For hotels that are marketing to a high-end consumer, developing the correct luxury brand strategy is imperative to your success. If you get it right, it will effectively influence purchasing decisions and win you the brand loyalty of the world’s wealthiest individuals. It starts with a clear and robust message and vision that communicates the brand’s core values in a way that will connect with the UHNW audience. And when developing your strategy and messaging, there are three components that are vital to consider: exclusivity, local nuance and brand immersion. Here, we showcase three examples in which luxury brands have implemented these elements to great effect.
Chanel is a prime example of adjusting a brand to a locale, especially in the China where the iconic brand has successfully employed this tactic as part of their luxury brand strategy without losing sight of its overall vision and values.
Because wealthy consumers in China have greater disposable income and spend more on luxury goods, this market continues to be prime for premium brands. The Kantar Millward Brown 2017 BrandZ Top 100 Global Brands found Chanel was the fourth most valuable global luxury brand in the world. Chanel also ranked 11th for brand contribution; a measure of the extent to which brand alone, drives purchasing volume and enables a price premium. It relies heavily on consumer perception.
Central to the success of Chanel in China is how the brand has leveraged a relatively young customer base. It has made the most of this by offering beauty products as well as clothes and accessories to appeal to this younger market. Chanel has also underpinned its offering by investing in advertising to position the brand as an ideal gift, resonating well in the local market because gift-giving is culturally significant.
Nigel Hollis, Chief Global Analyst, Global Brand Practice at Kantar Millward Brown comments: ‘Chanel has got its play pretty much perfect in China. It is attracting top-tier clientele but has also expanded into cosmetics and fragrance for a broader audience. Yet it still has a clear and concise brand message that expansion has not fragmented, rather it has been extended to its cosmetics and fragrance.’
By buying ‘entry level’ products such as these customers are still buying into the Chanel ethos, proving that time and time again the value having a clear brand message and vision that is undiluted throughout the company is the starting point for brand success.
One of the key components of successful luxury brand strategy is creating desire via exclusivity. Exclusivity can be accomplished in several ways such as developing limited-edition products, making select products only available at certain stores, or developing a waiting list for a newly-released item.
For these tactics to work, a brand must be deemed worthy enough to ‘beg for’. A successful example of a brand that has created a high level of exclusivity through these tactics is Hermès. The company has continuously strengthened and differentiated its brand through strong history, craftsmanship and quality.
Hermès only endorses the principles of ‘heritage’ and ‘exclusivity’ throughout the company. With this ethos, its intended audience is ‘ultra-premium’, which translates into something that is not easily accessible.
The company has always been a significant proponent and user of the ‘limited-edition’ strategy and also limits distribution of its products in its stores.
But it has also introduced ‘patience’ as a strong principle and premier element of its luxury-brand strategy. Customers cannot to walk into a store and walk out with a Birkin bag. Instead, an order must be placed that will take several months to fulfil due to the artistry involved in crafting the final product.
The intention is that by owning one of its products, customers feel they have access to a highly-exclusive and desirable club.
The company has also eschewed celebrity endorsements as a brand-building tactic, despite the fact that only A-list celebrities and the ultra-wealthy can afford and access their most exclusive products. This has further enhanced the brand’s successful exclusivity policy.
Former CEO Patrick Thomas, is widely quoted as saying: ‘The luxury industry is built on a paradox: the more desirable the brand becomes, the more it sells but the more it sells, the less desirable it becomes.’ His quip is never more relevant to Hermès, where the balance between sales and exclusivity seems to be finely maintained.
Reinforcing a brand by immersing customers is a relatively new, but widely popular concept in luxury brand strategy. Like exclusivity and localisation, brand immersion relies on having a strong foundation of brand vision and messaging. Hollis comments: ‘luxury brands have to be meaningful and different to feed their allure and desire. Creating a unique experience will be very important going forward for customers who are not just interested in the product but also in the way that they access and experience it.’
Porsche innovated its delivery process by allowing customers to pick up their new car right off the assembly line in Germany. In doing so, the brand aimed to create a heightened air of anticipation. Customers get a guided tour of the factory, a dining experience and a personalised session where every aspect of their new car is revealed.
Tellingly the experience at one of the sites, Zuffenhausen, includes a visit to the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart. At the Leipzig site meanwhile, there is an FIA-certified Porsche on-road circuit, where customers receive ‘dynamic ‘vehicle instruction from a qualified Porsche instructor. Both of these experiences serve to reinforce the brand heritage and history and culture. As with other thriving brands the addition of the experience can only be successful if it underpins an already robust brand vision and identity.
Successful luxury brand strategy requires a strong message and identity for customers to follow or aspire to. While that initial desire will drive interest in a brand, customers are evangelised through the overall brand experience — whether that’s an immersive tactic, a mark of exclusivity, or a deep understanding of a specific market.