Strategic positioning of luxury brands

“The basic approach of positioning is not to create something new and different, but to manipulate what’s already in the mind, to retie the connections that already exist,” said Al Ries and Jack Trout in their book Positioning: The battle for your mind.

It is all about battling for your mind. The classical definition of positioning is a marketing strategy that aims to make a brand occupy a distinct position, relative to competing brands, in the mind of the customer. So let us understand the phases of this extraordinary make-or-break tool.

The quote has a classical approach to brand positioning but primarily is referring to positioning of an existing brand.

First, let me discuss the strategy for debut positioning of a brand in the luxury space. When you conceive of launching a brand in the luxury space the step is to study the market. The existing players or rather your competition and how they have positioned themselves all this while will give you a fair idea of the positioning that you are looking at.

Also read: A guide to strategic luxury brand marketing

Strategically, if the brand has a strong recall then it is prudent to find a new positioning for your brand. In case the existing brand is new, you may even try to replace its positioning.

For example, when the incumbent is a brand that is positioning itself as a brand with heritage and legacy, your move will be to position your brand as youthful or rather “cool”. Yes, luxury brand can be positioned as “a cool brand”. The greatest advantage of such a brand positioning that is connected to youth is that it appeals not only to the young people who can afford, but also to the young at heart people who want to be associated or who want to sport a brand that is “cool” and sporty and youthful. Tom Ford is such a brand that has appealed to the youthfulness of the clients. And small wonder, not only youth but also clients from more senior demography even James Bond have been loyal to Tom Ford brand. Other top designers like Michael Kors and Marc Jacobs have also made a niche for themselves by appealing to the youthfulness and vibrancy of their clients with their labels.

So when you are conceiving of a luxury brand, its positing will make or break it.

Now let us examine the positioning or rather re-positioning of an existing luxury brand. When I saw Rolls Royce launching a Wraith, I wondered for a while, “how is this sporty looking car fitting into the family of RR beside Phantom and Ghost?” The reason is simple. RR doesn’t want to confine its positioning to a brand of legacy and heritage that is associated with a certain level of power and seniority. A similar example is Louis Vuitton. LV’s brand ambassadors have classically been Bono, Angelina Jolie and Sean Connery. This was essentially “Core Values” campaign about how “a single journey can change your life”. The idea was to create aspiration for the youth and create a pull for both the young and the not-so-young. However, they realized it is time to tap into the market that they are missing out on. So the then creative director Marc Jacobs designed the Damier series of designs to attract youth and to reposition LV brand as youthful.

Now let us discuss the third and final facet or rather a dilemma that every luxury brand faces. It is a choice between exclusivity and dilution. When a brand is snob and will price itself at such a level that it is crowding out or alienating a greater part of the potential clients, it is gaining exclusivity. It remains an aspiration. For people who can’t afford, some resolve to buying first copies and fakes. However, some other brands make the pricing in such a manner so as to include a large pool of clients who are ready to invest significantly on a first copy. So they are drawing that money and making luxury brands affordable. Welcome to the most tricky client cluster, the Masstige. Handling this segment is the toughest for any brand manager. To what extent can you dilute your brand to gain volume and tap into the wide pool of counterfeits and provide clients with originals that they can afford. It can be a key chain or a coin purse or a wallet or a belt, it is all about flaunting the label, that too original. The pride associated with it is enormous, so the aspiration to buy bigger product only grows and the brands get a new set of wider client pool.

The only risk being brand dilution. Such a dilution may position the brand away from exclusivity and result in loss of loyal big-ticket clients who want exclusive rights to “luxe”.

So, be it positioning a new luxury brand or repositioning an existing brand or even handling exclusivity versus dilution debate, the efficacy of the job of a brand custodian lies is in his or her power of knowledge of the brand. The more you know your brand, you will know how best to position it.

Let your quest for luxury continue.


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