Five Ways to Market Prestige Brands

This is an article from us in the current Admap 7/8 2015 – outlining the key tactics of Unselling in modern prestige marketing.

http://www.warc.com/Content/ContentViewer.aspx?MasterContentRef=5111b8c6-dad6-467e-862d-8f5e9fed219c&CID=A105066&PUB=BESTPRAC

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Pride, Provocation, Perfection – Bravo ‘Magnum’

There is an old saying in beauty and fashion: ‘With every millimeter the mouth opens, the price point goes down a notch’. Low priced mass brands can be all smile and approachable in their ads, they even have to be, because their job is to make as many of us as possible like them. Ueber-Brands however have a different goal. Even when playing in more accessible tiers and territories they must create an image of superiority and distinction to justify their price point. And that requires their communication to be projecting a different attitude, namely one of confidence and entitlement. Think of any high end fashion or beauty ad, like Dior Addict for example: Kate Moss looking at you from above, challenging to the point of being condescending, or Daphne Groeneveld, giving herself a ‘head shot’ of beauty or looking right through you. The promise: “Be Iconic”. Obviously, that’s no laughing matter. That is serious work.

The other way for Ueber-Brands to project a feeling of strength and superiority is generally to have the balls to go against the grain: Provocation. It’s a bit less expected and thus more modern. But it’s also more dangerous. Yet that’s the point. When a brand shows the courage to take a clear stance it endears itself to those who want to do the same. It polarizes and that makes it perfect for those who think of themselves as discriminating. It projects a singular attitude and implies it’d be able to imbue you with the same or at least match the one you already have.

A perfect example of both, pride and provocation, and the perfect fusion of the two comes currently from Magnum. Yes, the ice cream brand, not the gun. It’s one of the best winners of this year’s Cannes festival, if not the best for me – especially in its version for Magnum Double.

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Magnum’s new campaign is titled ‘Proudly seeking pleasure’ and that’s exactly what it shows. Accompanied by a haunting rendition of Rihanna’s ‘Umbrella’ you see an array of drag queens or transgender women looking seductively, sparkly, lasciviously and pensively, sometimes flirting, sometimes feisty, sometimes forlorn, but always full of feminine sensuality and pride. Towards the end of the spot, more and more are enjoying a Magnum and you kind of get the point. Yet, when the line ‘Pleasure has more than one layer’ is supered in, it still adds another, enjoyable punch – making a perfect statement for both, LGBT acceptance and the ice cream’s double layer feature.

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What makes this commercial so noticeable for me is not the fact that a global FMCG brand dares to publicly associate itself with gender bending or transgender pride. Luckily, that is not so daring anymore – especially after the whole Caitlyn Jenner brouhaha. Neither do I think the idea of being unapologetic about sensual pleasure is so special – particularly for Magnum, which has made a big business out of it. Though it does take a certain degree of courage to promote unadulterated sensual abandon if you are selling globally, incl. the Middle East and the US.

No, what really tickled me and made me want to command Lowe and Unilever, is how they united both in a way that hits the product benefit on the head – so to speak. No borrowed interest (well, perhaps a bit), no gratuitous shocking (actually, the opposite – the spot is quiet and elegant), no provocative parading or boastful promoting. Just a simple but proud and poignant message to the point. That’s true creativity in communication – which one did not see so much of at this year’s festival by the way.

If you compare this to one of the examples we actually laud in our book (Wolf Schaefer & JP Kuehlwein, ‘Rethinking Prestige Branding – Secrets of the Ueber-Brands’) the achievement becomes even clearer.

Also in Cannes, but last year and at the film festival, not the Lions, Chaumet, the French haute joaillerie house dating back to the 18th century, launched a new campaign for their Liens jewelry that rattled a few feathers (chaumet.com, The Double Take). The star: Marine Vacth, new model-turned-actress It-girl who just released her feature film in Cannes about a high-end teenage prostitute. The subject: A mysterious ‘double take’ picture that tells a story somewhere between narcissism and lesbianism, both subjects that aren’t necessarily consensus building. The effect: From famous to infamous, from nice to must-have, from stodgy to trendy in a cultural nano-second.

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It’s still a great example for mixing heritage and high-end class with edge and controversy. But seen through the eyes of the Magnum campaign it seems suddenly a bit trivial and contrived, almost as if it was trying too hard. Of course I still think it’s a good case for going against expectations and infusing a brand with energy and currency. Ultra-stylish. Super-sexy. Ueber-Brand. But the link with the product is simply not as strong. The whole doesn’t feel as compelling and convincing. The effect evaporates and doesn’t linger.

Anyway, the point I wanted to make again and which Magnum’s ‘True to Your Pleasure’ campaign inspired and epitomizes in perfection is: Mixing pride and provocation is a very timely and very strong way of building Ueber-Brands. Sell yourself without bowing to your audience too obsequiously but rather pull their strings. Show that you are rightfully on the pedestal and that you have the power and the courage to take your audience and our culture forward as only a true leader can and will. Establish the codes, disrupt them and then put them back together in a new way as befits only someone at the top of their game. Don’t provoke for provocation sake, that’s too obvious and cheap. Neither be blatantly arrogant, that’s boring and creates resentment, at least among those accustomed to these tactics. Blend both, oscillate and make sure you always stay on brand/product, i.e. on message. And should you go too far at one point, stumble or fall, do so graciously. Get up and move on. Because kings – or queens – never say ‘sorry’. Especially when they are drag queens.

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The Wolf: A new Ueber-Spirit in the making

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There’s a new German player in the super-high-end distillery market: The Wolf. The Wolf calls itself a ‘Weissbrand’ (white brandy) since it is made from grapes, like cognac or other brandies. But it is steel-container and not barrel-aged, which explains … Continue reading

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How can Beauty Brand Hopes and Dreams hold up in front of the Digital Mirror?

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“Beauty is hope. It’s about our dreams and aspirations. Yet, as with everything, digital has made reality creep up on it big time. Where beauty brands, especially prestige ones, once fancied themselves as hovering above the fray in a realm … Continue reading

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Abercrombie gets dressed! Up?

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In an effort to revise their drastically declining sales Abercrombie & Fitch is dressing up. Literally. No more half naked hunks. No more piercings or tattoos. Employees will no longer be chosen by body type or looks, put on a … Continue reading

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How Trader Joe’s makes food stuff ‘Significant Objects’ … Or: Of ‘Speculoos Cookie Butter’ and a ‘Fearless Flyer’

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I had one of those ‘Eureka’ insights the other day when I saw the latest Trader Joe’s ‘Fearless Flyer’ on our kitchen table: Trader Joe’s has made a great business out of morphing their foods into ‘Significant Objects’ that we … Continue reading

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Rethinking Prestige Branding – uncovering the secrets of ‘Ueber-Brands’

016After some 4 years, 75+ interviews, 150 cases studied and uncounted conversations – including with many of you – Wolfgang and I are happy and proud to launch our book ‘Rethinking Prestige Branding – Secrets of the Ueber-Brands’ through Kogan Page.

You can now order it on Amazon (links below) and all fine bookstores worldwide.  Make sure you rate and review after your read and help boost us to the top of best seller lists.  Joking aside, we think you will find the book interesting and entertaining as well as insightful and practical, at the same time.

We examine what enables brands to command a multiple of the average category price and garner an almost cult like following. People buy them as much with their hearts as with their heads and their creators seem to apply apply magic as much as logic. We call them ‘Ueber-Brands’ and are looking at them across a broad spectrum of categories including Food (like Innocent, Lakrids, Red Bull, Nespresso), Hospitality and Entertainment (Hoshino Resorts or Cirque Du Soleil), Transportation (Tesla, Mini, Harley Davidson), Fashion, Beauty, Accessories (Freitag, Brunello Cucinelli, Aesop, Chaumet) all the way to household goods like detergents or soaps (The Laundress or Yuan) across the globe.

Book Cover Final Version Rev 2

If you like our blog, we think you will love our book.

Links to the Amazon order pages:   USCanada,

UKGermanyFranceItalySpainJapanChina

Read some early comments below.  Hope you will enjoy the read as much as these reviewers did.

Let us know, either way – we’re Germans, we can take it ;-)

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The Mini – Underdog makes Űberbrand

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The Mini is a runaway success by most measures – except size, maybe.  Who would have thought that this quirky, tiny car could carve out significant market share, again, when most other brands were talking size, comfort or power? And … Continue reading

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The Promise of ‘Bespoke’ – How Űberbrands go beyond ‘choice’ to create identity and extract a premium.

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Bespoke is the new luxury – Again. Many consider Chanel the height of luxury. So it is telling to hear Chanel marketers talk about ‘bespoke’ as the ultimate form of luxury today. They are not the only ones to recognize … Continue reading

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How Premium Brands Grow Without Losing Their Glow – Part II

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In Part I we looked at how premium brands use own flagship stores and retail partners that project exclusivity to keep their glow while extending their distribution.  Horizontal geographic expansion around the globe – rather than penetrating a single market … Continue reading

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Le Cronut – Making a bastard doughnut an object of desire.

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If you live in New York City – or anywhere else hip – you will likely have heard about the ‘Cronut’ by now.  Maybe you have even lined-up to try to get one – or a maximum two.  Cronuts have … Continue reading

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Where is the Chinese premium market heading? Will we see the emergence of Chinese Prestige brands?

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These were the questions I got from an industry analyst the other day.  In fact, these are the questions being posed constantly in the press covering the business of luxury. Full of myself, I thought that maybe more than one person … Continue reading

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CSR 2.0: The Rise of a New Functionalism in Brand Building

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I’m always the first to argue the importance of emotion, execution and style when it comes to Super Premium brands (see my post “Fashion Forward“). But it’s the fusion and careful balance of both, appearance and essence, that does the … Continue reading

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What A Romantic Can Teach Brand Managers

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Novalis, an author, poet and philosopher of Early German Romanticism (1772-1801) once wrote: By imbuing the meaningless with meaning the ordinary with a sense of mystery the known with the dignity of the unknown, and the finite with an infinite … Continue reading

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Don’t ‘Talk It Up’ But ‘Talk Your Own’ To Create an ‘Ueber-Brand’

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We say in our premium branding model that “the first rule is to make your own” as one strives to develop brand myth and meaning. – It’s ‘Mission Incomparable’.   Many premium brands are about identity construction.  They help customers to … Continue reading

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Message In A Bottle – Of legend-telling Soymilk and Bottling the Hermès legend

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This is a tale of two bottles.  A bottle of soy milk that stands out and tells a story and a bottle of perfume that inserts itself into the saga that is Hermès.  Both have in common that the stories … Continue reading

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How Premium Brands Grow Without Losing Their Glow – Part I

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Marketing “guru” Martin Lindstrom is concerned about the effects that ‘reaching-down’ and the ‘fashionization’ of Luxury labels has on their long-term ability to maintain desirability and premium price points. He writes in his piece “The Luxury Catch 22”  “With a … Continue reading

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Fashion Forward

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In the world of marketing, fashion has traditionally not been taken very seriously. It’s been viewed as un-strategic, driven more by short-term fads and personal quirks and hunches than solid planning and strategic thinking. Concerned more with ever-changing appearances than … Continue reading

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Limiting Distribution Increases Value and Market Share…

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No, I am not talking about Hermès today but about a maker of power tools!  You see, I often get challenged by marketing friends that the principles of premium branding that we lay out in our model only apply to … Continue reading

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Creating a Myth

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During religious or national holidays, we are reminded of the global power of legends, or one legend in particular. Without stepping on any religious toes I think it’s save to say that we need stories to believe – and make … Continue reading

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