The Anti-Laws Part II: Advertising, Pricing & Why Luxury Shouldn’t Sell

However way you slice it, luxury plays a function in social stratification. It’s this sociological dimension that makes traditional marketing techniques detrimental for luxury brands and goods. From the first phase of Anti-laws we discussed in the previous posts, we discovered that they don’t utilise the USP technique, choose to flaunt their flaws and always favour their own identity over customer’s opinions. And that’s just the beginning. If you haven’t read The Anti-Laws Part I: Because Luxury Has Its Own Marketing Rules, we suggest you start off today’s reading there. Then join us for eight more marketing laws that were designed to help manage luxury brands:


  1. The role of advertising is not to sell. 

An obvious way to see the differences in strategies is to look at their advertisement campaigns. Traditional marketing needs to push their USP in their adverts. Thus, the sales proposal will structure the sales pitch with the USP content imbedded in the text. Whereas they are pushing reality to make a sale, luxury marketing’s focus is on promoting the dream. Consequently, an ad can simply be the product and a model, with a catchy or mysterious tagline. Nothing more. No explanation about how it works, which experts recommend it or client testimonials.

[Image: Courtesy of Versace]

Once the customer is lured to the store by the high-end photography of the advert, they are then exposed to the commentary of the product. Often, clients will be handed a brochure book that explains the origins of the brand, the various models on offer and the journey of each of these products. According to Kapferer and Bastien, luxury has to recreate and sustain the dream because purchases bring reality closer to the dream. Unlike everyday goods, which profit from multitudes buying and thus promoting a product. “Every time a flesh-and-blood human being buys a luxury product they destroy a little bit of the equity, they increase the product’s visibility – and contribute to its vulgarization by putting it in the public eye.”

Leviev Emerald-Cut Tourmaline Earrings [Image: Courtesy of Leviev]

  1. Communicate to those whom you are not targeting. 

Traditional marketing only wants to reach target consumers; individuals that will more likely buy the goods and thus become a return on investment. Luxury marketing has something else in mind. Two value facets if you will. The first caters to the individuals that can buy these goods for themselves. The second is to make the brand name familiar even with the demographic that can’t actually afford it. Part of luxury’s value is having people outside the target group recognise them from even the smallest details. It builds the desire for the brand and elevates their prestige levels.

Cartier Pasha 18K Yellow Gold Alarm Moon Phase Blue Dial [Image: Courtesy of Cartier]

  1. The presumed price should always seem higher than the actual price. 

Ever noticed how luxury products never put their prices on their adverts or in direct view in the stores? It’s not because they think the number of zeros may scare clients off. On the contrary, they want you to imagine that there are more zeros on the end of the price tag. They will never lure you in with an introductory offer such as a handbag starting at KSh10,000 but with all the bells and whistles it’ll come to KShs20,000. When it comes to luxury, customers should select a piece based on how it makes them feel not on how much it costs. It’s the same reason why fine dining restaurants won’t put the prices on the menu. Now, over estimating the price increases the value of the product even for the person wearing it. If a customer bought a necklace at X price but the aura of luxury around the brand makes everyone around them believe that it’s five times that price, their status is immediately elevated. Should they decide to give it as a gift to someone instead, it comes across as a stronger gesture that will be highly appreciated and land them in some pretty good books.

[Image: Courtesy of Berluti]

  1. Luxury sets the price; price does not set luxury. 

Luxury starts off with the product and once they’ve completed it, they can then set the price. Again, they have a brand image and hallmarks of luxury to think about. This supply-based marketing approach will also take into consideration what level of luxury the client perceived the product to reside in. The more they consider it to be luxury, the higher the price tag will go. Classic products, on the other hand, follow a demand-based marketing strategy. Marketers will go out into the market and try to suss out which price level is ready to accommodate a new product. From there, they can decide what kind of product can be produced to meet this demand.

[Image: Courtesy of Bottega Veneta]

  1. Raise your prices as time goes on, in order to increase demand. 

If we’ve learnt anything from Black Friday, it’s that the standard market lives for falling prices. Slash off even 5 – 10% on a price tag and the demand for a product rises! But dropped prices evens out the playing field and that’s not what luxury is about. Luxury is a consequence of meritocracy and thus ‘To live in luxury you have to be above others, not be ‘reasonable’, in both senses of the word’. Reasonable here meaning easier on the pockets, as well as, giving the customer an opportunity to compare it to another competitor in the market. If you remember in the first set on Anti-laws (rule #1 to be exact), luxury doesn’t want its goods or brand to be compared to another. Instead, luxury raises its prices to dissuade the bargain hunters from approaching the brand. But this creates a new problem, it makes the brand more attractive to a new group of clientele that hadn’t recognised the brand when its prices were so low. As problems go, this is a highly welcomed one.

[Image: Courtesy of GRAFF]

There is a third reason why luxury raises prices over time is to make the company increase their sense of responsibility. The higher a brand climbs in the luxury chain, the more crucial it becomes for its employees to develop a mentality of quality to create the ultimate experience. Doing everything in their power to make the customer’s interaction with the brand even more valuable.

[Image: Courtesy of LVMH]

  1. Keep raising the average price of the product range.

When we say raise the prices, we don’t mean just some of the products. No luxury goods should be left behind. I repeat, do not only make one or two products extremely expensive goods. Raising the average price of the brand means adding new products to the exciting ones to increase the overall value. Note, the existing goods should remain at the same price and not drop in any way that could be viewed as a ‘sale’ or ‘clearance’. These additions will come in at a higher price that will be justified through the craftsmanship, material and quality utilised; of which will be explained in the store. The new, more expensive products are added to introduce a novel idea; not be the ‘new and improved’ version of the older collections. Raising the average price of the brand is necessary because the middle class continues to grow. Consequently, the brand has to ensure that the dream they’re sharing  ‘have a dimension of non-accessibility yet remaining at a close distance’.

[Image: Courtesy of Burberry]

  1. Do not sell. 

Luxury may be in the business of selling dreams, but they’re realists when it comes to luxury strategy. By raising prices consistently, they are aware that it could not only result in the loss of customers, but also sales as well. The brand will put out their mysterious ads and provide literature of the products which includes its facts and story. However, the team will not pressure the customer into buying the product. Luxury never chases customers, it lets them come to it. Does that mean it’ll cost you a sale today? Absolutely! But it’ll play well into the longevity of the brand.

[Image: Courtesy of Berluti]

  1. Keep stars out of your advertising. 

This is a tricky one. Remember how we said Luxury must dominate its clients? Working with a celebrity may undermine this because it appears that the brand needs their celebrity status to thrive. Luxury shouldn’t need anyone’s status and simply excel off their brand identity! Thus, if they must interact with celebrities, they do so in the way paparazzi court the stars. As mentioned in The Luxury Strategy, “If celebrities are used to promote the luxury product, the status of the latter is reduced to that of a mere accessory.” For example when the luxury brand is breaking into a new market, they can use the celebrity as a testimonial or ambassador to that specific country. That way, they can become an incarnation to a dream that may still appear to be out of reach for this new customer base.

[Image: Courtesy of GRAFF]

Only eight more to go! Could it get any more bizarre as adverts with no messages, encouraging store staff not to sell or increasing the prices in a world that live for bargains? You’re just going to have to read tomorrow’s post to find out.



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