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From Obsolete Commodity to Status Symbol

Old fashioned wood and graphite pencils were once how we all wrote, but hit their popularity peak decades ago. They are high maintenance – as soon as you start using a sharpened pencil, its point begins to dull and the thickness of the line starts to change. Too sharp a point, and it will break or poke through the writing surface. Too dull, and it’s sloppy-looking. Above all, to maintain a good point you need to have a sharpener at hand. Sharpening itself can be messy, with shavings and graphite dust sometimes escaping the sharpener, which itself needs to be periodically emptied. Technology has delivered far more elegant solutions for those applications where pencil is preferred to pen, notably the great variety of mechanical pencils that maintain a constant point thickness and hold a reservoir of refills.

Can you think of a less likely candidate for a status symbol than a wood pencil? […]

By |January 3rd, 2012|

When Consumption Isn’t Conspicuous

Marketers know that a key element in many purchases is to signal something about the buyer. A Toyota Prius, for example, says that its owner is concerned about the environment. Expensive luxury brands let the world know […]

By |August 9th, 2010|

Virtual Coolness

Evolutionary psychology suggests that we humans are all about conspicuous consumption. Displaying expensive or hard to find items raises our status and may suggest a higher degree of “fitness” as a mate (i.e., health and resources). This drive extends even to the virtual world, according to a study conducted by Spent author Geoffrey Miller. […]

By |July 20th, 2010|

When Complicated Is Good

When it comes to products, “complicated” is rarely a compliment. Would you buy a computer advertised as “complicated?” A piece of furniture that claimed, “complex assembly required?” An automobile that promoted the fact that it had a complicated fuel injection system? In each case, those descriptions would be a drag on sales, as they suggest either extra effort on the part of the consumer, or a higher probability of needing costly maintenance. Would a maker of fine watches be crazy to advertise a product as “the most complicated” wristwatch? […]

By |June 3rd, 2010|

Balancing Luxury, Tiffany Style

Luxury brands face a difficult challenge: they must be exclusive, and usually expensive, to maintain their elite status. At the same time, a brand that has extremely limited distribution may not be able to acquire or maintain the visibility in the marketplace that makes the product both recognizable and desirable. A brand that is so limited in distribution that few have heard of it fails to create aspirational buyers who dream of owning it, and doesn’t communicate to others the status of those who DO own it. According to J. N. Kapferer and V. Bastien, authors of The Luxury Strategy, one way to create a balance between exclusivity and visibility is with “access products.” […]

By |May 4th, 2010|

Does Your Product Have Enough Flaws?

The better the product, one expects, the fewer the flaws one will find. That’s why Lexus is at the top of the quality surveys, and why Yugo went out of business. That’s perfect logic, until you get […]

By |April 12th, 2010|

The Luxury Strategy

What makes a luxury brand? In The Luxury Strategy, Jean-Noel Kapferer and Vincent Bastien tell us in great detail what distinguishes "luxury" from "premium" and the merely expensive. And, as one might expect, our emotions play a huge role in the way we perceive luxury.

By |April 8th, 2010|