Five Pillars of Luxury Marketing

Everyone knows that person who only buys a certain watch brand or has to have a particular pair of shoes. Most of the time, the purchase is extravagant and unnecessary – often based on an emotional need rather than a practical need.

Successful luxury brands entice people to spend more money on items, even during a down economy. In fact, when the recession was taking a heavy toll on consumers in 2011, the luxury market experienced a 10 percent increase in growth. Several luxury companies, like Tiffany & Co. and the Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy Group, reported a nearly 20 percent increase in sales that year. How does this make any logical sense? Personal luxury goods are hardly a necessity, yet they have managed to not only stay afloat, but thrive, with reports that the category produced a total revenue of $282 billion in 2014, according to a study by Bain & Company.

So how do luxury brands get people to invest in high-ticket items, when in reality, it’s an illogical spend and hardly a necessity? The key is to elevate the product beyond a commodity and create a brand that elicits a powerful emotional connection with the core target audience.

Here are the five elements that luxury brands should stick to when marketing personal luxury goods.

Powerful Brand Story
Having a powerful and emotional story is an important element in creating a strong connection with consumers. Many luxury companies have an extraordinary heritage and legacy that help create a greater emotional connection between consumers and the brand. Having a legendary founder or character associated with the company strengthens its legitimacy and genuineness – helping bring the brand experience to life. Coco Chanel, one of fashion’s most iconic figures, is seen by many as the epitome of French elegance and grace. Elements of her persona are seen in Chanel’s marketing efforts, and she has come to represent the essence of sophistication, beauty and style. Whether it’s a historic or new luxury brand, it’s important that the brand story invokes a sense of distinction and superiority.

Beyond the Extraordinary
When it comes to luxury goods, it’s assumed that the quality will be excellent. What sets a brand apart from competitors is its ability to consistently deliver superior quality in a unique and special way each and every time to consumers. Since 1965, Omega has been able to tout that it is the only wristwatch to have withstood all of NASA’s severe and rigorous testing, and was qualified for all manned space missions. While many of Omega’s competitors can claim similar values of prestige and premium quality, none can claim such a high-level of distinction. Luxury brands should always look for ways to go beyond what consumers expect and create a “wow” experience that reinforces the brand.

Omega’s NASA-approved Speedmaster watch

Having something that others can’t access or acquire easily is the epitome of luxury. Luxury brands can enhance this feeling of exclusivity in several ways, such as hosting private trunk shows, making certain products available for a limited time, or distributing the product to select retailers. Luxury brands that decide to mass-produce or over-distribute products to gain profit in the short-term often tarnish the image of exclusivity and see bottom lines decline. In the late 1990’s, Burberry experienced significant backlash and low sales when it took the brand mainstream and made its products significantly more accessible. After refocusing its strategy and minimizing distribution, it has been able to regain its position as a prestigious luxury brand. Burberry’s experience demonstrates that positioning luxury products as something that only the elite can buy and find makes the product and experience much more desirable and valuable.

Burberry in the late 1990’s

High-end Experience
Whether online or in-store, the entire shopping experience must connote luxury at every touch point. This includes how the brand is presented, what the retail space looks, smells, feels and sounds like, and how the sales team interacts with customers. Moda Operandi, luxury online retailer, became a pioneer in the fashion industry for being the first to make runway fashion pieces available for purchase. After seeing significant success online, it expanded its reach with new brick-and-mortar spaces – most recently opening a store in London. In keeping with its high level of exclusivity, consumers can only shop at the store by invitation. The store has personal stylists on-hand and special alteration fitting rooms available, enhancing the first-class treatment and experience. While this type of experience may not be a fit for all luxury companies, Moda Operandi is an example of one that delivers a consistent brand experience, no matter what the medium.

Moda Operandi’s chic London retail space

Create Clout
Building trust through third-party credibility is important in creating and maintaining a strong brand reputation. One of the best ways to gain credibility from outside sources is through public relations. Media relations in particular is key in generating awareness and desire for personal luxury goods. If a well-respected style editor from Vogue endorses a particular coat this winter, a reader is more likely to covet the product because it comes highly recommended by a trusted, fashion expert. Luxury brands often utilize public relations as an important part of their marketing mix to gain industry clout and generate desire for the product, which also helps create buzz and conversation among consumers.