Luxury Brands Need To Expand Perception of Wealthy

An article last week highlighted Cadillac’s recent commercial featuring French model Magali Amadei. In the spot, eager fathers look on as Amadei’s character picks up her kids at school in the Cadillac SRX while sporting what is clearly work attire, as if she has just come from the office. The commercial is noteworthy, because even here in the 21stcentury, women are rarely portrayed as dominant figures in advertising.  But as our country’s population continues to evolve, whether it is due to the maturing of Millennials, new family dynamics, or a shift in nationalities, the face of the wealthy American will continue to evolve, as well. This means that a shift in luxury product marketing strategy is inevitable. 

For example, a 2012 study conducted by Pulse Opinion Research found that women spend over $300 billion per year on vehicles, a purchase most often associated with the males of the household. Not only that, but a woman’s self-earned wealth could also lead to different life decisions, such as forgoing marriage or children. This could be a culture shock to brands that have become content with depicting women as arm candy. However, as women become stronger forces in the professional world, purchases will fall into their lap more often, meaning that brand messaging needs to adapt by portraying women as breadwinners, rather than simply wives and mothers.

A similar case can be made for the gay population. While it is a misconception that all gays are wealthy (perpetuated by such portrayals of gay couples as the one on the television show “Modern Family”), the fact remains that a significant portion of that population actually does do rather well monetarily. With gay marriage becoming legal in more states, many gay married couples are now making a combined income upwards of $400,000 per year. Instead of publically calling out the fact that they are trying to appeal to gay households, brands should subtly include gay families in their advertising, much as Honey Maid did in 2013. While the media storm that ended up surrounding the commercial made it anything but subtle, the main purpose was to depict a homosexual couple as “everyday,” which they have now become in the eyes of many.

The affluent population is not immune to the changes we are seeing in the makeup of America. While we tend to believe that “the rich” are a group of old, money-hungry white men, this is simply not true in the year 2014. Companies marketing luxury products will need to branch out their messaging to retain loyalty in the future.

1 comment about "Luxury Brands Need To Expand Perception of Wealthy".
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  1. Ronald Stack from Zavee LLC, July 23, 2014 at 12:34 p.m.

    It is undeniable that "the rich" are no longer just cigar-chomping plutocrats from a New Yorker cartoon. And it's true as well that professional women, gay couples, people of color and all sorts of variations thereof and thereon all can be part of the target audience for luxury brands. I doubt this has escaped the attention of luxury brand marketers.

    What's frustrating is the narrowness not of the actual audience the brands perceive but of the aspirational archetypes they create. Men in the ads may be straight or gay, but most of them seem to be architects - a profession whose success rate and job satisfaction are truly mythical. And women may be black or white, but most of them seem to be designers or artists ... who happily down tools when Mr. Moneybags enters the room.

    In other words, brands seem to have a broad understanding of who their customers are, but an unimaginatively narrow view of who they aspire to be. I agree that brands like this are at risk, but not because they have the audience wrong. I think it's because they have the aspiration wrong. I don't think audiences are saying "That's not me!" I think what they are saying is "That's not who I want to become!" And that is something no luxury brand should aspire to hear.

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