What makes a luxury brand different from an everyday one? What is luxury? If you can't readily answer this, then how can you tell anyone else why your brand is different? Luxury brand identity relies on a number of factors. You have to sell these factors to your customers just as much as the product itself.
“The change in how consumers define luxury and the new path to purchase is dramatically redefining the marketing strategy. Luxury brands must be very agile and innovative in order to gain the favors of the new luxury consumer." -Forbes.com
What is Luxury?
Luxury is hard to define; it's expensive but not overpriced. It's high-quality and long-lasting, but futuristic. It's aesthetically pleasing but unique. It's not only rare but also difficult to access. It's service-minded but elitist. Luxury is a belief that relies upon elucidation.
Senior Contributor of Forbes, Pamela N. Danziger, and author of Putting the Luxe Back in Luxury: How new consumer values are redefining the way we market luxury, believes there are 10 specific values that a brand must uphold in order to rightfully be named "luxury."
The ten luxury brand values as defined by Danziger are superior performance, craftsmanship, exclusivity, innovation, sense of place & time, sophistication & design aesthetic, creative expression, relevance, heritage, and responsibility.
Here are the six key factors we at THAT Agency believe luxury brand identity relies upon:
This is the simplest answer to, “What is luxury?” It also may be the least important one. The expense alone doesn't form a luxury brand identity. Remember that people are far-readier to dismiss a brand as an overpriced version of what they'd buy otherwise. That doesn't equate to luxury in their minds. You have to offer more.
2. Quality of Make
Now we're getting somewhere. Luxury products will tend to do more, be made of higher-grade materials, and last longer than their competition. The touch of authentic craftsmanship is second to none for luxury brands. Customers desire products and services done by top professionals with the highest quality. This can often be immediately recognizable, which sets luxury brands apart. If any of these is disproved in the minds of your target customers, the perception of your brand can slip from “luxury” to “scam” overnight.
3. Design Aesthetic
Luxury is a statement of identity. It's rarer, so being seen with a luxury brand identifies you in a way that's separate from more common items. The look of a luxury item should communicate its stature and uniqueness. Customers long to identify with brands that celebrate their own sophistication with excellent design and aesthetics. The aesthetic a luxury brand presents should communicate the quality underlying it.
Luxury has to be built on reality. Increased ability, better materials, and durability are all real. The price reflects the increased expense of incorporating these elements into a luxury product. The look is created to set these qualities apart in a distinctive way. These things are real.
Yet luxury is also a belief. Many luxury brands don't succeed because they don't get enough of their target market to believe in that brand's meaning. What gives your luxury brand meaning that's more enjoyable to a customer than the next luxury brand? They have to access some meaning through your brand that they can't find elsewhere.
Many beautiful, capable, and well-made products are viewed as very common because their brands make their profit through accessibility. They aren't viewed as luxury items because they're common and easy to own. The final component of a luxury product is its rarity. If it's difficult to access or own, it's luxurious. Some intricately designed products with decades of engineering aren't luxury items because they're numerous. And some rocks that come from the ground and do nothing but sit there are valuable because they're rare.
Finally, no luxury brand identity can neglect the service element that backs its product. Few things will devalue your brand in the mind of a customer faster than having to talk to an automated system instead of a real person or waiting two weeks for a response to a complaint. The expense spent on luxury means that an element of high-quality service is expected.
This also creates a relationship between a customer and a brand. Brand loyalty comes from repeated positive experiences. Communication shouldn't just occur when there's something wrong. It should occur when everything's right, to reinforce that everything's right and there are more opportunities available for that to be reinforced.
Luxury customers spare no opportunity to lavish, and demand that the brands they support do the same—just in a different way. Social and economic ethics are crucial to luxury customers and connecting with brands who feel the same. When a luxury brand owns its social responsibility, helps improve its communities, and does good in its industry, the customer can comfortably support the brand.
When aiming for luxury, there is no single sight on which to set your eye. Luxury is a feeling, a belief, a mindset, and a lifestyle. Luxury brands who rise above the rest must balance the line of serving their customers' principles while creating something truly new and fascinating for them to desire, or rather, require. Luxury, at the end of the day, depends upon how a consumer’s relationship with a luxury brand makes them feel.
Luxury brand identity is multifaceted; our expert team will help you clarify your positioning and reach your niche audience effectively.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in February 2019 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.