What luxury brands do consumers talk most about? Which ones are the sexiest, most in vogue, best at brand promise, best at customer service, best social appeal, and best emotional appeal? We completed a study that answers these questions.
But the top finding is that there is a shift toward “affordable luxury,” the move to brands that are luxury in perception (inwardly by the buyer and perception of others) but are within reasonable budget parameters. Another key finding is that “practicality” is finding its way into the luxury space. This is reflected in greater emphasis on the brand promise and on functional appeal. It is important for brands to understand that consumers are looking for practical products in the luxury market, more than ever before.
The study analyzed over 10,000 consumer conversations across a broad cross-section of social media platforms to understand consumer purchase and brand preferences in the luxury market. Findings reveal consumer sentiments toward both the category as well as specific brands and identify specific equities that brands can own. Ten brands were included in the study: Burberry, Coach, Dolce & Gabbana, Giorgio Armani, Gucci, Hugo Boss, Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren, Swarovski and Tiffany. Hugo Boss had the most favorable conversations at 88%, followed by Coach and Armani at 68% each.
Brand promise is the most important benefit category for luxury brands, claiming 42% of conversations, followed by functional appeal, product experience, emotional appeal, and social appeal. Consumers define brand promise differently for different brands. Consumers associate the luxury category and most specifically Tiffany, Hugo Boss and Giorgio Armani with the brand promise of “upscale” as measured by consumer buzz around price and snob value of “unaffordable to most people.” “Quality standards” is another important promise for the luxury category, which consumers qualify in terms of materials and craftsmanship. Burberry and Tiffany share the most positive buzz around the sentiment, which consumers generally associate with quality materials and craftsmanship. It is interesting to note that consumers also overwhelming associate Burberry – more than any other brand — with the brand promise of individuality as defined by uniqueness and character.
Functional appeal is the second most important benefit category for luxury brands, which includes qualities of value justification, durability, convenience, customer service and performance. Conversations show that Tiffany owns the positive buzz around value justification – specifically, consumers believe they can justify the cost because of the resale value. Louis Vuitton and Coach share the positive conversations around durability. Consumers simply expect luxury bags and wallets to last longer. Consumers associate convenience — ease of use, wearability, multipurpose — most positively and most often with Coach, followed by Burberry. Customer service is an important quality for these consumers. Repairs and warranties become the primary measure of good customer service. Consumers have the strongest positive performance perceptions for Hugo Boss and Dolce & Gabbana.
Product experience ranks third in benefit categories identified. Aesthetics – a subset of product experience — is the most important factor in the luxury goods industry that spans across multiple product categories. Consumers define aesthetics in terms of overall looks (perception of overall design and appearance), elegance and colors. Consumers associate design excellence with Coach, elegance with Gucci, colors and elegance with Burberry.
Ranked 4 is emotional appeal, which is defined in terms of brand affinity and indulgence. Brand affinity, which often drives loyalty and advocacy in luxury brands, has high consumer sentiment for the category and, in particular, for Coach and Hugo Boss. Split 50/50, consumers qualify indulgence in terms of “expressions of love,” such as gifting, and “self-gratification.” Interestingly, women often justify the guilt of expensive luxury products with self-gratification. Louis Vuitton owns the positive buzz around indulgence.
Social appeal is the 5th ranked benefit. Consumers define the sentiment in terms of “in vogue,” status symbol, and sex appeal. Tiffany dominates the positive consumer sentiment around “in vogue” followed closely by Burberry and Louis Vuitton. Ralph Lauren and Burberry lead positive buzz around status symbol which consumers predominately discuss in context of apparel. As for sex appeal, consumers find Hugo Boss and Giorgio Armani the sexiest brands of those studied.