Why Luxury brands aim non-core sectors?

by Alvaro HIDALGO
If in previous entries this blog covered the question of what do brands bring to real estate developments (Do brands really add value to real estate developments? –see http://bit.ly/n8XRj2 and  http://bit.ly/pO0pIn ) this one will cover the other side of the coin: Why Luxury brands would be willing to extend and enter other non-core sectors.

Indeed, global Luxury goods sales (that is, not including hospitality services,  luxury toys -cars, boats and planes-  transportation or property) have continued 2010’s double-digit growth path and will see an increase of 10%, up to €191 billion in 2011.

With such figures and growth outlook, markets expanding rapidly in Asia, then why do they need to extend to other fields? 

Let us not forget that the luxury industry has acquired the status of a driving economic sector not more than 35 years ago. Before that date, they were just a collection of small firms and ateliers....and they had achieved these results by extending the brands.

Indeed, the economic growth resulting from the stable political and economic framework  ensuing  WWII, provided a scenario capable of generating an unprecedented increase in wealth, which started to materialize in the 1960s. The first luxury bubble was to some degree burst by the oil crisis and only the factors allowing the steady growth of this sector came into place in the late 1970s.

Luxury industry which until then was used to sell to a very reduced number of people saw how: (i) Economic growth and increasing wealth enlarged their market base (ii) Travel and Tourism extended the influence to other countries; and (iii) Change in social uses broadened the market potential allowing the introduction of lines of products, some of them accessible to further social strata.

Simultaneously, societies became less and less formal. This resulted in a significant shift in the dressing codes welcoming once common pieces of clothing, even typical of the working class, like jeans.

Nevertheless - or precisely due to this- the need to establish status was still there –as it will always be-, and the natural solution was to add a couple of Luxury complements and apparels to any basic clothing.  This is when the terms “Casual"  and "Chic” came into play together in full force.

All the above changed the landscape of the luxury industry, a whole new market with new rules was born, and the first problem to solve was how to communicate with it. 

Indeed,  the traditional communication method of “Bouche à Oreille” between the well to do was exclusive by nature, but it became rapidly obsolete to attract the rapidly growing affluent.

This change induced decision-makers to face for the first time the dilemma that now represents the cornerstone of the luxury industry:

If to expand clients' base one needs communication and advertising, how is exclusivity maintained when using mass communication channels?  (a question now more present than ever with Internet).

Aside from the careful choice of the communication channel(s), the first step taken was to strip the communication of Luxury of any link to the end product.  The adage in Luxury: “heighten anticipation and maximize desire” was subtly reinterpreted:

If Luxury can be afforded only by those with a certain Lifestyle, then by communicating Lifestyle – instead of focusing on the product- Luxury retains the exclusivity.

This scheme opened the door to mass communication and advertising of Luxury goods and succeeded in making them even more appealing.  Everyone could see then what Lifestlyle is, and could buy a piece of it.

As an example of this de-materialization, if Luxury is Lifestyle, then it is difficult to better showcase this concept  than with the combination of sports , culture, adventure and excellence chosen by Rolex, succeeding to represent each activity and expression by its embodiment through individuals, events and venues (see http://bit.ly/qCaaom). It clearly follows Mr. André Heiniger's, -the old Patron of Rolex- approach, who was once asked: “How’s the watch business?” to which he answered:  “I am not in the watch business, I am in the Luxury business”.

On a larger scale, Perfume makers and distributors understood the power of communication of the fashion industry. In fact, few haut couture houses –if any- can survive without economic support, so fashion became a lifestyle showcase through which the revenue generating activities -sales of perfumes, jewelry and fashion complements- were advertised.

Nevertheless, certain goods, assets -and to some extent, services - are Lifestyle and Luxury in themselves.  Indeed, luxury cars, boats, planes, jewelry, property and hospitality services do not need to evoke anything; they are just the epitome of luxury.....And since these goods or assets are exclusive by nature –and price-, then their communication should do little but show the product.

Is it so?...  maybe not any longer.

Luxury items are expected to provide a pleasure to our senses, are supposed to fulfill our aspirations and desires and must do so based on impeccable design and outstanding materials all wrapped up in superb craftsmanship.  When these elements are reunited, the end product becomes a luxury one, whether it is a watch, a certain wine, a car, a boat, a plane or a property.

Luxury brands know that their business consists in satisfying the most selective individuals in a very competitive sector requiring to maximize exposure.... and this maximization can seldom be achieved by reaching the customers with one field of expertise.

The answer is therefore to extend the brand capacity in as many fields as possible, to maximize the possibilities of satisfying clients’ needs and aspirations.  We already mentioned in previous blogs how this trend was initiated by the merger of LV -a leather atelier-, with MH -a champagne and cognac-, then taken over by Arnault, owner of Parfums Dior. http://bit.ly/pDkgoU .

In a different sector, and in a non conventional approach to brand extension, the traditional marriage between wineries & hospitality has been given a further twist with the “Marqués de Riscal” Spa, in which an excellent winery is married not only with a restaurant & hotel, but extends its scope to a wine focused spa (vinotherapie), all wrapped in stunning Frank Gerhy’s architecture and managed by Starwood Luxury collection…. And as well as being a good business in itself, it provides exposure and access to worldwide markets.

Hotel Marqués de Riscal

It is not by chance then why Luxury brands extend their brand to other fields. They understand the nature of the business, they bring the design and craftsmanship capabilities and they have spent thousands of person/hours not only developing their core-products, but also carrying holistic approach analyses on how to satisfy the most exclusive, selective individuals.

Regarding our specialty -real estate developments and residential tourism- we already covered what  do brands bring to real estate developments, which in a nutshell are the same elements that they bring to other products : Exclusivity, Uniqueness and all round Quality (see our blog entries http://bit.ly/n8XRj2 and  http://bit.ly/pO0pIn - ) and it is clear that brands, in their turn, expect to benefit from the further exposure that such projects provide.

But then, from all the brands available, many can bring Beauty, some will bring Character, but only one can bring  "Power, Beauty and Soul"

For more information please contact FIRSTLOGIC Consulting

Creative Commons License
FIRST LOGIC Consulting Blog by FIRST LOGIC Consulting is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

No comments:

Post a Comment