Commentary

Luxury Brand Development Is Like Building A House

I’m often asked how much it costs to develop the branding for a new business venture. In response I ask: How much does it cost to build a house? What I mean is that the question is impossible to accurately answer without clarification. 

Certainly, with a few questions I’m usually able to provide a broad price range based on comparable past experiences. But the analogy holds up: Are we talking about a starter home? An architectural masterpiece? Are we renovating an existing structure? On the branding side: What will your brand sell and to whom? What’s the financial model? Does it already exist but requires some updating? 

Luxury branding is about more than an attractive façade. In my brand-as-a-house scenario, luxury brands are like custom, architect-designed homes crafted against carefully considered guidelines and parameters.

Goals and objective

Understanding the goals and objectives of the business and the brand is like getting to know the lifestyle and future plans of the family who will ultimately reside in the house. Step one for both branding agencies and architects almost always involves determining the purpose and functional requirements. Designing and developing for the likes, dislikes and needs of clients is a key concern. In brand development, it’s best to be forward-thinking both financially and in terms of growing into the brand persona, even if you’re not quite there today.

Proper budgeting

Don’t create a money pit. Careful and deliberate planning upfront leads to good budgeting, design decisions and build-out down the road. Improper spending or taking too much time on brand development means your brand and business might fail before it even launches. Having seen too many businesses plan poorly for branding and design implementation, I recommend a contingency fund be set aside. This may need to be tapped into for a “while you’re at it” (adding additional images to a pre-planned photo shoot) or could be used for an unexpected opportunity (deciding to sponsor an event). In any case, it’s good to have a cushion.

Maintenance and looking ahead

Preparing for maintenance and upkeep is key to long-lasting homeowner happiness and enduring brand success. Budgeting and carefully considering your new location and lifestyle is like developing programming for your brand. After the house is built, you have to acclimate to everything that goes into living in a new place (commute, neighbors, etc.). Just as these lifestyle changes need to get worked out, your brand needs to engage consumers in a way that is 100% on-brand and appropriate to its new positioning, look and feel. “Build it and they will come” no longer applies. In today’s world of 24/7 connection and communication, an ongoing, strategy-driven activation plan is critical.

So does the analogy stand-up for non-luxury brands? I suppose so. But it’s especially applicable to luxury brands for one crucial reason. Other types of brands (mass, value, etc.) can configure their offerings around “cheapest” or “fastest.” To play out the house analogy, they can turn a quick buck – a “contractor’s special” – and leave the buyer to do their own upgrades or live with subpar fixtures. Luxury brands cannot (and hopefully would never) think of their brand in this way. They have to be totally focused on quality and experience in order to justify the premium pricing associated with their offering. The “house” built by the luxury brand is more than a façade; it has to be a considered series of interesting and engaging rooms that deliver a sense of deserved comfort, well-being, care and overall excellence.

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