We’re in the midst of the busiest shopping season of the year, and lots of us will be shopping for stylish gifts. One of the choices we’ll be confronted with is whether to buy an item from a well-known brand or opt for a less expensive item from a store or cheaper brand. If we opt for the expensive brand, we have another decision – do we select an item with visible branding, like a Polo shirt or Gucci purse emblazoned with the brand logo? Or, do we choose an item that lets the recipient see the brand but which doesn’t expose the brand to others?
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?
The poll I ran earlier this week in Is Your Brand Evil produced results that, in retrospect, were predictable. Fully half the respondents thought that branding could be used in either good or bad ways. Of the other half, my neuromarketing-oriented readers came down four-to-one on the “good” side of branding. I’m sure if I polled a consumerist population the divide wouldn’t have been so lopsided. (The poll is still open, so the current breakdown may vary.) Many so-called consumerists allege brands exist purely to get consumers to buy stuff they don’t need or pay more for the stuff they do need.
You can find fake designer and luxury products just about anywhere these days, and most people consider owning one a harmless transgression. After all, if you were never going to pay $12,000 for a real Rolex, who is really hurt
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 the buyer has
Most companies think about extending their brand to maximize their exposure and value. That’s why we have HUMMER cologne (at least while the vehicles were in production), and Purple Oreos. In many cases, these brand extensions makes sense: if a brand’s primary product has entered a phase of slow or low growth, extending the brand to new products may invigorate the whole line. And sometimes a brand extension is more of a statement. A costly fragrance with your product’s logo likely won’t generate massive revenues, but it may enhance the primary product’s image as a luxury item. And where would Coke be without Diet Coke, Coke Zero, and its other siblings? Sometimes, though a tight brand focus can be the key ingredient for success. I’m reading Zilch: The Power of Zero in Business by Nancy Lublin, and she provides a personal example of keeping a brand tightly focused.
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.”
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.