One of my Startup Students is in the process of rebranding. She’s not where she wants to be in her business. Her ICA (ideal customer avatar) can’t be found on her customer list, and she was on the brink of giving up. Yeah, I wouldn’t let her do that.
After talking to her for a bit, I asked her how she wanted her business and brand to be portrayed. One word that stood out: luxury. She wants to have a product that is perceived to be luxurious. I was straight up and honest with her. Her existing branding said the exact opposite of luxury. So I gave her an assignment.
She did her ICA homework well. She knew who she wanted to target, what her ICA was like, and where her ICA liked to shop. My assignment was to have her go to the websites of the places her ICA loves to shop at. Find luxury products offered in those stores, and find the consistencies.
Now, there’s different levels of luxury. There’s within reach luxury, and there’s “you gotta have 7 zeros in your bank account religiously to justify buying from this place” luxury. An example of the former would be stores like Neiman Marcus or Bloomingdales. I can at least go in those stores and potentially walk out with something in my bag. An example of the latter would be stores like Hublot or Tiffany & Co. I would probably start itching within 100 feet of the entrance of both stores.
So what does the word “luxury” mean for you? I want you to do the assignment yourself, but here are 2 characteristics of a luxury brand to get your wheels turning:
A Luxury Brand Has a Luxury Price
Just like I mentioned above, there are different levels of luxury. One of those levels is the price tag. No matter how you slice it, a luxury brand is going to command a higher price for its product. Look at Apple! Windows users have been scoffing at Apple fanboys and fangirls for spending $1,000+ on a computer that did the same (if not less) than theirs did at a fraction of the price. But the price tag matches the perceived value.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “you get what you pay for”. You usually hear this when you buy something that’s cheaper than the standard product, and it ends up disappointing you. Luxury brands feel that their product is superior to the base models on the market, which means it has a higher value and it must be sold for a higher price.
One brand I see that’s using price to establish themselves is Goop. Goop is a “modern lifestyle brand” for beauty, fashion, homegoods, and wellness stuff designed by Gwyneth Paltrow. Gwyneth is my girl solely by association to Bey & Jay. So when I found out about her brand, I figured I’d check it out.
My. God. Someone really should’ve hit me with a “Briana, you in danger girl” before I took a look at the Goop online store. Gwyn is pushing a 30-day pack of vitamins for $90. I repeat. Gwyn is pushing a 30-day pack of vitamins for $90! Girl, what?! The same vitamins I can buy in the pharmacy for like, what, 12 bucks? And shoot, at least those are chewable!
I flinched the entire time I looked at a new part of the website. And they had the nerve to have a sale banner said “It’s like we’re giving it away. Up to 70% Off”. Hmm, well let’s see here. They marked down a $60 racerback sports bra to $18. There’s a $64 pair of briefs marked down to $19. That’s draws, y’all! And that’s just sorting the “sale” items from lowest to highest.
If you go the other way on that “sale” page, sticker shock goes HAM. A super cute strapless tuxedo jumpsuit, perfect for your auntie to stunt on the next Tom Joyner Cruise, started at $2,725. And by golly, Goop marked it down to $818. I’m sorry, but my auntie would be missing that cruise. They’re even selling body lotion in Caprisun-looking packaging for $18 after it was marked down from $59. Opt me out bruh.
But! That’s just it. Gwyneth isn’t catering to my broke ass. She’s Gwyneth freaking Paltrow. She gave us… um… Shallow Hal (Sorry girl, I tried. Sidebar / fun fact: did you know she had an uncredited cameo appearance in Higher Learning? The more you know). She’s not putting her name on just any ol’ brand. Issa luxury brand, so she’s going to put luxury prices on her products. Yes, even the draws, y’all.
Luxury brands are not going to come out looking like “whodunit” as my granny would say. (Kanye seems to be the exception to this rule, but I digress). They are dedicated to giving us positive vibes through beautiful, or at least unique, design. I say unique because sometimes, brands get a little too creative with their design. I’m looking at you, Range Rover. Nobody asked for that Evoque design.
Most luxury brands are going for not just beautiful design, but down right sexy. So you see a lot of black, silver, and gold. You see lots of white space, clean lines, and simple but elegant fonts. You’ll get bling, but luxury is about knowing where the line is drawn before it looks gaudy. You might see florals. And you’ll definitely see marble.
One thing I’m noticing more when it comes to marketing luxury products visually, there’s almost always a gorgeous view of a cityscape or water. The lighting has to be just right, either natural or a sultry set up. The background has to be minimalistic (as to not take away from the product itself). Because you’re selling more than a product. Luxury products complement a lifestyle.
One of my previous clients is Gwen Jimmere, the founder of the natural hair care brand Naturalicious. When I started working with Gwen, she was going through a complete rebrand, from top to bottom. When she sent me her ICA information, one of the things she mentioned was that her ideal customer’s purchasing decision was highly influenced by “great packaging”.
So what did we do? We revamped the packaging. With a new look came a new feel for her target audience. The packaging she did herself got her where she needed to go. She was even selected to sell her products in Whole Foods! But she wanted to go higher and really give her customers an experience. So we created packaging with an alluring aesthetic.
Part of the reason I love buying Apple products is their packaging. It’s very simple with white boxes, clear fonts, and an image of what’s inside. But I’ll be the first to tell you: I keep all of my Apple boxes. “It’s just another white box, Briana.” No no. You can tell that their design team took a lot of time perfecting the boxes, and it’s officially part of the buying process and the customer journey.
Again, I want you to do the assignment too! If you want a luxury brand, do the research. What are other luxury brands in your industry, and out of your industry, doing differently than the “base models”? Look into the difference in quality, scarcity of the product, and customization options. If, at the end of the day, you can’t commit to what’s necessary to make your brand a luxury brand, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being premium instead.