All the major luxury brands owe their existence to one class of buyers: The Great Indian Middle Class (GIMC). The New Maharajas, before you raise your brows, let me explain it to you as to why you do not drive the luxury market in my motherland. The fun part is dear New Maharajas that not only yours truly but the brand custodians of the luxury products who are trying to either make their mark in this country or are trying to expand their pie will also silently agree.
There is one big purchase of a hotstamped monogram LV trunk, and then, simultaneously, hundreds of monogram belts, monogram small wallet scarfs, bracelets, and the likes are sold. LV reaches one New Maharajas household, may be for the nth time, but it also reaches hundreds of households of The Great Indian Aspiring Middle Class for the first time.
Wikipedia defines masstige as a marketing term meaning downward extension of a brand. The word is portmanteau of the words mass and prestige and has been described the prestige of the masses.
It is luxury or premium but surely attainable.
Masstige is all about feeding into the aspiration of millions. The biggest challenge, however, is how to keep the aspiration alive. What if the brand loses its exclusivity and elitism in trying to just dip into the mass market? But at the same time the raked up moolah is hard to ignore.
To sell or not to sell (to the masses)? That is the big question that all luxury brands face.
Most of them have been able to strike a balance. The key lies in pricing. But the entire process has a few elaborate steps, a luxury brand manager had once patiently explained to me:
1.Identify the products that are your signature and add a signature premium to their prices. They are not for GIMC to buy, but they are their aspirations. These products will always be displayed on the boutiques, mostly their pictures, as signature products are always out of stock and a fresh stock is always on its way from Germany or France. They make the GIMC keep coming back.
2.Identify the products that you want the New Maharajas to buy. Special edition pieces, hand crafted. These should be there for display so that they can feel it and then take it home. These have a premium attached to them due to their exclusivity.
3.And then there are products that are masstige, they are to whet the appetite of the GIMC, so that they can flaunt that they own a logo of the brand they always aspired to buy.
The most interesting part about point 3 is that these companies never advertise to this class, so there is no brand dilution. This class, however, advertises and brands these products to the other target audience in the same class, all for free. So the companies generate strong brand pull with this segment, most importantly, the aspiration lives on and grows.
Shopping malls in order to lure the GIMC towards luxury and to give them its taste are mixing luxury, super premium and premium in the same shopping mall. The Palladium in Mumbai or The Quest in Kolkata has a mix of all three segments: all under the same roof.
It is this aspiration that has led to the exponential rise of the market of knock offs and first copies. This is an aspect that I will dwell in details in a later post but for the time being let me briefly help you understand the rationale behind spending hard earned money in low quality fakes.
Well readers, it is aspiration, yet again. Not always is it possible for GIMC to say, buy a scarf 30k, when with that money he could have bought jewellery. And what are the chances of that scarf surviving the washing machine or the domestic helps onslaught? At the end of the day it is a piece of cloth.
This is where the knock off market comes handy. You get a similar scarf for Rs 500 and only a trained eye will be able to tell you the difference. If it is torn, you will just get another brand this time, for the same price. It is a perfect arrangement. The same is true for belts, small leather good, coin purses, and the likes. The most luring part is that you can even aim for a big product, a decent copy, at a price which is just a fraction of the price of the original, but more importantly, the GIMC could have never owned it. The two most faked brands are perhaps the two most-aspired brands: Louis Vuitton and Rolex.
Coming back to the tale of the low-hanging affordable fruits of the luxury tree, the Great Indian Middle Class will go out of their way to own a piece of that brand, sleep with it and dream about the bigger signature pieces in the larger-than-life posters at the boutiques that always tease them, lure them like a seductress.
May your quest for luxury continue.