Quick– if you were a luxury brand, which one would it be? Gucci, BMW, Moleskin, Hermes, Dolce & Gabbana, Apple, Lexus, Tiffany, Billy Reid, The Laundress, Baccarat, Coach, Taitinger…..
Are you classic, all-American and consistently deliver superior quality; perhaps you own horses, like Ralph Lauren?
Are you always giving to the less fortunate and share simple tastes and a disdain for high heels, like TOMS?
Are you outdoorsy, concerned about the environment, unconcerned about vacationing without hot showers, like Patagonia?
Do you like to make quality wood products by hand, using Powermatic tools?
Are you exceedingly popular at night for no evident reason like Grey Goose vodka?
Prestige brands of course deliver exceptional quality at a premium price. But that’s only the start.
With a lot more people in the world with a lot more money than ever before, luxury transcends price. With so many millionaires in the world that these high-end brands now have to be concerned with spreading themselves too thinly. They have to balance exclusivity with accessibility.
Even if you feel a bit la-ti-da about luxury brands, you have to admit it’s pretty amazing how someone can shell out $50,o00 (or more) for a wrist watch. [Patek Phillippe] Or $20 for a not very large bottle of detergent to wash sweaters. [The Laundress]
My grandmother swears that her wine tastes far better when served in her Waterford goblets.
It is no longer sufficient for a luxury brand to build from quality ingredients, selling at a higher price. With less faith in the traditional institutions of government, finance and churches, people now have higher expectations for companies, especially upscale. Consider the religious fever for Apple products.
Luxury is more complex and more ethically-minded than it was back in the day. Child labor is not acceptable. Neither is unfair trade or harm to the environment. Or tacky design. It’s about client experience and company values.
Consider the difference between buying a gallon of milk at Wal-Mart and buying that same gallon of milk at Whole Foods. You can certainly buy the organic milk at Wal-Mart, but it’s a totally different experience than buying it at Whole Foods, Fresh Market or even Trader Joe’s.
If your communication is on par with a luxury brand, then when people meet you, they want to invite you to their parties.
Now not everyone hosts parties. Still, that luxury-brand communication is what gets people hired and promoted and attracts clients and romantic entanglements. It’s how people feel around you and it’s not just that they like you.
The thing is, luxury brands don’t sell; they seduce. Nobody *needs* a Mercedes Benz, a Rolex, Allure perfume, a Coach purse or Gucci boots. No one.
Their clients are not only seduced but are eyes-wide-open enthralled by the process of their seduction. Now that’s powerful communication.
Nice ≠ Luxury brand. Nice is necessary, but not sufficient.
Here are 3 key elements of luxury branding that you can adapt to your own communication style.
1. Be truthful. Not being truthful, as Volkswagen is finding out, seriously damages the brand. It’s not something that can be cleared up in the short term.
If you’ve hung out with me, you know about Ethos, the Greek term that refers to being an ethical speaker, one who is trustworthy. Ethos is foundational to any effective message.
2. Be bold. Have enough confidence to lead, while keeping the conversation interesting.
Luxury brands have a clear mission, their own hero’s journey, and they’re not asking for your advice too much. You know what Patagonia, The Laundress and Moleskin (just to name a few) stand for. It’s totally woven into their story (which they create.)
The fact that they write their story doesn’t make it false. If you tell the story of your life, it will differ significantly from the story your older sister tells of your life; that doesn’t make either one false.
3. Explain the why.
If you studied French, recall the term “raison d’etre”. The reason for being. That’s the kind of why people connect with. Luxury brands also have a story that explains their why, the reason they got into business. (Naturally making a quick buck is not the right answer.)
Luxury-brand communication is confident AND clear about the destination, the purpose of the mission and why it’s important.
Be your own luxury-brand communicator when you confidently include these in your messages.
- Your endgame, or core message, in one sentence
- Why it is important to the audience
- Why it matters to you personally
Even if you’re not into paying $50,000 for a Patek watch, even if it is for multiple generations, it’s nice to know you have that option should you ever want to exercise it.
The next time you have an important message, meeting or presentation to work on, think about your favorite luxury brands and what you value in them. Then bring those qualities to your communication and it will become part of your own luxury brand.
If you want to deep dive into luxury branding, I recommend Rethinking Prestige Branding: Secrets of the Ueber Brands by Wolfgang Schaefer and JP Kuehlwein.