Creating a Luxury Brand in Ten (Not So) Easy Steps

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What makes a luxury brand? And how do you build one?

A friend is creating a new luxury brand of water. Yes. Water. It comes from a hard-to-reach artesian well in the Austrian Alps, contains just the right cocktail of minerals, has a perfect PH balance and is untouched by human hands from source to esophagus. It is delicious. It is natural and healthy. It is expensive. It is also water positioned as a luxury. Brilliant! How is Hallstein Water doing it?

When luxury comes to mind, so do Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Aston Martin, Rolls Royce, Gulf Stream, Opus One, Lalique, the St. Regis and other “high end” expensive consumer brands. We all know them even though not all of us are supporters. These and all luxury brands share three attributes: high quality, scarcity of product and cult of personality. So before you attempt to capture the magic and margin of a luxury brand, make sure you have these in spades.

And beyond that, it’s AP Marketing. From targeting the right customers to generating loyalty among them, do these ten things well and you’ll be on the road to developing a luxury brand. Just remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

1.     Target Market: The right “who” makes all the difference. Determining the best beachhead for building the brand is critical. Who will be most likely to buy the product? To tell others about it? To be loyal? Understanding the ideal market segment for a luxury product is the key to building a brand.

2.     Positioning Strategy: Positioning is the simple articulation of the unique role and relevance of the product in the market. How is it special and differentiated from competitors? And how to articulate this simply and compellingly? Without a unique position brands bang into each other in the market and become confusing to the customer.

3.     Branding: The brand stands for something near and dear to the target market’s heart. What is that? Brands are more than a great product. They hit at the very core of a person’s identity and accentuate it. And every touch point with a customer is an opportunity to reinforce the brand.

4.     Brand Narrative: There is a compelling story behind every brand. What is that story? What is the reason for customers to believe in this brand? Why this brand, why now? A great corporate narrative can go a long way toward building a following.

5.     Evangelists: Breaking new ground in an old market requires that influencers push the brand as much as the company and its customers. Who are the influencers to be targeted here? How do we engage them in telling our story? This is accomplished through influencer marketing.

6.     Piggybacking: Most great brands piggyback on the success of other great brands that do not compete but intersect. What are the options for piggybacking here? Partnerships, strategic alliances, cross promotions, etc. comprise a piggybacking strategy.

7.     Awareness Generation: Nothing happens in brand building without awareness. It is possible to build substantial awareness through a company’s own media channels (website, blog, social media) and its earned ones (press and analysts). The larger the digital footprint a company creates for itself with a compelling story, the more searchable it becomes and the more awareness generated.  This is done through content marketing and public relations. When budgets allow, paid advertising can also play a big role in building a luxury brand. You can start with Google ad words and go all the way to a Super Bowl ad. Targeting these ads is critical. Their placement must align with the target market.

8.     Thought Leadership: Positioning the company at the center of a global conversation that matters can be a very powerful marketing tool. It leads to inclusion in press coverage on the issue, policy discussions related to the issue and expert status for speaking events.

9.     Customer Communication and Community Building: Brands can no longer sustain themselves merely through product sales. A relationship must be established with the customer. Ongoing communication must take place. Dialog is critical. Community building essential.

10. Customer Loyalty: Loyalty fuels the great luxury brands. They establish themselves by further enhancing the lifestyle the purchaser has chosen to adopt. Carefully determining this lifestyle, articulating it in a compelling fashion, making it visible as a “label” for customers, propelling the lifestyle forward are all critical to building a luxury brand. Part of this involves building an emotional connection with your customers and part of it can be accomplished with loyalty program technology.

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