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Luxury branding - The audacity to stand out

Luxury branding is going through a challenging phase. With the rise of digital and the fluctuating global economy, it has transformed this sector dramatically in a very short space of time. What people now perceive as luxury is changing but perhaps most important is the increase in social awareness. Very quickly your luxury brand can look ‘vulgar’ when sat amongst images showing the environmental or refugee crisis on people’s social feeds.

The challenge do you have the audacity to stand out and how do you do it without a backlash?

A new breed of luxury consumer

One thing that gives luxury brands hope is the growing wealth class. Those who can afford luxuries have more money than ever to spend on it.’

With this kind of potential, there is a great opportunity for established brands to strengthen their hold on the market and luxury startups to break into the market and capture a new younger audience that expect different things from luxury.

Luxury should be aspirational and connect on an emotional level - not vulgar and in your face. We saw recently the backlash from Frank Ribery and his £1,000 gold leaf plated steak from Salt Bae.

That appearing on people’s feeds at a time when there are so many humanitarian issues. Businesses and brands need to be tasteful in how they present themselves to attract the right audience. Nobody likes a show-off.

Alex Colley, Creative Director of ikon discusses “For me, I have never subscribed to wanting to show off, especially with the brands you wear. I understand for some, showing off the logo is part of what they are paying for to show the world they can own a Louis Vuitton, well anything but for me, luxury is understated and elegant and it’s a similar approach to how we work at ikon.”

Luxury needs to be more inclusive

With the change in how we now consume media, for any luxury business the time of exclusion is coming to an end. People are more informed than ever before and brands need to embrace how younger generations make purchasing decisions as they could represent the future of your business. They are the next generation of potential wealth and business owners who have the power to buy luxury products.

Luxury brands can’t rely on heritage alone as NJ Goldston writes on Entrepreneur magazine: “Brand heritage and history now rank sixth to superior quality, superior customer service, superior design, superior craftsmanship, and exclusive products.” The brands who can must still leverage their heritage but the quality of the end to end experience is what will impress generations with probably the shortest attention span in history.

Understanding luxury customer needs

So, first things first, you must truly understand your target audience. This is an essential part of any brand’s strategy and will likely require the assistance of a luxury branding agency to help you define them properly. It’s even more critical for luxury brands to understand this because luxury is moving beyond a tangible product. It can be an experience, an aspiration and help express individuality.

Even time can be considered a luxury in our hectic culture! What drives them? How do they speak, where do they find information or frequent but most importantly define their emotional needs because as we look at later, luxury has multiple touchpoints for a customer to be brought into your brand. As with a lot of businesses, a real focus has shifted to a consumer-centric approach where personalisation is the ultimate luxury.

An era of personalisation

Lupe Puerta, Global Director VIP Client Relations at Net-A-Porter & Mr Porter explains the exceptional levels his team will go to:

“Their number one priority is to meet the needs of our customers and make shopping effortlessness for them. We’ve driven across America, we’ve jumped on a plane to deliver to a musician as they’re about to go on stage. We’ve gone direct to the world’s most sought-after designers to source pieces that haven’t been produced. We’ve traveled across the world to get a bespoke piece of jewellery to a client the same day because they’ve needed it for an event that night and no courier would be fast enough. Truly, there is little we won’t do for our clients and there’s no slowing for us in 2019.”

Whether you are in the luxury business or not, lessons can be learnt for any business. To keep people coming back, they want that personal level of service they know they will get time and again. One of of ikon’s differentiators is a bespoke, personal service with our Creative Director every time. We are not looking for mass appeal so high standards of service, quality of work which stems from the quality of the team.

You can be sure with any luxury brand, if demands aren’t met, there is no shortage of competition that will run that extra mile for their customers and you can lose them in a flash.

So why are luxury brands opting for a simpler logo?

Luxury brands have been getting some bad press recently with everybody jumping on the bandwagon saying they are stripping all character from their logo and and it’s becoming bland.

Yes, you could argue that luxury brands logos are looking very similar but there are very practical reasons for this. The first is the cost of a rebrand can be huge for global brands so it’s a decision you don’t take lightly and once you do, you need to ensure you don’t have to do it again for the foreseeable future.

Aside from the cost, your logo needs to be more flexible than ever to suit every digital device but also work well in print at all kinds of sizes, from iPhone to billboard. This has given rise to responsive logos which adapt to the size and space needed but are still recognisable in every instance.

To add to this, the relevance of the logo isn’t as important as was. Don’t get us wrong, a logo is important but the expression of your brand is far more important. People buy based on how you make them feel not if they have a good logo. From our experience in delivering campaigns, the more flexible the logo is, the further you can push the design work creatively without many restrictions.

The key - Be more than just a logo

We were pretty underwhelmed with the new Burberry logo but when you dig deeper, the development of the pattern monogram and the possible executions are very well crafted and thought through.

Not just from an aesthetic to attract a younger generation of Burberry evangelists, but more financial sense as Sarah White reports on Reuters:

“In the longer run, Burberry is banking on the patterned print to help improve its performance in high-margin leather goods, which make-up 38% of its sales, less than the roughly 60% and 75% at sector champions Gucci and Vuitton. Both have developed recognizable monograms over several decades.

Its bet is that the monogram could be declined into different shades more easily than the camel check, while remaining identifiable.”

They have created a flexible brand pattern that can work in endless possibilities digitally and in real world environments where consistency is paramount.

Your brand values really matter

Take Ferrari for instance, they rarely advertise. They believe in high performance so when they do, it’s in-line with their core brand value at Formula 1 events. For any luxury brand, a clear brand strategy is essential for success to understand what kind of associations you want people to remember about your brand and then being ruthlessly consistent. It does actually make life easier as you can always relate back to what is at your core.

For Ferrari, does this enforce our belief in high performance? No, then it’s not for us.

How many times have we heard about the power of No. It’s like Warren Buffet quoted: The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say NO to almost everything.”

Whether personally or in business, understanding what you stand for is crucial to know what to say no to. It’s no different with luxury brands.

Know what you stand for

Louis Vuitton do an incredible job of collaborating with artists of collections in-line with their belief in art. Dominic Cadogan of Dazed writes:

“The 2012 collaboration with 83-year-old artist Yayoi Kusama is one of the most visually captivating collections of Louis Vuitton. The Japanese legend’s dotty artwork populated handbags, clothes and accessories echoing her message of obsession and seriality. To coincide with the launch of the collection, stores across the globe were transformed. In Selfridges, the concept store saw the indoor space become into a polka dot fantasy world, with one window complete with an eerily realistic red-wig-wearing wax replica of Kusama.” Other notable collaborations include Cindy Sherman and The Chapman Brothers, all we admire.

Creating memorable luxury experiences

Taking cues from the fashion world and creating store concepts, it’s being taken a step further where luxury brands are creating experiences to give even more emotional power to the buying experience. Take McLaren, you are invited to the Foster and Partners designed factory and are greeted by some of the most impressive F1 vehicles from their vast history.

Imagine seeing Arton Senna’s race winning car just before you collect yours from the factory. It creates a story to the purchase which I am sure is told to the many other friends they know to create a ‘I want that too’ moment. Referral is always the best form of marketing.

It’s not all about digital

Understanding digital is important, especially when you look at Ferrari and how they targeted website users based on showing signs of buyer behaviour but offline, direct mail has proven very effective for them in sending a select list a teaser into the world of Ferrari. It’s highly personalised and tangible. With so many social media posts, emails and newsletters, receiving a piece of targeted printed material can make a huge impact for the very reason there are less and less people doing it. Don’t right print off just yet.

Luxury brands are being more socially aware

With the aim of capturing younger generations, brands are becoming more socially aware as new generations are more aware than ever about their climate change and living a healthy lifestyle. It’s about time though, with cancer rates going up, it’s no surprise the rise Veganism has become mainstream with consumers having strong views on the positioning of your brand values.

Even our Creative Director, Alex Colley talks of changing his eating habits “For years people didn’t really think about what they have been putting in their bodies, you just accept what has gone before. We should be looking at what is natural for humans and back when we were hunter gatherers, you would live off a plant-based diet until you could catch your meat dinner. Now you probably have people eating meat for lunch and dinner every day. Even the idea of spraying deodorant directly into your body or using everyday items like toothpaste which are full of chemicals, people are waking up to what is being sold to us and demanding more.

Our core DNA is to question everything and that’s why our model of agency is working so well. We have taken lessons from the personalisation of luxury brands to work with some of the best creatives in their field specific to each project.

We try and follow a similar approach to Stella McCartney who has been dubbed the Queen of sustainability for not using fur or leather and being environmentally friendly:

"I want people to come here because they desire the designs. At the end of the day, that’s when I’m doing my job successfully and in a stealth manner. That’s the most important thing. People don’t come here because I tell them to be vegetarian or to not kill animals or harm the planet. That’s not what you do in fashion. Maybe younger customers now do require that, but that’s only just happening."

The future is video

One thing is clear with the younger generations and on social media in general is video is on the rise and everyone is playing the game. Even LinkedIn and Instagram are making a big push to promote video content over text and imagery. It’s one of the reasons Chanel has become one of the most influential luxury brands on social. As Nikki Gilliland for EConsultancy states:

“Chanel’s social success has sky-rocketed in a short space of time, with the brand seeing an average growth of 50% across multiple platforms in just a year. One reason looks to be its video strategy.”

How luxury brands will stand out in the future

It’s an old saying but ‘the customer is king’ and that has never been more true. Brands are going to great lengths to provide the ultimate in personalisation to make them feel like a king. This in turn creates its own media channel of mini-influencers to spread the message to everyone they connect with.

Whether you are established or trying to break into the luxury market, know your audience and be certain on your values to attract your tribe of evangelists. Initially creating or constantly revising your brand strategy will ensure you are on the right track with your messaging but then your consistency across every touchpoint needs to flawless. The more you understand the customer, the more you understand what channels are best suited to increase revenue.

One thing is very certain, complacency is a killer as there will always be someone else in line ready to take your customers away from you.

This article is written by ikon | We are a boutique branding agency – but not in the traditional sense. We hand-pick a team from our experienced creatives to suit each project, delivering a personal and bespoke service for our clients. Our Creative Director, Alex Colley is always the lead contact every step of the way and our clients include the likes of Westfield, Porsche, Oakley & F1.

Do you stand out?