18 April 2008

The 8 P’s of Luxury Branding: Rohit Arora, JWT Planning, Mumbai

In the luxury conference held few months ago, our Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath pointed out that luxury brands need to adopt an India-specific policy. So while the international luxury brands are building their momentum of their presence in the country, the challenge lies with Indian luxury brands – how do they adapt effectively, swiftly and more importantly meaningfully.
We have the zooming capital market, booming business sectors, stronger GDP growth, the rising affluence and consumer optimism, a more hedonistic consumer society with the spending mindset further fueled by emerging retail landscape. So, there’s money to spend, willingness with optimism, space that’s evolving a benchmark of premiumness & luxury. The challenge is to be relevant, today and tomorrow.
This article focuses on the 8 P’s that are employed in the luxury branding mix. The degree of significance of these factors may vary, but more often that not, it is the interplay amid these 8 P’s that makes a luxury brand.
Performance: Refers to the delivery of superior experience of a luxury brand at two levels – product level & experiential level. At a product level, it must satisfy the functional and utilitarian characteristic as well as deliver on its practical physical attributes – a recipe of quality or design excellence ingredients like creativity, exclusivity, craftsmanship, precision, materials, high quality & innovation. The luxury brand must perform at the experiential level as well; that is the emotional value of the luxury brand the consumers buy . Luxury isn’t just about the ‘thing’ anymore; it is about the special experience people feel in buying and using or enjoying that ‘thing’.
Paucity: Over revelation and distribution of luxury brand causes dilution of luxury character, hence many brands try to maintain the perception that the goods are scarce.
(Burberry diluted its brand image in the UK in the early 2000 by over-licensing its brand, thus reducing its image from a brand whose products were consumed only by the elite. Gucci, now largely sold in directly-owned stores, following a nearly crippling attempt to widely license their brand in the 1970s and 1980s).Broadly, there’s natural paucity (actual scarcity) & technology-driven paucity. Natural paucity is generally as a consequence of scarce ingredients (platinum, diamonds, etc.) and/or those goods that require exceptional human expertise (e.g. handcrafted quality) that constraint mass production. Technology-driven paucity is as a corollary of conception-time involved in continuous innovation and research-&-development process.
Beyond these brands employ promotional strategies like limited editions, special series, etc. Another deviation to this strategy is customization &/or individual craftsmanship of luxury good.
Persona: The persona of a luxury brand is largely a consequence of distinctive projection and coherence of the application.The visual brand identity captures the brand’s personality, mystique & emotional values in a nutshell. The distinct and consistent expression of the identity (by way of its logo, the color(s) association, the other design elements like icons, the uniquely identifiable ergonomics or branded environment, etc.) is central to establishing the visibility, familiarity & common identifiable brand imagery (E.g. the Louis Vuitton monogram & graphic symbols). While the brands visual identity is a fairly stable factor, advertising is the most dynamic marketing vehicle and hence is critical in developing aspirational context. At an overall level, luxury advertising messages can be observed:
§ As more emotional and sensual to distance it from mass-premium brands
§ Create a world and an aura that is truly exceptional to their brand signature
§ Generate major differentiation in its production and execution
§ Extremely selective and niche media
Public Relations (PR): 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 which cannot be explicitly captured in advertising, but by no means are less important to create brand’s personality, mystique and emotional values. (e.g. Chanel organized a brand familarization trip to journalists with peek at the fashion house's main salon in Paris salon, inc. tour of Coco Chanel's private apartment)
It is also a sophisticated branding machine for maintaining ongoing relevance with the luxury consumer, especially so in fashion and seasonal trends driven categories. Generation of brand news, story angles, speaking points of inspirers (like what celeb’s speak or wear) and of influencers (like the designer speak) blended with innovative event concepts (like the fashion weeks, polo matches, themed previews) are utilized for tactical brand exposure made relevant to industry trends & culture.
Placement: The branded environment in luxury branding is all about heightening the customer’s experience and amplifying the aura of brand’s essence. Hence, the branded environment, the moment of truth, is where it must live the brand by staging immaculate detailing that engages all senses of the discerning luxury consumer. In India, for example most of the luxury brands have boutiques in 5-star hotels (Gucci’s boutiques are in Oberoi-Hilton, Mumbai & Imperial, Delhi. Likewise Louis Vuitton’s in Taj Mahal, Mumbai & Oberoi, Delhi)
The chain of touch-points consumer interacts & the impact of each touch-point is critical for creating an unique indulging experience.
Personal Touch: Luxury branding is largely about establishing and enhancing the ‘emotional connections’ with discerning luxury consumers. Beyond the typical sophisticated, over-the-top concierge services, exclusive invites, previews, the new age luxury consumers is seeking higher level of personalized, knowledgeable & professional assistance – trusted & reliable help for managing their lifestyles.Also, the escalating democratization of luxury & the constantly changing retail environment has made luxury consumers increasingly discriminating & demanding.
Pedigree: Many luxury brands have a rich pedigree and extraordinary history that become an inseparable part of the brand story. The mystique and the legend is generally built around the exceptional emotive founder character of past.So, when consumers buy Cartier or Dunhill, it is not merely because of the product performance or quality. They are buying a lineage of the legendary people and the evolution history behind these brands.
Public Figure: The role of public-figure or celebrities endorsement can be observed to be more skewed towards the aspiring & accessible luxury brands. That said, it would be improper to conclude that high-end luxury brands don’t bring into play the public figure factor; they are relatively less explicit & are largely PR-led (like accessorization, product placements with celebs/movies). Compared to other endorser types, public-figures achieve a relatively higher degree of attention and recall (e.g. Nicole Kidman for Chanel No. 5; Pierce Brosnan for Omega & SRK for Tag Heuer), thereby positively affecting consumer’s attitudes, brand value & purchase intention.
The 8 P’s provide a solid framework for luxury branding at a macro level.
§ Identify how well your brand performs within each of the 8 Ps
§ Analyze your competitors in relation to the 8 Ps as well
§ Hypothesize; validate the variations & degree of significance of 8 Ps to address the identified problems or opportunities.
This post first appeared as an article in The Hindustan Times
Nikola King & Paul McGowan: The DNA of Luxury article & compressed document
Giacalone, Joseph A: Market for luxury goods: the case of the comité colbert1

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