What’s a Cult Lifestyle Brand, and How do You Create One?

When the Apple Corporation gave its annual report in 2015, it had a whopping $178 billion in cash, or enough to buy the Ford, Tesla, and General Motors car companies and have more than $41 billion left over. [1] Such is the power and worth of a so-called cult lifestyle brand. Here, we’ll look at what makes up a cult brand, and the characteristics that set the stage for your brand to obtain that coveted status.

 

 

What is a Cult Brand, and Why is it Smart to Build One?

  

A cult brand has worked so hard to build a following, it’s in a class of its own. Loyal customers feel there is no substitute for the benefits ‘their’ cult brand offers, and they’re often willing to go to great lengths to get access to those much sought after respective products or service.  Cult brands anticipate the tangible and spiritual needs of their customers and work to fill them on multiple levels. [2]

  

They’re usually associated with social benefits, too [3]. For example, Fender guitars are arguably not the most technically advanced instruments, but they nevertheless enjoy a cult following. Once people buy a guitar, they feel they’ve become part of a social club of other content like-minded customers, including some superstar players.

  

Once you’ve built a strong cult brand it will continue to inspire brand loyalty provided you both carefully nurture it and your loyal customers. That loyalty is likely to persist even if you charge a premium or intentionally produce products or services in limited quantities with restricted access.

  

Furthermore, in the event an untimely problem arises that momentarily blemishes the brand, its cult status will often be enough to carry it through those temporary low points.  Brands with cult-like status tend to engender staunch customers willing to buy the brand again despite mishaps.

  

 

Characteristics of a Cult Lifestyle Brand

 

Let’s take a deeper look and examine key characteristics that help some brands stand head-and-shoulders above the rest, seemingly immune to the many struggles causing competitors to flounder:

 

  • Cult Brands Have Recognizable Strong Personality Traits: Although brands don’t necessarily have all the attributes humans do, the best share many qualities with humans. They are like humanized entities. You may resonate with one of your most beloved brands because it appears to exhibit sympathy, honesty, integrity and motivation, among other emotionally engaging human-like traits, qualities and values that are potentially important to you.

 

  • Cult Brands Are Relatable: When a cult brand is relatable, it’s able to resonate with its target audience by encapsulating familiarities within everyday lives. A brand may be positioned so it’s optimally relatable via its packaging, customer service, employees, customer journey, brand collateral and even purchase receipts.

 

  • Cult Brands Encompass Broad Ideals: Some brands reach cult status because they successfully convey an ideal or lifestyle its purchasers aspire to and want to be part of. Maybe the brand’s associated with warm hospitality, opulent luxury, a rugged, adventuresome lifestyle or a hunger for high-tech items that regularly challenge what we think is possible. [4] By regularly purchasing items or services that represent what they aspire to having, buyers inch ever closer to their ultimate goals. Its what the beloved cult brand ‘stands for’ that its target audience identify, with and relate to as part of their own personal identity.

 

  • Cult Brands Have Their Own Catchy Brand Language and Buzzwords: At Walt Disney World, people who work there aren’t called employees, but “cast members.” Furthermore, the crew that designs rides is staffed by “imagineers.”

 

Also, don’t walk into an Apple Store and expect to get your MP3 player checked at the technical support desk. Instead, stroll back to the Genius Bar where a specialist bearing the title of “genius” will examine your iPhone. 

 

The distinctive language used by cult brands is not just an accidental cutesy extra. It’s quite deliberate and strategically developed as part of building the brand’s profile using a system like the Personality Profile Performer™. When people learn the lingo or brand language, they’ve become members of an exclusive club, the in-crowd, and are thereby more closely connected to one another and those they perceive to matter most in their world. [5]

 

 

4 Top Tips for Creating a Cult Brand

 

Now that you’re more familiar with some aspects of brands that have reached cult status, let’s explore actionable tips that could help your own brand achieve that apparently insurmountable feat. [6]

 

1. Tell a Strong Brand Story

The human brain responds instinctively to stories. We’ve shared stories since we lived in caves and learnt them as children on our parents’ knees. It’s how we make sense of the world. Your brand should develop and tell an engaging, memorable tale. When we’re working with our clients to create and develop memorable brand stories we use our Story Selling System™. Consider that most cult brands are able to successfully communicate which problems their products solve. Ideally, your story should not only be authentic and emotionally compelling, but prove how your product fills a demonstrated need.

 

 

2. Excel at Doing or Giving Something People Greatly Value

Cult brands are often excellent at providing a service or benefit to a far superior degree when compared to their competitors, and brands in other unrelated sectors for that matter. This is one of the reasons why it’s so crucial to understand what other brands in your industry are doing, and evaluate how you can reach beyond that point in a meaningful and feasible way. A brand audit is a very effective tool for uncovering this often hidden information. Your brand needs to be creating a customer experience in at least one very unique way that’s vastly superior to your nearest contenders.

 

 

3. Truly Value Your Customers

Regardless of how great whatever you’re offering is, your brand is highly unlikely to reach cult status if you consistently give customers the cold shoulder. Earlier, we talked about how people who follow cult brands may be more forgiving and willing to offer second chances. However, that’ll only happen if you have stellar customer service practices that make your customers feel like they’re genuinely worth your time and much appreciated for their business.

 

Besides just offering great service, try to include customers in your creative or product or service development process, even if its just to get feedback from them. People love feeling like they’re part of something important and that their opinion matters. If you make it clear their thoughts matter, they’re more likely to be loyal for life.

 

 

4. Give the Impression of Scarcity

Although this tip can backfire in some markets, profits and consumer interest levels can grow when customers feel the product you’re offering is not easy to acquire. When buyers believe an item is in limited supply, they’re often more likely to try harder to get it.

 

   Pixabay People Waiting 600px

 

  

Now, let’s look at a few case studies of companies that have used various brand strategies to build their cult brands and make them thrive very profitably.

 

 

Case Study: SoulCycle

 

SoulCycle is a brand of indoor cycling classes that’s beloved by celebrities, and some might say, a little overpriced. Class prices begin at $32 for 45 minutes of sweaty cycling. Yet, SoulCycle’s devotees don’t mind.

 

   Soul Cycle Home Page2 600px

Image via www.soul-cycle.com

 

 

Many of them cycle while wearing diamonds and Rolex watches. Being around people who are outfitted in the same way likely engenders feelings of even greater exclusivity.

  

 

  

  

  

Furthermore, certain superstar trainers have very small exclusive class sizes, leading fitness fans to scramble in hopes of landing an open slot, or getting lucky when someone doesn’t show up. Chelsea Clinton, Oprah Winfrey and Lady Gaga are just a few VIPs singing SoulCycle’s praises, with Lady Gaga even bringing custom-made SoulCycle bikes on a tour. [7]

  

     Soul Cycle 600px

Image via www.popsugar.com

 

 

Case Study: J. Crew

 

Founded in 1983, J. Crew is an American clothing brand that has impressively been able to enjoy a long-term cult status, while other hopeful brands have faltered. Some analysts say the success is largely due to the brand’s fearless and forward-thinking president and creative director, Jenna Lyons. [8]

 

       Style Profile Jenna Lyons 600px

Image via www.letsrestycle.com and www.sohautestyle.com

 

 

She took the helm in 2008 and began running with the bold strategy that the brand should no longer be dictated by corporate strategies. Instead, J. Crew would not associate with a product unless its team members truly embraced it.

  

 

 

  

 

Furthermore, Lyons unified the company’s creative processes and gave employees more freedom to take risks. Ideas that don’t work well are quickly disposed of, leaving some to feel J. Crew is constantly in flux. However, rising profits and raving fans indicate the changes have resonated. Some of the brand’s YouTube videos have more than a million views.

 

 

Case Study: Vij’s and Rangoli

 

These two Canadian restaurants are run by a husband and wife team and have become some of the hottest eating establishments in Vancouver. A “No Reservation Rule” means people sometimes have to act fast to enjoy this beloved cuisine.  

    

   Vikram Vij 600px

Image via www.macleans.ca

  

  

Besides the tasty fare they offer, perhaps one of the reasons why the restaurants have such loyal followings is because their very creations represent an entrepreneurial dream many fantasize about.

 

 

  

 

  

The restaurants were funded by a small loan from a family member, plus personal savings. One member of the team is Vikram Vij, who’s originally from India. He was able to use talent, determination and dedication to help the restaurants prosper.[9] Vij and his wife Meeru have even written two acclaimed books.

   

      Vijs Indian Cookbooks 600px

Image via www.vijs.ca

   

   

Clearly, there’s not a single path that leads an emerging brand to cult brand status. However, a combination of key factors, such as cultivating desirable brand characteristics, a skilled team with a visionary leader, unwavering focus with a clear strategic brand vision and an exclusivity or scarcity strategy can result in impressive outcomes.

 

 

Key Takeaways

 

  • Cult brands must meet a need or solve a problem in at least one way that’s significantly superior to competitors

 

 

  • Cult brands are inspiring, yet relatable

 

  • People are often more forgiving of cult brands

 

 

  • Cult brands often encompass desirable lifestyles

 

 

 

Questions to Consider

 

  • Can you identify one or more desirable personality traits your brand possesses that may help it reach cult status?

 

  • What positive associations or lifestyles relate to your brand?

 

  • Can you think of a situation where it may be detrimental or inappropriate to use a scarcity strategy?

 

  • Which problems does your brand solve for consumers?

 

  • In what ways do you think your brand makes others feel inspired?

 

 

 

 

You may also like:

 

• What Customers Want: Top 16 Branding Trends in 2016

 

• Rebranding Strategy: Why Your Rebrand Must Embrace Storytelling

 

• Top 10 Packaging Trends for 2016

 

• Limited Edition Packaging: How to Use it as Part of Your Brand Strategy

 

• Brand Profiling: Top 6 Components to Creating a Strong Brand Personality

 

• Brand Audits: Why You Need Them and How to Perform One

 

• Creating New Brands: Top 10 Tips for Brand Success  

  

• Colour Psychology: Cracking the Colour Code for Profitable Branding

  

• Brand Personality: Is Your Brand’s Character Big Enough to Compete?

  

• Luxury Branding: How to Establish or Re-Position Your High-End Brand

 

 

 

[1] Sam Colt, uk.businessnsider.com, “15 Mind-Blowing Facts About Apple’s Latest Quarter,” January 2015.

[2] http://www.cultbranding.com, “Cult Brand Defined.”

[3] Antonio Marazza, http://www.forbes.com, “A Survival Guide for Symbolic and Lifestyle Brands,” October 2013.

[4] Jessica Farris, http://www.printmag.com, “Branding Lifestyles: What Does Your Brand Represent?” September 2014.

[5] Frank Cowell, “http://www.elevatoragency.com, “Why Your Brand Needs Its Own Language”

[6] Dave Llorens, http://www.huffingtonpost.com, “8 Cult Lessons That Will Help You Build Your Brand,” December 2013.

[7] Vanessa Grigoriadis, http://www.vanityfair.com, “Riding High,” August 2012.

[8] Danielle Sacks, http://www.fastcompany.com, “How Jenna Lyons Transformed J.Crew Into a Cult Brand,” April 2013.

[9] smallbusinessbc.ca, “Meet Vikram Vij, CBC Dragon, Vij’s Restaurant, My Shanti, Rangoli and Vij’s At Home”

  

  

Top 10 Branding Articles in 2015

Are you curious which Persona Branding and Design articles have been the most popular over the past year?

 

We’re always interested to see which of our posts resonate most with you, our reader. Even though we do lots of research and planning, there are no guarantees which topics will trigger the most interest.

 

Here you’ll find an insider’s peek into our top ten most popular branding articles of 2015, some of which you might have missed.

 

I’m sure you’ll find at least one that will be very useful to your business in the year ahead.

Wishing you growing success in 2016!

   

  

Top 10 Branding Articles In 2015 600px

  

   

1. Rebranding Strategy: Why Your Rebrand Must Embrace Storytelling

 

The differences between a tired, old, has-been of a brand and a fresh, lithe and provocative one can be boiled down to a singular concept: storytelling. The art of telling a story, and telling it well, is integral to grabbing every potential customer’s attention, and a key part of your brand strategy.

 

The secret to success in the elegant art of storytelling lies in understanding its fundamental components. Though by no means comprehensive, what follows is a breakdown of some major elements that any good story should include. These are in fact some of the key ingredients we incorporate in our Story Selling System™ used when developing our clients’ brand stories:

 

The Top 5 Components of a Great Brand Story are as follows…

    

  

 Open Book 600px

   

  

2. Creating New Brands: Top 10 Tips for Brand Success  

 

Launching a new brand is both exciting and challenging. The excitement comes in the promise of something fresh and new that could be wildly successful, be it for your well established, emerging or new start-up company — and the challenge comes in getting it right the first time.

  

Evaluating, articulating, developing and documenting your new brand’s position and purpose is crucial to building a strong successful brand.

  

It provides the roadmap and rationale to get you out of the starting blocks and heading in the right direction towards your ultimate success. And similar to your business plan, it’s also a key foundation to any successful business, be it product or service.

 

The question here is, do you know the key ingredients required for building a new brand?

 

To help you move in the right direction with your branding here are some of the elements we typically include in our branding process every time we’re working with a client to help them build their brand, whether it’s revitalizing an existing brand or launching a totally new brand to market.

 

These are actionable points which you should reference and evaluate before you launch your new brand, product or service, to market.

   

   

 Top 10 Branding Tips For Success 600px 


  

3. What Customers Want: Top 16 Branding Trends in 2016

 

More than a half century ago, the customer-centric branding pioneer Walter Landor said, “Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind.” [1] In 2016, the path to that consumer experience is a two-way street, and guess who’s in the driver’s seat? Brands with strong personality are the winners, because consumers equate experiences with brands.

  

Branding keywords for 2016 include: personalized, authentic, humanized, interactive, engaging, and mobile.

 

We take a closer look at some outstanding examples from brands that illustrate key 2016 on-trend pointers to successfully target today’s customers.

  

 

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Image via www.edelman.com

 

 

4. Brand Profiling: Top 6 Components to Creating a Strong Brand Personality  

 

Your brand is much more than merely a product or service, or a logo. Brands are an experience—the relationship between your business and your customers—and to create an exceptional customer experience, your brand must have an irresistible personality.

 

To quote Martyn Newman PhD “In the information age and globalised economy where values and meaning matter more in the market place, the value of emotional capital increases. This creates brand value and goodwill and results in repeat sales through customer loyalty, lifetime relationships and referrals. In other words, the brand is more than a name or a logo; it creates trust and recognition and is a promise and an emotional contract with each customer.”

 

Brand profiling is the systematic process of creating, developing and implementing your brand character and personality through shaping its brand promise, values, the do’s and don’ts of its behaviours, story, emotional benefits, its culture and what it stands for and so forth.

 

It’s this humanized entity that gets your brand message out into the market, cuts through the noise and gets the attention of your primary customers in a way that matters to them.

 

When creating and developing the profiles for our clients’ brands we use our bespoke Personality Profile Performer™, a systematic approach which underpins the commercial, rational, and holistic aspects of successful brand profile building.

 

The following six key elements are representative of some of the core ingredients included within this branding process, used to create and deploy a compelling personality for your brand.

  

  

 Martyn Newman Brands And Emotion

Image via www.eqsummit.com

 

 

5. Co-Branding: 13 Tips for Growing Your Brand Through Strategic Partnerships 

 

Co-branding is defined as a partnership between brands. It typically works best when Brand A partners with Brand B, each with a different set of customers and brand associations of their own.

 

As in the expression, “the whole is bigger than the parts,” co-branding can add value when synergy exists between the brands; it creates an emotional energy, starts conversations and creates buzz around both partners and can delivery significantly increased financial returns for all involved when done right.

  

In addition to brand revitalization, co-branding objectives may include getting more bang for your buck, growing market share, building audience reach and altering perceived positioning. Co-branding is primarily used an alliance of two brand partners, although there’s no rule against bringing three or more to the party.

 

Checkout here:

• The Top 7 Benefits of Co-Branding

• 5 Co-Branding Risk Management Guidelines

• The Top 6 Tips for Co-Branding Success

with case studies and examples of who’s done it really well.

  

 

 Co Branding Multiple Examples 600px

Infographic via www.missvinc.om

 

 

6. Colour Psychology: Cracking the Colour Code for Profitable Branding

 

Colour increases brand recognition by 80%. 93% of shoppers consider visual appearance over all other factors while shopping. It adds huge power to communications, opinions, recall and emotive influence. In fact when used correctly, colour is a pivotal tool to substantially influence purchasing decisions, service or product.

  

Since colour choices impact every aspect of a commercial enterprise, brand owners should aggressively re-evaluate that choice throughout their brand strategy.

  

The question is, has your brand’s colour palette been selected with the right intent and applied to best possible effect throughout all your brand communications and touch points to ensure your brand grow and increased profitability?

  

Find out more about why colour matters and how you can use it more effectively within your business.

 

  

 Colour Infographic Cropped 600px

Infographic via Blueberry Labs

  

 

7. Packaging Design: How to Make it into an Irresistible Customer Brand Magnet

 

The growing proliferation of multiple different brands in the market place has made customers spoilt for choice, but often at the expense of easy decision-making.

 

When presented with an assortment of packaging options in which nothing decisively stands out, with a compellingly clear message that speaks to a customer succinctly, analysis paralysis sets in. It’s when faced with this situation that a confused shopper will typically default to making decisions based on price alone.

 

The question here is, where does your brand sit in the mix?

 

Leading brands cut through the visual and cognitive noise created by an oversaturated market full of aggressive competitors and hook their ideal customers by meeting their needs both emotionally and rationally.

 

Here’s how…  

 

 

 Marmite Limited Editions 600px

Image via www.marmite.co.uk

 

 

8. Luxury Branding: How to Establish or Re-Position Your High-End Brand   

  

The combined value of the various luxury goods markets in 2014 was an estimated 865 billion euros, with luxury cars, personal luxury goods and luxury hospitality taking the top three places, with values of 351 billion, 223 billion and 150 billion respectively.

 

You might think those statistics make luxury branding a very interesting sector, however if you want to reposition or establish your brand targeted at a high-end customer then there are six keys factors you need to consider within your brand strategy.

 

Firstly there are four main characteristics by which the luxury customer defines a luxury brand. However the way in which someone perceives luxury will depend on factors ranging from their socio-economic status to their geographical location.

 

Here are the four main characteristics by which luxury brands are defined together with the six key brand strategies for building a winning luxury brand. 

  

  

Super Rich Shopping Habits Infographic 600px 

Infographic via Raconteur.net

 

 

9. Millennial Branding: 6 Ways Your Brand Can Appeal to Millennial Customers

 

Millennials, the newest generation of influential consumers (also known as Generation Y or Gen Y), spend more than $600 billion dollars annually with spending power expected to reach $1.4 trillion by 2020, (or 30% of US sales) according to Accenture 2013 research.

 

While these statistics sounds like ‘gold bullion’ for many brands, in our experience often smaller companies and organisations struggle to develop their brand strategy in a way that relates relevantly to this fast changing group of buyers.

 

Millennial consumers are a very fluid constantly moving target with multiple devices overflowing with content clamouring for their attention 24/7. However once you really understand this discerning consumer properly and tailor your brand to really meet their needs, you can, like many others tap into this incredibly lucrative market.

 

Here are our top 6 key brand attributes you need to consider when developing your brand strategy to attract your Millennial customer.

   

   

 Millennial Entrepreneur 600px

 

 

10. Video Brand Strategy: Top 11 Tips for How and Why You Need to Use Video

 

The average consumer spends 88% more time on content with video and video is shared 1200% more times than links and text combined. A landing page with video gets 800% more conversion than the same page without video.

   

If you ever thought using video to promote your brand was too difficult or beyond your reach these statistics might make you think again.

 

Find out exactly how you can use video to grow your brand here.

 

You can even find out how one small start up brand used video to achieve worldwide distribution and now has more online viewers than its competing massive global brands combined!

  

  

 You Tube 360 600px

Image via Google / YouTube

 

 

Did your favourite post feature in one these top 10 branding articles of 2015? If there was an alternative that was your first preference, drop us a line and let us know. 

 

Meantime I’d love to keep you up to date with what’s happening in the world of branding and make this blog really useful to you. If there’s anything branding related you would like to read about in this blog or if you have any questions or comments, suggestions for a blog post, feedback or even just to say Hi, just send me a short note, I’m here to help!

E: brand@personadesign.ie

or give me a call at Tel: +353 1 8322724

 

Wishing you increasing success in the year ahead!

  

  

   

Luxury Branding: How to Establish or Re-Position Your High-End Brand

The combined value of the various luxury goods markets in 2014 was an estimated 865 billion euros, with luxury cars, personal luxury goods and luxury hospitality taking the top three places, with values of 351 billion, 223 billion and 150 billion respectively. [1]

 

In order to understand the branding strategies developed and utilized by the top luxury brands, those who have maintained their reputation for over several decades, as well as those that have successfully re-positioned themselves as high-end brands, we must first look at the very definition of luxury.

 

There are four main characteristics by which the luxury customer defines a luxury brand:

  • Quality
  • Craftsmanship
  • Exclusivity
  • Elegance

 

However, the way in which someone perceives luxury will depend on factors ranging from their socio-economic status to their geographical location. According to latest Albatross Global Solutions and Numberly study, “The Journey of a Luxury Consumer”, people from different parts of the world prioritize the order of importance of these key factors differently when defining luxury goods. For example, an overwhelming majority of luxury consumers worldwide value quality above all else, however, UK luxury consumers place more importance on craftsmanship, while elegance plays a more vital role when it comes the global luxury market.

 

Since customer preferences and definitions can vary from one jurisdiction to another, luxury brands need to tailor their brand communications strategy for each of the relevant market segments they are targeting, while remaining true to their core brand values, brand DNA and brand story. It can be challenging but with the right brand strategy it can be hugely rewarding, as evidenced by Louis Vuitton and their distinctly different approach to marketing their luxury brand in Japan.

 

The brand collaborated with Japanese artist Takashi Murakami in the early 2000’s to create a more colourful version of their classic monogram, and even reduced prices slightly during the economic crisis, to retain its position on the Japanese luxury market. However, it performed best when focusing on the quality and craftsmanship aspects of luxury brand on the Japanese market, as opposed to the allure of exclusivity and elegance — that had a greater impact with their customers in Western countries.

   

    

Luxury is About Exclusivity

In order to thrive, a luxury brand needs to secure its own unique corner of the market. Premiumisation strategies or high price points are designed to attract a particular kind of customer while alienating others – the high quality, and the unique experience that a luxury brand provides will not be right for everyone, nor should it be. To quote the head of Lexus Europe, Alain Uyttenhoven: “Our cars won’t please everyone.”

 

The brand strategy developed and deployed in different jurisdictions often varies because the definition of luxury changes amongst consumers as we move around the world and up the socio-economic ladder. Also, some of the top luxury brands strategically choose to stay out of the most obvious limelight. Very subtle marketing and the fact that the general public isn’t necessarily aware of their existence creates a unique aura of mystique and exclusivity. It also alludes to the fact that high-quality craftsmanship and aesthetics are amongst luxury brands’ highest priorities, values which are not compromised by things such as price sensitivities.

 

The brands at the very top of the luxury spectrum are not necessarily bound by the same constrictions of the more mainstream ‘accessible’ luxury or premium sector. Indeed, more exceptionally wealthy clientele might perceive price tags or ostentatious displays of affluence as lacking in taste in certain markets. In fact, there is a wise old saying in the luxury yacht industry: “If you have to ask about the price, you probably can’t afford it.”

     

     Super Rich Shopping Habits Infographic 600px

Infographic via Raconteur.net

 

 

The French purveyor of personalized luggage, Goyard, is a fine example of a luxury fashion brand that has retained its high-end status for over a century, continually prospering without engaging in many of the strategies that are considered to be the cornerstones of effective mainstream marketing.

  

The brand favours direct sales and word of mouth marketing over media hype, large-scale advertising and online sales, even though Goyard has thousands of followers on several social media platforms, including the luxury brand’s newly launched YouTube channel.

 

   

   

  

This extreme level of exclusivity amongst long established luxury brands, e.g. specialising in a single product category to the point of elevating a brand to the level of art or supreme craftsmanship, can be used as one element of a brand strategy to create distinction and separate it from the rest of the market, but it can also be a more challenging route for newer entrants to the luxury market.

 

The luxury landscape is changing, and a brand can quickly become irrelevant if it lacks online exposure. Millennials are close to outspending Baby Boomers, according to a Berglass + Associates and Women’s Wear Daily study that explored the retail industry, which means that a brand has to account for the values that drive Millennials when developing their brand strategy.

 

For Millennials the bigger purpose of a brand, its big why, has a significant impact on their purchasing decisions which means that CSR and so forth has a bigger role to play in brand strategy than every before — for this growing audience.

  

The smartphone is an essential component of the Millennial lifestyle because it allows easy access to multiple online platforms and immediate connectivity – 85% of Millennials in the 18-25 age bracket and 86% of those in the 25-34 age bracket own a smartphone[2], while 88% of Millennials use Facebook as their primary news source.[3] For more traditional brands this means embracing new fully integrated brand strategies that wouldn’t have seemed relevant eight to ten years ago.

 

Even luxury brands that are primarily focused on in-store purchases, e.g. Goyard, are investing in social media and reaching out to affluent Millennials. The way that younger generations perceive luxury is markedly different from the way Baby Boomers perceive it, and luxury brands have a challenging task ahead of them – educating Millennials on luxury goods and adapting their brand strategy to fit the Millennial lifestyle.   

 

 

Develop Trademark Brand Symbols and Assets Beyond Just Your Brand Logo

Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé has been virtually unchanged for years, and the silhouette itself is just as recognizable as the logo, brand name and the Spirit of Ecstasy mascot attached to the bonnet.

 

It’s the Rolls-Royce uncompromising commitment to quality craftsmanship and attention to detail that has the brand where it is today. When we work with clients to develop a distinct brand identity that reflects their core brand values, personality, story and communicates their brand message it requires a similar level of focus from everyone working on the project coupled with a deep understanding of the brand’s primary target audience in order to achieve successful results.

  

   

 

  

  

Burberry’s trademark black, tan and red check pattern and Channel No. 5 perfume’s simple, yet elegant bottle design are both instantly recognised by the average consumer. These are distinct, different and memorable brand assets that are as important as the brand names themselves.

  

Founded 150 years ago Burberry is a particularly interesting case study because not long ago it was struggling to maintain a consistent brand identity leading to the brand falling off its luxury positioning, despite its admirable provenance. Inconsistencies in product variants, pricing and communication strategies all combined to undermine the brand. In fact this brand, now worn by Emma Watson and Kate Moss to mention a few high profile names, was once at risk of being considered frumpy before its very successful luxury revitalization strategy was implemented so successfully.

 

It wasn’t until Angela Ahrendts took over as CEO that a long-overdue brand repositioning and brand relaunch was set in motion resulting in the iconic and much sought-after luxury brand we see today. The company was restructured and the sourcing of materials and production was centralised in the UK. Burberry stores were modernized and equipped with iPads, digital displays and audio equipment that enabled the brand to showcase its quality craftsmanship through video material, and to provide a more engaging customer experience.

 

However, the true stroke of genius was the decision to focus on a younger demographic, and utilize social media as a powerful promotional tool. To successfully target the affluent Millennial consumer, Burberry had to diversify its product line and make significant stylistic changes, while at the same time retaining the timeless aesthetic that the brand was once known for.

 

The results of the brand relaunch were astonishing – Burberry doubled their revenue and operating income within five years, and successfully repositioned their brand as a luxury brand. Their famous Burberry check is once again associated with premium quality British craftsmanship.

 

 

Provide a Memorable Brand Experience for Your Customers

With a luxury product, the brand packaging, presentation and shopping experience are just as important as the quality and exclusivity of the product itself. Luxury customers are far from average shoppers, they are wealthy and powerful people with refined tastes. A luxury brand has to engage these customers on multiple levels – spark curiosity, engage all the senses, stimulate the mind, and make an emotional connection.

 

The Gentleman Floris, a new line of luxury men’s grooming products launched by the Floris London, a nearly 300-year-old British family perfumers brand since 1730, uses understated heraldic symbolism on the embossed navy blue packaging to reference its noble origins and royal patronage coupled with its renowned to quality, craftsmanship and rich heritage. The brand story is used eloquently to draw its audience in and sell its brand proposition.

 

We have created many different packaging design solutions for clients over the years, both luxury and FMCG, and when you consider that on average you have less than 9 seconds to engage your customer through the impact your packaging design has on them, it is critical that your customer gets an immediate sense of your brand story, promise and values if you want to close the sale.

 

  Gentleman Floris Gift Set 600px

Image via www.florislondon.com

 

In luxury branding everything from the customer journey to the brand experience and customer service, not to mention the accessories, has to be carefully considered to ensure that it’s elevated to an exceptional level.

 

The brand experience has to be much more personal, which means that staff, your brand ambassadors, must be chosen to fit with your brand values and culture. They need to be fully inducted and trained in all the details of how your brand is lived and experienced, both internally and externally, and how that unique brand experienced is transferred and cultivated with each the individual customer.

 

Sometimes this training may also require the front line staff to make important judgement calls in the heat of the moment, in order to accommodate the customer’s specific needs. At the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, each employee is empowered and trained to anticipate and fulfil their guests needs with an exemplary level of service.[4]

  

 

Ritz Carlton Logo 600px

Image via www.Ritz-Carlton.com

 

 

The Ritz-Carlton is another good example of a luxury brand that successfully maintain its positioning for decades and in fact case studies have been built around its success. The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Centre is now the place where executives from other companies worldwide in many different sectors come to learn The Ritz-Carlton principles of service.

 

The Ritz-Carlton success is due to a number key factors such as they have:

  • A formulated a set of standardized hiring criteria
  • Empowered their front line staff and instituted a standardized brand language
  • A consistent high-end luxury brand experience regardless of location
  • Take note of user feedback, perform regular brand audit health checks
  • Constantly evolved to adapt with the times while staying true to their core brand values

  

The Ritz-Carlton has created an admirable balance between maintaining a consistent brand image and evolving to meet the needs of a new generation of patrons who prefer more authentic interactions with the staff. It’s their uncompromising commitment to excellence which has made them the only brand to win the much sought after US Presidential Baldrige Performance Excellence Award twice, firmly establishing Ritz-Carlton’s positioning as a luxury brand and setting the highest standards for customer service throughout the luxury hotel market.

  

  

Create an Aura of Exclusivity by Limiting Supply

Special limited edition items often become cherished collector’s pieces and dramatically increase in value over the years. In fact, the lack of product availability doesn’t negatively affect a luxury brand they way it might other mainstream brands. Its limited availability to the select few makes it even more appealing to its target customers.

 

Long waiting lists have never deterred Hermès fans, who often wait several months for the privilege of purchasing the brand’s signature Birkin bag. [5] Some of the most popular luxury car brands are the ones with both the highest prices and longest waiting lists. Only the most persistent and loyal customers gain access to these limited items, which enables you as a brand owner or manager to create an elite subgroup within your customer base.

 

The Rolls Royce SG50 Ghost Series II is a prime example of a brand offering a limited edition product to a particular segment of their target demographic, another example of the exclusivity strategy at work, and establish an emotional connection with its customers. In this particular example, Rolls Royce honours the fact that 2015 marks 50 years of Singapore’s independence, helping it increase individualised customer brand relevance and secure an increased market share in one of Asia’s most developed economies, second only to Hong Kong in terms of financial freedom.

 

 

 Rolls Royce Sg50 600px

Image via www.luxuriousmagazine.com   

 

 

The Apple Hermès brand collaboration helped connect the luxury fashion brand connect to a well-developed demographic of tech-savvy affluent Millennials while at the same time opening the horizons of the wealthy Apple users to the allure of a luxurious brand such as Hermès.

 

  

Apple Hermes 600px

Image via www.apple.com

 

 

High-end craftsmanship and a sense of exclusivity have already been associated with both brands, but the halo effect of this collaborative project, the super-luxurious Apple watch, has proved to be quite beneficial in terms of exposing previously unexplored segments of the market to each brand.

  

  

 

  

 

  

Luxury watch aficionados and loyal Hermès customers who are delighted with this new offering will be tempted to explore some of the other Apple devices. On the other hand, the more affluent Apple consumer may easily eschew their previous luxury favourite and make Hermès their alternative preferred choice instead.

 

  

  

 

     

Be Proud of Your Heritage, but Offer Customization to Build an Emotional Connection  

Giving consumers some decision-making power over the production process, even if their contributions are limited to the choice of colour or engraving, accomplishes several things:

  • It turns each product into a personalised more unique item that is to be cherished
  • It creates a more personal connection between the customer and the brand
  • It enhances the overall customer experience

 

Goyard doesn’t offer a diverse product range, but what it does offer is the ability choose from a wide range of colours and styles. A luxury customer can leave the Goyard store safe in the knowledge that the product they have purchased is truly unique, and tailored to their personal tastes.

   

      Goyard Paris 600px

Image via www.Goyard.com

  

  

Luxury brands can also use their geographical location to their advantage. A luxury brand is often associated with its country and region of origin – sparkling wines from the Champagne region have become a key component of many major celebrations, BMW and Mercedes are touted as the epitome of German engineering precision and so on. The brand thus takes on the qualities associated with the local culture. We can use Burberry as a good example once again – its British heritage has been a key component in successfully repositioning the brand as a high-end brand.[6]   

 

  

Create an Epic Brand Story that Mesmerizes Your Customers

A good brand story is instrumental in capturing the imagination of customers, but a luxury brand needs to go beyond mere storytelling and develop a veritable fairy-tale that fully immerses a customer, to the point where he or she wants to become a part of your luxurious world. The brand experience and how that is created lived and experienced is the penultimate test.

  

  

Coco Chanel 600px

  

  

The legend of Coco Chanel and the immense respect consumers still have for the Chanel brand matriarch is a prime example of how effective legends can be in promoting a luxury brand. Her humble beginnings, timeless style and daring persona are woven into a narrative that all ambitious, independent, fashionable and adventurous women around the world find inspiring.

  

    

  

  

  

On the other hand, we have brands with a proud and storied history, such as White’s Gentlemen’s Club in London, which has no intention of expanding or opening its doors to anyone but the most select clientele.

   

     Goyard Paris History 600px

Image via www.Goyard.com

 

 

Much like Goyard, White’s has no need for heavily resourced marketing campaigns, as it relies on its few elite “members” for word of mouth marketing. With patrons like Prince Charles and several British Prime Ministers gracing the bar and gaming rooms with their presence, being a member of White’s Gentlemen’s Club is considered a privilege. Even David Cameron’s vocal critique of men-only clubs and the fact that the British Prime Minister resigned from White’s did little to tarnish the reputation built on several centuries of myth and legend.   

    

Key Takeaways to Consider

In conclusion, here are some key points to keep front of mind when re-evaluating your luxury branding or premiumization brand strategy:

  • Ultra premium luxury brands often use understated branding strategies coupled with word of mouth, but offer unmatched top end quality and exclusivity   
  • Brands that have successfully repositioned themselves have invested in brand audit health checks and embraced the affluent Millennial demographic and use social media to spread brand awareness
  • Luxury brands that have successfully maintained their positioning for decades have used their provenance and leveraged near mythical brand stories to maintain brand distinction, but continued researching the market and changing trends regularly, and encouraged customer feedback to maintain relevance
  • Providing an exceptional customer experience in-store, through empowering frontline staff and developing a consistent brand language, is very important, as a majority of luxury consumers make their purchases in person
  • Involving customers in the production process enables a luxury brand to personalise its offering with a diversified range of unique variations, even if it doesn’t have an extensive reach across multiple categories
  • Collaborating with a brand that has a significantly different customer base and brand associations can produce a halo effect that is highly beneficial for both brands

 

You may also like:

  

• Co-Branding: 13 Tips for Growing Your Brand Through Strategic Partnerships 

 

• Brand Audit: Tips for Determining Your Brand’s Health – Can it be Improved?

 

• Rebranding Strategy: Why Your Rebrand Must Embrace Storytelling

 

• Rebranding Strategy: Using Premium Repositioning To Increase Profitability 

 

• Colour in Brand Strategy: Colour Psychology and How it Influences Branding

 

• Video Brand Strategy: Top 11 Tips for How and Why You Need to Use Video

     

• Creating New Brands: Top 10 Tips for Brand Success  

   

• Brand Profiling: Top 6 Components to Creating a Strong Brand Personality

 

• Millennial Branding: 6 Ways Your Brand Can Appeal to Millennial Customers 

   

So, what do you think?

• Have you performed a brand audit to identify the holes in your luxury branding strategy?

  

• Is your brand utilising social media to its fullest potential and reaching out to affluent Millennials?

 

• Are you using appropriate brand language?

 

• Have you created a consistent brand image?

 

• Have you considered how you can make your brand more profitable by changing your brand strategy with a premiumization approach to reposition your brand, create an aura of exclusivity and attract luxury consumers?

 

• Do you have an exceptionally engaging brand story that elevates the brand to legendary status and could be leveraged to better effect with a rebranding?

 

[1] Statista.com, Value of various global luxury markets in 2014, by market type (in billion euros)

[2] Nielsen, Mobile Millennials: Over 85% of Generation Y Owns Smartphones, September 2014

[3] Americanpressinstitute.org, How Millennials Use and Control Social Media, March 2015

[4] Forbes.com, Micah Solomon, Your Customer Service Is Your Branding: The Ritz-Carlton Case Study, September 2015

[5] Uché Okonkwo, Luxury Fashion Branding: Trends, Tactics, Techniques

[6] The Australian, “Paul Smith, Burberry and Mulberry Revive ‘Made in Britain’”, September 2014