Ask the Expert: The 8 Ps of luxury brand marketing

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Strategist Rohit Arora on the points to remember when promoting.

Luxury brands are all jostling to win consumer attention, so standing out from the crowd is essential. Strategist Rohit Arora shares his eight points for successfully marketing a luxury brand.

Luxury brands have always been fascinating and luxury brand marketing is one of the most complicated types to exist.

Packaged as the 8 Ps of luxury brand marketing, this article attempts to bring together the elements and interplay between them that are employed in the luxury brand marketing mix. However, one needs to acknowledge that the degree of significance of these elements may vary from brand to brand and market to market.

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1 – Performance
Performance refers to the delivery of superior experience of a luxury brand at two levels; first at a product level and second at an experiential level.

At a product level, fundamentally it must satisfy the functional characteristic as well as deliver on its practical physical attributes – a recipe of quality or design excellence ingredients like craftsmanship, precision, materials, high quality, unique design, extraordinary product capabilities, technology and innovation.

A luxury brand must perform at an experiential level as well, for example the emotional value of the brand the consumers buy into beyond what the product represents. For example Rolex can stand for a symbol of life achievement and Tiffany & Co. a symbol of love and beauty.

2 – Pedigree
Many luxury brands have a rich pedigree and extraordinary history that turn in to an inseparable part of the brand’s mystique. This mystique is generally built around the exceptional legendary founder character of the past, making up an integral part of the brand story and brand personality.

So when consumers buy a Cartier or a Chanel product it is not only because of the product performance factor, but subconsciously they are also influenced by the brand’s rich lineage, heritage and its years of mastery.

3 – Paucity
Over-revelation and distribution of a luxury brand can cause dilution of luxury character, hence many brands try to maintain the perception that the goods are scarce. Case in point: Gucci is now largely sold in directly owned stores, following a nearly crippling attempt to widely license the brand in the 1970s and 1980s.

Natural paucity is triggered by scarce ingredients like platinum, diamonds or those goods that require exceptional human expertise and thus constrain mass production such as enamelling or stone setting.

Technology-driven paucity is as a result of the conception time involved and the R&D process, while tactical- driven paucity is more promotional in nature such as the limited-editions pieces or the customisation of luxury goods, for example through personalisation like allowing customers to choose their own gemstones.

4 – Persona
The persona of a luxury brand is largely a result of its distinctive projection, coherence across consumer touch-points and the brand’s communication through its advertising.

The visual brand identity captures the brand’s personality, mystique and emotional values in a nutshell. It can manifest by way of the brand colours, other design elements like logos, the brand’s identifiable design, its stores and even the tone of voice.

One of the relatively new trends within luxury brand communication is the use of videos to generate interest with the online audience. It has proved impactful for brands such as Tiffany & Co. and Cartier and in a matter of a few minutes the viewer can have a clear understanding of the brand’s new product, its image or the story the brand is trying to convey.

Luxury brands have also begun to utilise social media, largely to generate the desire or the lust for the brand or the product. It is also an effective tool to keep up the contemporary appeal and the newness factor by providing a continuous dialogue online.

5 – Public Figures
Public figures and celebrities have been traditionally employed as part of the marketing mix in luxury brand advertising and they still continue to garner attention, credibility and impact. Not only does the public figure’s associated values and personality have to resonate with that of the luxury brand’s aura – think Gemfields’ recent appointment of the down-to-earth actress Mila Kunis as its ambassador – but beyond traditional advertising they need to suit less in-your-face advertising tools like wearing the brand’s jewellery on red carpet or product placements within movies and television programmes.

6 – Placement
The retail environment in luxury branding is all about heightening the consumer’s brand experience and amplifying the brand aura. Starting from the choice of store location and the salesperson’s presentation, the impact of the in-store experience is critical in creating something memorable for the consumer.

That said, today’s evolving luxury consumers are increasingly seeking beyond the typical sophisticated, over-the-top, cosmetically elegant presentation or even the exclusive invites and privileged previews. Instead luxury consumers demand more knowledgeable and professional assistance when shopping, so luxury brands are increasingly investing in training and empowering their sales staff.

This also extends to events the brand associates itself with, from sports through to awards ceremonies, culture and arts projects, such as Chopard’s sponsorship of the Art Basel Miami Marilyn Forever exhibition.

7 – Public Relations
PR in luxury branding plays an enormous role in image proliferation of the brand, thereby subtly influencing public opinion. It is also employed to convey other supporting messages and attributes of the brand that cannot be explicitly captured in advertising. This maintains an ongoing dialogue with the luxury consumer. At a tactical level, PR is utilised to generate buzz and convey the brand’s news, point of views and appearance at key events such as awards ceremonies, film festivals or trade shows.

8 – Pricing
Pricing plays a quite a big role in the way consumers perceive luxury brands. Consciously or sub-consciously, consumers tend to generate a mental luxury stature of the price-range that the brand operates. Therefore, it is important for luxury brands to price themselves right; setting the price lower than the consumer expectation and willingness to pay can potentially harm the brand value, whereas the reverse can potentially not give enough justification for consumers to go ahead and buy. Recent research by Unity Marketing suggests that affluent shoppers won’t spend 10 times more for something only three times better.

Sales or promotions also tend to be handled differently by luxury brands. While few resort to sales and discounts, others play it by adding more value to the purchase like a free gift, discount on the next purchase or online or email exclusives. Others create an extension line with lower price points, like Alias by Theo Fennell.

In conclusion, the key to luxury brand marketing boils down to three points. Firstly, product excellence by itself is not enough; the luxury brand must perform at an experiential level as well. Secondly, while pedigree factor is important to exuberate years of mastery, it is crucial to generate ongoing relevance and dynamism through the persona, PR and public-figure factor. Finally, luxury brands must continue to maintain a certain degree of exclusivity and stature with the paucity factor and the placement factor – from the retail experience to the touch-points it associates itself with.

These 8 Ps might not be a universal methodology, but they present an analytical toolbox to audit and leverage a brand’s potential. That said, a pragmatic approach must be underlined, as the situation and challenges will differ from brand to brand and market to market.

Rohit Arora is strategic planning director at BPG | bates in Dubai, UAE. He has worked on strategic communication projects for De Beers and Omega. Tweet him @rohitsharing

This feature was taken from the May issue of Professional Jeweller. To read the issue online, click here.
 

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