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In today’s competitive market, luxury brands have to connect with customers in more creative ways than ever. With mainstream brands pushing up into the premium category and traditional luxury fashion and accessories brands moving into the mass market. It means that real luxury has to distinguish itself cleverly and distinctively to retain its cachet and mystique. As shoe designer Christian Louboutin says, “Luxury is the possibility to stay close to your customers, and do things that you know they will love.”

Read on for some luxury brand marketing pointers…

Build a customisation offer for uniqueness

Luxury was once hand-made by craftsmen to the customer’s specifications, and was so expensive it was the preserve of only the super-wealthy. Today, few people have one-off products made, but many luxury brand marketing strategies include building elements of customisation into their offer.

Louis Vuitton can involve you in the design process of shoes, bags and trunks, while MyMuesli’s premium custom-mixed cereal offers the choice between grains, fruits, seeds and nuts. Top marks to Absolut Vodka for using colour-generating machines to make four million uniquely designed and individually numbered bottles.

Customisation distinguishes luxury brands – and reinforces the craftsmanship, quality and creativity of the brand.

Heighten the senses to create an emotional connection

Sensory branding has become huge business, especially in the luxury retail and hospitality industries, as brands clamour to differentiate themselves and build connections with customers on different levels.

Rolls Royce and Eton shirts both tap into the power of scent by impregnating its products with appropriate smells: the premium car brand captures the feeling of older models in every new car by diffusing a blend of mahogany wood, leather and oil, while the luxury Swedish shirtmaker uses the smell of freshly laundered cotton in each item.

Premium car brand Rolls Royce captures the feeling of older models in every new car by diffusing a blend of mahogany wood, leather and oil

We’re used to the association of sound with brands through TV and radio jingles, but Soundwich in Portugal offers gourmet sandwiches delivered in boxes that play music chosen by the chef, while the Westin hotel chain creates a carefully customised soundtrack to create a relaxed mood in the hotels’ public spaces. Of course, Apple, Nokia and Samsung invest heavily in developing appropriate noises that are immediately identifiable, as sensory identifiers work at a deep, sub-conscious level.

Ensuring your luxury brand marketing includes strategies to tap into the senses creates deep connections and associations for luxury brands (read our post on emotional branding).

Look at your category differently

Apple did it; they took a techy product that you needed an IT degree to use and made it fit the customer – and a lifestyle statement. Starbucks introduced take-out coffee and changed our relationship with the drink. And Ladurée, the upmarket macaroon creator, took inspiration from their confections to launch a line of almond-based beauty products.

You assess your product or service, and how it is assembled or supplied and how people access it – and perhaps take inspiration from a different category to breathe new life into it.

Ladurée took inspiration from their confections to launch a line of almond-based beauty products

Immerse customers in your brand ethos

Luxury fashion and lifestyle brands have always invested in environments to allow their customers to feel the brand’s cachet – and build a strong emotional connection. So the crazy fashionistas at Viktor & Rolf built an upside-down store in Milan to proclaim their anarchic approach to design, while Abercrombie & Fitch took mainstream preppy clothing and dressed it up as a nightclub experience.

But what flavour do you give your brand? Jimmy Choo did it literally by creating a high tea at Hong Kong’s Landmark Oriental Hotel, featuring sandwiches, scones and macaroons handcrafted in exquisite shoe and handbag shapes. The super-luxury car brand opened the Bentley Suite on the 15th floor of the St Regis New York, where the leather and colours convey the special cocooning 
that drivers and passengers feel when they experience the interior of a 
Bentley. And when Burberry opened their Taipei flagship, Creative Director Christopher Bailey created a digital weather experience that rained clear confetti with leaves blown around by wind machines, taking customers on a spiritual journey to England.

Putting your luxury brand into a carefully considered physical space and inviting customers into it is a powerful way of communicating your message.

Viktor & Rolf built an upside-down store in Milan to proclaim their anarchic approach to design

Jimmy Choo created this fashion based high tea at Hong Kong’s Landmark Oriental Hotel

Burberry created a digital weather experience when they opened their Taipei flagship store that rained clear confetti with leaves blown around by wind machines, taking customers on a spiritual journey to England

Limit access to your brand

Labels were once sewn discreetly into products as a maker’s mark of quality; as luxury has become democratised, logos have become ubiquitous, attention-grabbing ways of announcing our ownership of an expensive item.

Some luxury brands have learned the power of limiting supply or access. Part of the appeal of the Hermès Birkin bag was its waiting list of six years, and even high-street brands are picking up on limiting supply, especially H&M and its time-sensitive stream of collaborations with the likes of Karl Lagerfield and Marc Jacobs that create intrigue and urgency.

Tom Ford demonstrated true exclusivity when he hosted a fashion show for a hand-chosen audience, each personally invited by telephone; there were no press photographers, Tom compered the show himself and pals Beyoncé and Julianne Moore modelled. It flew in the face of the fashion industry’s desire for maximum media.

Limiting supply makes a product, service or experience seem more valuable.

Hermès Birkin bag had a waiting list of six years…!

Make it special

As most luxury brands have moved to the mass market model – through offering cheaper lines to capture more sales – true luxury needs to stand out by ensuring that quality is always high.

For the Institution of Civil Engineers, we created a coffee table book designed to appeal to high-net-worth investors around the world. Featuring beautiful, black and white photography printed with UV sensitive ink, these emotive images miraculously transform to colour when exposed to light.

Within the back of the book we integrated a video screen that automatically activated when exposed to light. The most esteemed guests received this coffee table book in a bespokely designed, polished-walnut luxury presentation box with engraved brass personalisation details.

Perhaps you could have your business cards impregnated with scent or made from an unusual material? Maybe carrier bags in a heat or light-sensitive material, or a presentation book that contains personalised elements…

Luxury brands can communicate their exclusivity in many different creative ways, driving not only purchases but a deep emotional connection that can last a lifetime.