Luxury versus Premium – Fuelling Luxury brands’ souls to maintain consumers’ faith
Luxury brands face a real challenge today to differentiate themselves from premium brands, as clearly, there is a growing lack of distinction in consumers’ minds between the two categories. To express and fuel this distinction is not evident…
Premium brands often have very high requirements in terms of quality, technical precision, product design… And, some Premium brands’ standards can attain levels so demanding, that even Luxury brands would have difficulty delivering them.
But, the power of Luxury brands does not lie in quality one-upmanship over Premium brands.
As with objects whose significance surpasses their physical reality, such as a totem, which is more than a statue, a wedding ring, which is more than an ordinary ring or a figurehead, which is more than a prow – Luxury objects are endowed with symbolic power, the power of Sense. Luxury brands’ power lies in their ability to become embodied, to come alive and captivate you on your very first encounter. We call this Animism.
Imbued with magic and possessing a soul, Luxury products are also steeped in history. For instance, Hermès’ decision to name one of its bags after Jane Birkin, was not prompted solely on her fame per se… but was the fruit of an encounter between the celebrity and the brand designer.
Endowed with and embodying their own specific personality, One doesn’t “own” Luxury goods, one constructs relationships with them; relationships which last, becoming more intense and more intimate with the passing of time. This is likely explains how denim has entered the Luxury universe, with, notably, personalized jeans by the designer Scott Morrison, recognized as being the reference of Luxury jeans that all Hollywood are mad about.
A logo, a product or a design can be copied, but one’s “experience” with a Luxury brand is inimitable.
Hence, while the Premium category “makes” products, the Luxury one “creates” precious objects. Whereas the Premium category highlights technology, intelligence, performance… the Luxury category underlines passion and creates emotionally charged works of art. When the Premium category provides you service, the Luxury one transports you to a world apart where you will be its eternal guest.
Undisputedly, a key differentiating dimension for Luxury brands Vs Premium ones is Animism. And, the intensity of the emotions engendered by this exclusivity must be continually maintained. Luxury brands must preserve the magic that they alone possess by continuing to incarnate their history and their personality.
However, differentiation re Premium brands is not the only challenge Luxury brands have to face. Constant cultural and social evolutions, both local and global, are continuously redefining the rules of the game. In this ever-changing context, Luxury brands will have to adapt in order to maintain their cultural relevance and to meet new challenges: How to face the global emergence of local Luxury brands, such as Hidesign (India), Ne.Tiger (China) and Melissa (Brazil)? How to manage the mass marketing of Luxury goods (see Vuitton in China)? What opportunities lie behind the explosion of new technologies?
These are but some of the many questions and reasons to incite Luxury brands to be vigilant in retaining their culturally relevance.
Written by Cécile Gorgeon-Pompéi, Director Added Value.
This article is based on a study on luxury brands by Cécile Gorgeon-Pompéi presented at a conference titled “Luxury vs Premium” organised by the Luxury Business Association on September 16th 2011.