Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Luxury Marketing: Austere Times Call for Disarming Strategies

Even if the harsh realities of this year's economy have not touched us personally, we have not been unaffected by them.

As has been widely reported, the luxury market has taken a hammering. This year has seen a widespread climate of disapproval emerge in our culture. Mere ownership and display of luxury goods has become synonymous with an almost ostentatious flaunting, seen as reflecting a callous insensitivity to the hard times befalling so many others. There has been widespread rush to judgment, in much the same way that greets a Hummer on the roads albeit for different reasons; its existence has become an embodiment for a disregard for environmental concern..and almost a shameless pride in it.

One smart strategy is not to deny the criticism but to tackle it head-on. It is, after all, a hurdle that prevents people being comfortable buying, however much they might want (and secretly covet) the prize and long to own it.

Hats off to Porsche for adopting this approach. Anticipating criticism is captured elegantly in the headline with a tone that far from seeming defensive sounds pragmatic, evoking a feeling of being confidently prepared. An accomplishment in itself.

The key to success?
Leverage the equity that give luxury makers rooted in substance (rather than overly dependent on style) a powerful neutralizing effect: Performance.

Performance is that wonderful quality whose existence is inherently self-justifying. It represents tangible proof for what one has paid more. It is born of advanced engineering and design - noble characteristics indeed - which enables assertions to or inferences about privilege to be assiduously avoided. Porsche has even suggested that the efficiency dimension of performance represents greater environment responsibility, the idea of 'doing more with less'.

Arming the audience with ammunition in the form of knowledge serves to disarm the critics. This is the final part of this erudition -- recognition of what is so overlooked by marketers in cultivating people's relationships through brands: storytelling.

Give people things that help them to tell their stories. If we can tell a story we have a claim to having a reason. An assertion to belonging. Storytelling is a basic human need, one that helps us feel connected to others and perhaps more importantly, to ourselves:

"A need to tell and hear stories is essential to the species Homo sapiens--second in necessity apparently after nourishment and before love and shelter. Millions survive without love or home, almost none in silence; the opposite of silence leads quickly to narrative, and the sound of story is the dominant sound of our lives"

Reynolds Price

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