The Anti-laws of Luxury Marketing #1

1. Forget about ‘positioning’, luxury is not comparative

In consumer marketing, at the heart of every brand strategy you will find the concept of positioning, of the ‘unique selling proposition’ (USP), and ‘unique and convincing competitive advantage’ (UCCA). Every classic brand has to specify its positioning, and then convey it through its products, its services, its price, its distribution and its communication. Positioning is the difference that creates the preference for a given brand over the one that it has decided to target as a source of new business and whose clients it is going to try to win over. In the war that brought it into conflict with Pepsi Cola in the United States, Coca-Cola was ‘The real thing’ (its essential distinguishing feature), whereas Pepsi-Cola, introduced in the 1930s, plugged its image as a young people’s drink (‘The choice of the new generation’), thereby succeeding in boxing Coca-Cola into an image as a product that only parents drank. As we see, the classic brand always seeks to define itself by a key facet, depending on the market context, the main competitor, and the expectations of the target consumers it is aiming to reach.

Nothing is more foreign to this approach than luxury. When it comes to luxury, being unique is what counts, not any comparison with a competitor. Luxury is the expression of a taste, of a creative identity, of the intrinsic passion of a creator; luxury makes the bald statement ‘this is what I am’, not ‘that depends’ – which is what positioning implies. What made the Christian Lacroix brand is its image of bright sunshine, full of this designer’s bright, vivid colours, suffused with the culture of the Mediterranean; it certainly is not concerned with its positioning with respect to this or that established designer.

It is identity that gives a brand that particularly powerful feeling of uniqueness, a timelessness, and the necessary authenticity that helps give an impression of permanence. Chanel has an identity, but not a positioning. Identity is not divisible, it is not negotiable – it simply is.

Luxury is ‘superlative’ and not ‘comparative’. It prefers to be faithful to an identity rather than be always worrying about where it stands in relation to a competitor. What luxury is afraid of is copying, whereas mass-produced brands fear ‘undifferentiation’, trivialization.

Excerpted from: The Luxury Strategy: Break The Rules of Marketing to Build Luxury Brands by JN Kapferer and V. Bastien, in partnership with Kogan Page publishing.

Sponsored By: The Brand Positioning Workshop

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