The luxury industry runs on creating perceptions, one after the other, where each one tries to topple another. Brand custodians all over the world have sleepless nights in creating these perceptions and then creating some more. It is the primary preoccupation of the dream merchants in the luxury industry. It is the perception that justifies the steep premium paid by price-sensitive Indian customers.
Branding luxe is all about conjuring beautiful and fanciful images in the minds of the customers. And so every luxury brand prefers to conjure some magic — a perception. “Most expensive” as a tag that customers drool over, is certainly not easy to get. The natural corollary to this tag is — why is it so expensive? So it won’t matter if you just keep hiking your price; there has to be a demand created for it. Perception is the key element is creating this demand. So let me take you through three key strategic perception-enablers that luxury brands have been exploiting since the beginning of time and will surely keep exploiting till the end of time.
Razzle Dazzle: Remember that news of Azzam, the largest yacht in the world, or the diamond and ruby-studded 24-carat gold bodied Rolls Royce Phantom, or the most expensive wine Domaine de la Romanée-Conti or DRC ($551,314), or the most expensive bottled water Beverly Hills 90H20 Luxy Collection Diamond Edition ($100,000 per bottle), or Saluki, the most expensive dog ($5,000). These are the stuff that dreams are made of, and they create the “world’s most expensive” perceptions. This razzle-dazzle is the quickest and easiest means of creating a perception to conjure dreams that make spending millions and billions sound so justified.
Rarity: This is a very potent key to creating perception that can make people loosen their purse strings. The perception of rarity can be classified into two categories:
i) Ancient artefacts made by artisans who are no longer alive, paintings or sculptures by greats like Leonardo Da Vinci or Michelangelo, or an object, say a writing instrument or a watch used by a famous personality who is no longer alive (like Napolean Bonaparte or Mahatma Gandhi). Take for instance the priceless death mask of King Tut. These artefacts, paintings or writing instruments or watches were not rare when these well-known figures were alive; they never fetched billions at Sotheby’s. Most of the great artists such as Vincent van Gogh died penniless while now their art is fetching billions of dollars. Blame it on the perception of rarity!
ii) When a watchman tries to create a complicated mechanism like a tourbillon that will give precision to a mechanical watch, this is rarity. Every such rare watch, such rare mechanical movement is painstakingly crafted by masters over months and may be years. Such pieces are rare. This is same for any artefact or a piece of art. The man hours put into its creation give the perception of rarity to these objects.
Exclusivity: Every individual longs to be special and not ordinary. They want to receive special treatment, they want to be looked up to and envied. They desire to be emulated, they desire to belong to a certain club of exclusivity where entry in by invitation only. Luxury brands like Rolex and Louis Vuitton rely heavily on this enabler. If you own a Rolex, you will “live for greatness” and be an integral of an exclusive notional club of all owners of Rolex, such as President John F Kennedy or Martin Luther King Junior, or even tennis star Roger Federer. Or Louis Vuitton telling you if you own their trunks or duffle bags, then you will know that “there are journeys that turn into legends”, which a famous ad campaign featuring “Core values” of the LV brand with Sir Sean Connery, Bono, Francis Ford Coppola and Angelina Jolie. This is selling the perception of rising beyond the ordinary, becoming exclusive.
(Excerpt from my book Luxe Inferno. It is the third book of The Luxe Trilogy after Decoding Luxe and Dark Luxe)