Marketing: Brand Differentiation

By Christopher Zoukis

The makers of luxury brands in the areas of liquor, watches, high-fashion, perfume, and cosmetics traditionally use luxury pricing to present the concept of exclusivity. This was accomplished by inflating prices and limiting the availability of certain luxury products. Due to the advent of new companies offering new luxury products, relying on traditional marketing strategies is risky. Any brand that does so risks becoming irrelevant or what is even worse, becoming ordinary.  Image courtesy createwanderlust.com

New marketing strategies are being introduced. These strategies include exclusive sponsorship of events and activities associated with the rich and famous, and luxury product differentiation. The agenda is to make affluent customers aware of just how exclusive one luxury product is when compared to another product.

Sponsorship of exclusive events is considered one of the best ways to convey the desired image. The new rich in emerging markets love to attend exclusive events attended by others of their economic level. A restricted list of guests serves to augment the glamour. Glamour heightens the sense of privilege. The presence of famous celebrities enhances the feeling of exclusivity.

One example is Richman’s International Millionaire Clubs (RIMC), which offers platinum memberships to only 100 people in the world. These exclusive 100 members may attend special horse racing events in China, which is fanatical about horse racing. Other exclusive events sponsored by Richman include Polo matches, motor races, and golf tournaments.

Another example is Virgin’s sponsorship of the Brawn Formula One racing team. An elite group of affluent customers is invited to attend the races, along with galas before and after the races. During the races, invitees enjoy special seating privileges, and are allowed to enter the pits.

These sponsored events sustain the exclusive image of any luxury brand. The lifestyles of those who attend merely reinforce the image. It is the lifestyle of wealth, status, recognition, privilege and limited access. Only a very few have it, and even fewer come in contact with it.

Brand differentiation allows one luxury brand to stand out among all the others. To accomplish this, PR-Inside suggests hospitality programs that are as exclusive as the brand itself. This means restricted access to the most luxurious products. For example, Maurice Lacroix China, the Chinese branch of the exclusive Swiss watch-maker, offers certain customers the opportunity to attend wine and cheese tasting parties where limited edition watches may be seen and tried. In this manner, Lacroix engages its customers in a casual setting, which oozes wealth and privilege. In this heady atmosphere, affluent customers have access to watches most people will never see, and could never afford.  The overall effect is maximized exclusivity.

PR-Inside summarizes by stating that “To survive and grow, luxury brands need to market to the new rich.” This translates to new marketing philosophies, because what worked in the past does not work as well in the present. The mindset of the new rich is new too. They want conspicuous exclusivity. And they want to be pampered in new ways: access to the hottest parties, elite entertainment, the latest contemporary art, and glamorous sporting events. Everything has to be relevant to their new mindset.

This new mindset means not just vacationing at an exclusive luxury resort in Aspen, Colorado. They want to stay in the most opulent hotel, in the most exclusive suite, with the best view. More than that, they want everyone to know that they can afford to stay there.

In terms of marketing, this means companies need to be innovative, creating new platforms for promoting the exclusive image of their luxury products. Which means providing the affluent customer with a feeling of exclusivity, and connecting that feeling with a brand’s image or products.