I recently started a search for a new car. While I have a fairly good idea of what my budget is and what vehicles fall under what I am willing to spend, one of the most significant observations I have made as a member of the marketing industry is how different brands name their models. Specifically, the tendency for luxury cars to use a series of letters and numbers to describe their models (i.e. the Mercedes C350, Infinity Q50, Cadillac CTS, etc.) is a noticeable trend. Car brands traditionally known for more economic options have recently started to jump on the trend as well, such as Kia, which recently released its K900 starting at around $60,000.
The ways in which car models are named leads to a larger question about luxury marketing; that is, how is it determined when something is a luxury brand and when something is not?
Several factors have affected the way in which luxury brands are viewed and purchased, including the economy and the purchasing habits of Millennials, currently the largest generation in the market. But overall, if brands want to portray themselves as must-haves for the social-elite, then there are a few key factors that they must touch upon.
Price – This might seem obvious, but it is worth the reminder if brands are looking to capture the attention of wealthy consumers. Nothing gives something more importance or relevance when it comes to appealing to societies elite than a big, fat price tag. It doesn’t mean they will necessarily buy it, as we have seen even the wealthy cutting back on spending in recent years. However, it certainly will evoke a certain sense of prestige.
Social Status – What does the purchase of a luxury item say about its purchaser? Many of us have an idea of how we want to be perceived. If a luxury brand is going after a specific target demographic, its first step should be careful research on what motivates that target and the best channel to reach them.
Functionality – Affluent consumers are often on the move. Whether it is at work or on vacation, this means convenience is key. The value of a product will automatically be boosted if a wealthy consumer views it as something that will make his or her life easier.
Individuality – No one wants to be viewed as just part of the crowd; most people want to stand out. Luxury brands should make their consumers feel this way. Allowing features such as customization should not be overlooked. Most affluent consumers are willing to pay a little bit extra if they feel like they have something no one else does.
While there may be more that goes into creating a luxury brand then these characteristics, they are very much a base of what wealthy purchasers desire. So much of branding is perception. If certain brands want to put themselves in a different class, then they have to understand how much rides on the eye of the affluent consumer.