Humans are on a constant quest for excellence. If it can’t be found within ourselves, then we look to other things to represent it. This is what a luxury brand is all about: receiving an item or service of exceptional quality transfers this trait to us, and marks us (rightly or wrongly) as one deserving of excellence.
It is this feeling of increased self-worth that a brand must cater to if it is to climb the slippery slope to achieving luxury status. There are a number of methods a brand can accomplish this, and the most successful luxury brands usually employ a combination of these, if not all.
This is perhaps one of the key defining features of a luxury brand. There has to be a marked difference between the ideal customers of a luxury brand and those of a competing, lower-class brand. This difference can be social, monetary, or otherwise. The luxury brand’s products may still be accessible to the general public, but they need to put in a lot more work/expense/investment for them to obtain one. It is this exclusivity that makes the brand so desirable—both to customers and to the public.
But then you may not want the public to know about your brand. Instead, you might only cater to a select few individuals, and not advertise your services to the general public because your goods are too complex or high quality to mass-produce. In this case, the esoteric nature of your products would be what attracts customers, and the exclusive nature of even knowing about your company’s products, let alone owning one if its valuable goods. It gives customers the thrill of being with the “in” crowd, and drives up the value of your brand because of its rarity.
Set Your Own Standards
Most luxury brands set their products apart by adhering to their own design philosophies, and eschewing the conventions of their peers or those set by the general public. This can lead to products that are either over-engineered or highly stylized, but in a manner that is unique to the brand. It is this uniqueness that becomes a prime attractor for customers who want to set themselves apart from people who use similar products.
Luxury in All Things
If the quality/pricing/image gap between a luxury brand’s product and its competitors is not big enough, an aspiring luxury brand might be able to focus on the customer experience as its main differentiator. This includes every aspect of a customer interaction with the brand.
Sales. Customers may be selected from a vetted list of candidates, similar to the point above. This highly targeted sales tactic gives the appearance of elitism and exclusivity. You could also express this by setting up your stores in high class décor and outfitting your sales staff in more formal attire as befits tje brand.
Marketing. Your marketing materials have to communicate the exclusive nature of your brand, through both their design and content. High quality brochures and business cards, for example, will help give an impression of worth.
Packaging. Every aspect of the product should communicate luxury, especially the packaging. Distinctive packaging will go a long way towards enhancing your products desirability among elite customers, and make it even more of a prize for the general public. Design packaging that customers will want to show off as they leave your store.
Superior Customer Service. The customer wants to be treated like royalty, and a good luxury brand should indulge them. Every aspect of customer interaction should be pleasant and enjoyable for the customer. This could be anything from extremely polite staff to free items or special services, or a combination of all of these.
Heightened symbolic value is a way of increasing a product’s worth in the eyes of the consumer, and can be employed whether or not the brand’s product is of significantly higher quality than non-luxury brands. In this case, the primary draw for customers is the brand’s perceived worth. This worth could be drawn from many sources: the name of a prominent designer, the country of origin, the company’s history, or the novelty of its materials.
If you’re trying to establish your luxury brand’s symbolic value, look for a specific trait of your product or company that you can build up. Highlight it in your marketing material and promote its effect on your product or process.
Protect the Brand
In order to be taken seriously as a luxury brand, you have to protect your image. You’ll have to protect it from both external and internal threats.
Imitation by competitors is one example of an external threat. As you establish unique designs or innovative technology applications, other companies may decide to copy your work. If the design is blatant enough, you may have to confront them and take the matter to court. Piracy and counterfeiting is a concern as well, because these directly affect sales of your product. And the glut of low-quality counterfeit items may end up diluting your brand and putting it in a bad light.
Internal threats are far more dangerous to the brand. Making the brand more accessible to the general public—whether by lowering prices, offering sales, or shifting your marketing—puts you at risk of losing your “exclusive” image, and therefore diminishing your luxury status. The same thing could happen when you compromise on the quality of your goods or associate your brand with a totally different target market. Stay consistent with your brand’s marketing and creative direction and only change things up after much careful deliberation.
A good luxury brand is difficult to establish, and even more difficult to maintain. You have to hold yourself to extremely high standards and be consistent with every aspect of your business. But if you can pull it off, your brand will take on a life of its own and become an industry name. And in the luxury business, the name is everything.