful way a Milanese man moves and accessorizes himself as opposed to the more gentlemanly gait of an Oxbridge man (as in the case of Dunhill). These may go unnoticed to most people, but it makes a big difference in creating distinctions between brands on a highly visceral level.
5. It’s “Total Work” at its best
For a luxury marketer, being media-neutral is instinctive. Yes, we’ll need to have print and big outdoor ads in the international terminal of, say, Pudong Airport. But they also know they’ll need to communicate the long history of the brand in advertorials, implement a key opinion leader or celebrity strategy, hire bloggers to push the brand, develop a campaign mini-site with beautifully produced short films, run a CRM program for VVIPs, and host that one big event at the Forbidden City.
Nick Cakebread is Managing Director of integrated communications agency BBDO/Proximity Live, which helps brands engage with China’s growing group of high affluent consumers. The agency has worked with some of the world’s leading luxury brands including Tag Heuer, Fendi, Ralph Lauren and Loro Piana.
Originally from London, Nick has worked in China for more than six years and within the Asia-Pacific region for more than eight.
(Opinions expressed by Jing Daily columnists do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Jing Daily editorial team.)