For the first time in the history of mankind there has been a fundamental change in our core nature, we are no longer driven by basic survival needs such as food, shelter, and sex, but in the last few decades there has been a change from need to desire. I don’t just need a car, I want a Mercedes. My children don’t just need an education; they need to go to Hillsdale Academy. I don’t need a home…I want the right zip code. This collective evolution effects everything from tennis shoes to kitchen cabinets.
So what is this Cultural Revolution that has the power to get us up and out of bed in the morning to the power of topple governments and overturn centuries of tradition. The need to “survive” has been replaced by the need to “have”. The survival of the “fittest” has been replaced by “I am what I own”. As Tiffany has shown us . . . we live in a time where the package can be more important than the contents.
There was a time in the not to distant past when we were categorized by our accents, education, class, pigmentation, nationality, religion or heritage, now replaced by our product choice. Aspirational or Affluent, we are now “judged by the companies we keep” or wear or drive or shop.
Brand allegiance has become almost tribal, letting others around us know who we are and where we fit in the food chain. In other words we have become a “brotherhood of brands.”
WHAT IS A BRAND
Great brands have great promise and a great promise is made up of value, service, substance, history and an objective for the future.
A brand is made up of many parts and sometimes many products, it can have local recognition or be spread-out over six continents, and it is the brand that binds it all together. A good brand is perceived and recognized in Berlin as it is in Los Angeles. It is as readily accepted in London as it is in Hong Kong or Mexico City. The brand supersedes the product.
The value of the brand is that it provides credibility, history, continuity and trust in an ever-changing world.
• A brand pre-qualifies your client as to the position and value of the products you sale.
• A brand protects the sale. Products can be copied, but never the brand.
But branding is more than just putting a logo on a product. The brand is more than a badge or emblem; it is our promise to the consumer of quality and value. Branding must be constantly managed, maintained and cultivated. Just like a garden it must be watered, weeded, pruned and feed.
Add just the right amount of exposure to keep it fresh and vibrant, to much or to little, it will lose its bloom, welt and die. A brand must be maintained internally and promoted and embraced externally.
According to a 3-year consumer study, brand outweighs price in a high-end purchase decision.
The 3 reasons most given are:
1. Confidence: The ability to buy something with out risk
2. Convenience: The ability to buy without thinking.
3. Image: The brand makes a personal statement about the consumer.
THE INFLUENCE BRAND
Today out of our $10 trillion economy, $6 trillion is consumer spending. About 40% of that is spending on discretionary products and consumers today spend less on basic necessities, such as food, clothing and shelter, than they did fifty years ago. But they spend more and more money on discretionary purchases that are motivated by emotion and desire. In other words “they are buying things they want, not what they need.” A successful brand must speak to the consumer on an emotional level.
As more products enter the market place and more information is needed to make an educated decision, brands will become more important in the decision making process.
• Consumers will pay higher prices for a brand as they eliminate risk and expedite action.
• Brand recognition helps to identify products faster and increases the convenience factor in meeting consumer needs.
• Brand as a personal image enhancer. You are what you buy.
THE BRAND AS JUSTIFIER
At the core of affluent marketing is “Justification.” Justification such as pleasure, safety and self-fulfillment are the underlying motivation of affluent purchasing.
These justifiers are used as rational excuses to give one’s self permission to buy. The overriding justifier behind all-discretionary spending is to improve the quality of life.The affluent consumer wants a better, more satisfying, fulfilling life and they buy things to fulfill that need.
Branding is the driving point, as this group believes that traditional indicators of luxury are most important. To our target consumer, products must be sold through a trusted name, be made well and be prestigious as well as exclusive.
What is the new luxury? It’s still about lifestyle. But it is not about owning, it’s more about living. If stress and anxiety are the by products of the modern world, then nothing is more coveted than relaxation and contentment.
What does this mean for us, in the luxury home furnishing market? First we have to understand that our consumer has evolved. What he wants out of the purchase has changed. We have gone from “keeping up with the Jones” to “does this purchase make me feel good?”
Today’s luxury consumer offers no apology for their desires; they are entitled to it. They have earned it. They work hard for it. They deserve it, and they have nothing to be ashamed of.
What is the luxury consumer looking for? They are looking for something that is uniquely them, something that no one else has or can have. They believe that luxury is something that isn’t too available or too accessible. It isn’t too common or too widespread.
If the hallmarks of luxury in the past were loud and excessive, then today they are subtle and refined. Luxury can be found in the details.
Luxury has gone from “ubiquity” to “exclusivity,” from something very public to something very private. What others may think doesn’t matter as much as “what do I think?”
When we talk about luxury, it is important to talk about the intangible aspects of luxury. We must address happiness and comfort, taste and beauty, exclusivity and uniqueness. The purchase must be viewed as a reward for hard work, a symbol of accomplishment.
In closing, luxury has become a private matter and it is open to individual interpretation. It’s not found, flaunted, or touted everywhere; it’s not aimed at the masses. It’s about the pleasure of owning an original. It’s about exclusivity. And ultimately, it’s about self-expression.
Designer, writer, speaker, Kevin Henry is a recognized “thought-leader” to the kitchen industry for over 30 years and is sought out for his views and observations regarding market trends and industry direction. His blog, The Essential Kitchen (www.theessentialkitchen.blogspot.com), is followed world-wide by both consumers as well as industry and media leaders. Kevin is invited to speak internationally on a wide range of topics, including luxury branding, sustainable kitchen design and market trends. Kevin is Director of Business Development at VINOTEMP, the leader in bespoke wine storage and wine cooling innovation.