Marketing: The Recognition Factor

By Christopher Zoukis

The number one most desired brand in the world is Gucci, which also owns Yves Saint Laurent and Sergio Rossi. Michael Macko, who is the director of fashion at Saks Fifth Avenue, explained to Forbes why Gucci is so alluring. “Gucci manages to offer high fashion and very commercial items. That iconic red and green stripe is some of the most iconic luxury branding ever created, and people want a piece of it.”

When Gucci opened its store in New York City, they planned their marketing carefully. First, a grand opening that was well-advertised; second, the launch of a “Gucci Loves New York” handbag collection; and third, all profits from the handbags went to a charitable cause, which was also well-advertised.  Photo courtesy examiner.com

The second most desirable brand in the world is actually two brands, Chanel and Calvin Klein. The two brands tied. Chanel’s success is attributed to its relevance, according to Forbes. Which means constant refreshment of products in the area of styling. Chanel’s luxury products are timeless. Marketing of this ageless quality is accomplished by identifying the products with the most beautiful women in the world. Chanel’s current celebrity symbol is Vanessa Paradis. Her presence implies exclusive beauty.

Calvin Klein’s world-wide sales were $4.5 billion in 2006. In 2009, that number increased to $5.8 billion. The appeal of Calvin Klein’s luxury products is due to the company’s contemporary designs, which present an image of cool arrival. Calvin Klein’s marketing revolves around the deliberate presentation of this carefully fostered image of cool confidence, which speaks to the desires.

Christian Louboutin and Jimmy Choo hold down the final spots in the world’s most desirable brands.

The marketing efforts of these most desirable brands are interesting to examine. In each case, the marketing targets the emotions of potential affluent customers. This is accomplished by combining the customer’s desire for recognition with a recognizable symbol. More often than not, the symbol is a celebrity. Which sends a message of universal romantic appeal to the customer.

Using celebrities to market luxury goods and services is not new. The idea has been around for a long time. Lord Byron, who was arguably the first world-wide celebrity of modern times, may have been the first. His publisher utilized Byron’s rock-star fame to sell books at a rate unheard of before that time.

Ever since then, celebrities have been associated with luxury goods, especially in the fashion world. However, there is more to it than simply hiring a celebrity to wear or endorse a luxury product. A viable celebrity must have influence in a number of areas, including religion, politics, culture, sports, the stage and screen, art, and music. Indeed, in today’s world, musicians maintain a position of tremendous influence, along with movie stars.

BrandChannel reports that the utilization of celebrities in marketing products has doubled over the last decade. Fully 25% of all marketing campaigns now use celebrities. For example, Versace marketed its luxury products using first Madonna, then movie stars Demi Moore and Halle Berry. Gianfranco Ferre’s marketing campaign was built around Julia Roberts. Dior selected Sharon Stone as its marketing nobility. Jennifer Lopez, Uma Thurman, and Scarlett Johansson have been the marketing faces of Louis Vuitton.  And just recently, Nicole Kidman has assumed the personification of Jimmy Choo.

Never underestimate the psychology of elitism in marketing to the affluent. Using an outstanding and recognizable celebrity to market a luxury product makes that product stand out from all the other offerings. It is recognizable. Therefore, it carries recognition. And recognition is the idea the affluent customer is looking to purchase.

Along with recognition, celebrity marketing provides instant credibility to any luxury product or service. It also positions the product so it appeals to the emotions of potential affluent customers. They “want to have it,” because the celebrity has it. Since celebrities are, in a sense, the court aristocracy of the modern world, they are the crème de la creme. Thus if they have it or use it, other elites want to have it and use it, too.

Celebrity marketing can re-vitalize or support the chandelier-effect of a brand. Because the papparazi pursue certain celebrities wherever they go, celebrity marketing generates much of its own publicity and promotion, especially in the areas of luxury clothing and accessories. Some celebrities, such as Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, can create global marketing opportunities by simply wearing or being seen carrying a luxury product. Which means celebrity-based marketing demands a celebrity recognizable by the targeted group.