Luxury businesses must connect with customers in more imaginative ways than ever before in today’s competitive market. Traditional luxury fashion and accessory firms are expanding into the mass market, while mainstream brands are pushing up into the premium sector. To maintain its cachet and mystery, true luxury must differentiate itself in a clever and distinctive way

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Create a one-of-a-kind customization offer:

Luxury used to be handcrafted by craftsmen to the customer’s specifications, and it was so expensive that only the super-rich could afford it. Few people today have one-of-a-kind things manufactured, but many luxury brands’ marketing methods contain elements of personalisation.

You can participate in the creation of Louis Vuitton shoes, bags, and trunks, while MyMuesli’s premium custom-mixed cereal gives you the option of grains, fruits, seeds, and nuts. Absolut Vodka deserves kudos for using color-generating machines to create four million bottles with unique designs and numbers.

Customization sets luxury brands apart – and emphasises the brand’s craftsmanship, quality, and innovation.

To develop an emotional connection, heighten the senses:

As organisations clamour to identify themselves and develop connections with customers on several levels, sensory branding has become big business, especially in the luxury retail and hospitality industries.

Both Rolls Royce and Eton shirts harness the power of scent by imbuing their products with appropriate scents: the premium automobile company imbues every new car with a blend of mahogany wood, leather, and oil, while the luxury Swedish shirtmaker infuses each piece with the perfume of freshly laundered cotton.

In every new Rolls Royce, a blend of mahogany wood, leather, and oil is diffused to recreate the sense of older cars.

We’re used to hearing sound associated with businesses through TV and radio jingles, but Soundwich in Portugal delivers gourmet sandwiches in boxes that play music selected by the chef, and the Westin hotel group provides a carefully customised soundtrack to create a relaxing ambience in public spaces. Of course, as sensory identifiers act at a deep, subconscious level, Apple, Nokia, and Samsung invest considerably in producing appropriate noises that are readily identifiable.

Including tactics to engage the senses in your luxury brand marketing develops strong relationships and associations for luxury businesses (read our post on emotional branding).

Consider your category in a new light:

Apple did it; they took a technical device that required an IT degree to operate and tailored it to the customer – and turned it into a fashion statement. Starbucks offered take-out coffee, which altered our perception of the beverage. Ladurée, the upscale macaron maker, used their confections as inspiration for a range of almond-based beauty products.

You evaluate your product or service, including how it’s made or delivered, and how people use it – and perhaps draw inspiration from a different category to give it fresh life.

Customers should be immersed in your brand’s ethos:

Luxury fashion and lifestyle firms have long invested in surroundings that allow buyers to sense the brand’s cachet – and form strong emotional bonds with it. As a result, Viktor & Rolf’s insane fashionistas created an upside-down store in Milan to proclaim their anarchic approach to design, while Abercrombie & Fitch dressed up mainstream preppy apparel as a nightlife experience.

What flavour do you offer your brand, though? Jimmy Choo actually took it to the next level by designing a high tea at Hong Kong’s Landmark Oriental Hotel, complete with sandwiches, scones, and macarons handcrafted in the shape of gorgeous shoes and handbags. The Bentley Suite is located on the 15th floor of the St Regis New York, and it has leather and colours that evoke the particular cocooning that drivers and passengers enjoy when inside a Bentley. Burberry’s Creative Director Christopher Bailey produced a digital weather experience that poured clear confetti with leaves blown about by wind machines, transporting customers to England on a spiritual trip.

Creating a carefully chosen physical location for your luxury brand and welcoming customers into it is a great way of communicating your message.

When Burberry launched their flagship shop in Taipei, they devised a digital weather experience that rained clear confetti with leaves blown around by wind machines, transporting clients on a spiritual journey to England.

Control who has access to your brand:

As luxury has been more democratised, logos have become ubiquitous, attention-grabbing ways of declaring our ownership of an expensive object.

The power of limiting supply or access has been realised by some luxury businesses. Even high-street brands are taking up on limiting supply, especially H&M and its time-sensitive stream of collaborations with the likes of Karl Lagerfeld and Marc Jacobs that create mystery and urgency, as part of the allure of the Hermès Birkin bag was its six-year waiting list.

Tom Ford displayed real exclusivity by hosting a fashion show for a hand-selected audience, each of whom was personally invited by phone; there were no press photographers there, Tom hosted the show himself, and friends Beyoncé and Julianne Moore modelled. It went against the fashion industry’s objective for maximum exposure. A product, service, or experience that has a limited quantity appears to be more valuable.

Make it unique:

Given that most luxury firms have adopted a mass market strategy of introducing lower-cost lines in order to increase sales, true luxury must stand out by maintaining consistently high quality.

Luxury businesses can convey their exclusivity in a variety of imaginative ways, resulting in not only purchases but also a profound emotional bond that can last a lifetime. Perhaps you could get your business cards scented or created out of an interesting material? Perhaps heat or light-sensitive carrier bags, or a sales brochure with customised elements? The options are limitless….

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