Luxury buying is driven by a three-letter word: EGO

Ego is very tricky. It can make you, it can break you. Sometimes you may also like to say like John Lennon: “Part of me suspects that I'm a loser, and the other part of me thinks I'm God Almighty.” Just like with people, brands also have to be careful in dealing with ego.

Ego creates brands, makes them reach heights that they could have never reached with humility.

My dear Watson, said Sherlock Holmes, I cannot agree with those who rank modesty among the virtues.

However, some other times it pulls them down and crushes them. Your brand has to be worth its ego.

A luxury car brand once run an ad where the car did not have a fuel tank. The arrogant tagline said: “A car that runs on reputation”.

It is all about being special or exclusive, to be someone who is not ordinary. Of being able to dazzle or “luxe”. Of being able to stand out in the crowd. This razzle-dazzle industry thrives on ego.

To idea that a marketer sells is that this luxury brand is exclusive and it will make you exclusive as well, youwill belong to an elite club that you will be ableto flaunt such as a Lamborghini Club. “Money can’t buy happiness. But, somehow, it is more comfortable to cry in a Lamborghini than on a bicycle”, Lamborghini Gallardo slogan quite captures the ethos.

The arrogance that a brand exudes, mostly using prohibitive pricing to crowd out clients, will make it aspirational. So the users will get an elevated feeling that he is part of an exclusive club. When Rolex says “Live for greatness” it is not talking about the product, or the patented perpetual movement, or the oyster casing, or the brilliant design, it is a life that the watch brand is giving you. It is making you part of a legacy of great people, of JFK or of Martin Luther King Jr stature. Rolex has always been a very masculine brand. The male ego that Rolex has been able to develop and nurture over decades has proved instrumental for the company’s success and it is still revelling in that glory. So Rolex is selling a legacy, a life of greatness, a masculine ego that craves for being distinguished.

Another example is Louis Vuitton. “There are journeys that turn into legends,” when LV used this tagline for Sean Connery during its core values campaign, it was not selling the classic keepall travel bag. It was selling legacy, the legacy of travel, of a great legendary travel, and that too with a legend. It is the club that you join for again, greatness, to become part of a legacy. It is never about the product, but the legacy, the greatness, the extra-ordinariness.

The hunger to leave a legacy or become a part of it is what the brands sell. The art is in not only selling the inclusion but more so selling the exclusion.

India’s noted graphic novelist and my friend Sarnath Banerjee (author of Corridor and Harappa Files) in a story, has captured the essence of this “exclusion principle”, albeit in his own comic panache. There are customers who walk in and quickly check a few models and close the buy. However, there are others who come down to check out a an expensive car like a Rolls Royce or a Jaguar, but is not sure whether it is worth that premium and almost certain that it is not worth the value. He is a person who will go for a more economical car with a better mileage but is also greatly intrigued by the legacy of the car. The car salesman just senses that and tells him what he is exactly feeling like. So he is confused why isn’t the salesman hardselling the car? And thereby hangs a tale. The salesman very cleverly says that these luxury cars are not for “people like you and I” who will prefer more value for their money and not invest in such “esoteric and intangible” notions of legacy. After four-five such examples of “people like you are I” the salesman closes the deal. The customer buys into the legacy story just to prove he does not belong to class of “people like you and I”. He is different and definitely is part of the legacy.

So this is how the “exclusion principle” works. You are in a queue, waiting eagerly, to be treated as special.

This is a strategy that luxury brands use in tapping into the potential customers who have the money but are not convinced about the value for their buck that such luxury product will bring to their lives. They are, however, also intrigued to see how people who are part of the existing esteem clientele are treated a little differently by the boutique managers. Not that the potential clients are ignored but they are subtly sent the message that “you also can become a part of this elite treatment and legacy if you use your cash or card a little more generously”. The exclusion principle makes these clients intrigued and they, in spite of having the means, feel dejected. This is where “greatness” and “legacy” comes to the rescue. So when that aspect is taken into consideration, the deal is no more only value for money but also “totally worth it”.

And “for people like you and I” who doesn’t have the means, keep aspiring and writing about the legacy.

Your legacy is just a swipe away.

Let your quest for luxury continue.


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