Retail insights: What luxury are you really buying?

Welcome to our first post for 2016! If you’ve done heaps of designer brand spending before Christmas and during the year end or boxing day sales, this post may be the timely reality check. As marketers we always have to deal with the negative associations with consumerism and materialism, but this is most pronounced when it enters the realm of luxury brands and the hunger that Asians seem to have for them. Yes, there are people of Asian descent in our team, so we are as intrigued as consumers, what’s the appeal and “addiction” of Western high end luxury brands?

Lucky then we picked up this book, The Cult of the Luxury Brand by Radha Chadha and Paul Husband. We really didn’t expect how insightful (read: blunt) the book is about the blind mass following of luxury and the refinement (or lack of) of the consumers that are main subjects. With sub-headings like “Cleavage in a Gucci Bag” (page 63) and chapters like “China: From Mao suits to Armani” (page 139), you know you’re in for a very juicy yet brutally honest read. Here are more extracts from the book that really got us thinking and LOL.

On the Chinese sense of style:
“They spend a lot of money, they show off…even though the results look a bit funny. For example, a guest at last night’s party wore a RMB50,000 [US$6000] gown, kind of fifteenth-century European costume look, with a jacket on it, but she looked ridiculous.” (Page 168)

While the overall sophistication level is low today, it is entirely in the interest of the luxury industry to foster its development – a stylish market is in the long run is more profitable and sustainable one…style schooling is essential in China too. (Page 175)

The book’s insights on targeting the second wife, mistress segment of the Asian market, tales of starving office secretaries surviving on instant noodles to afford luxury goods, read like soapie material but is in fact true. It also touches on luxury brands and designers circumventing the made in China issue, India being the next big luxury market after China, what the Single Season sister countries are, mainly the tropical countries of Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore, and how they are targeted and marketed to.

There are also discussions about the fake goods market doing as well as the real/genuine luxury brands, spurred not only by the aspiring low income shoppers, but by women who can easily afford to pay over $10,000 for a genuine Hermes Birkin bag, which goes to show there is a long way for luxury brands to go in educating consumers about taste, refinement and style.

Seriously, it paints a very bleak picture of the prestige of luxury, but the important thing is knowing what and why you’re really buying. We have always seen and applied luxury brands as well as other pieces of clothing and accessories as forms of self expression, personal.

We stop at where it becomes peer pressure, the aimless pursuit of the latest, the most expensive and the most talked about on social media. That is hype which we as marketers know all too well. It also creates a competition of sorts to outclass others with luxury brands that seriously, we can’t afford to partake; we’ve got more important things to spend our money and energy on!

The Cult of The Luxury Brand Book

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