19. Do not test.
Luxury companies do not test among consumers. If you test you are a mass
prestige company. Coach does use a lot of tests, as any traditional marketing
company: in fact 80 per cent of its new products are tested. Louis Vuitton,
Chanel, or Hermès never test. Testing means that the decisions of the luxury
brand are subject to the taste of the consumers. Fast moving consumer goods (
FMCG) companies thrive by trying to solve a consumer problem: they need to
ask what is the current problem and does the advertising show effectively
how much the product solves the problem. Mass-prestige brands such as
Chivas or SK2 do tests. It is normal: the goal of their advertising is to build
sales, with fast returns.
Luxury is a taste educator. It builds the classics of tomorrow not the hits of today, soon forgotten. To do so, one cannot rely on today’s preferences. Luxury’s avant-garde status is reinforced by the fact that its messages are mysterious, not easily grasped. The same holds true for art: a mass-prestige brand would always check if the music it chooses is liked by the target. Luxury brands aim at pricing power based on the status of the brand itself as an emitter, shaping the taste of elites.
Another problem with tests is that of the selection of respondents. This asks a fundamental question: who should be considered as a luxury consumer?
Does buying a fragrance at Sephora’s qualify you as luxury consumer? What kind of people do agree to take some of their time to answer questions on an advertisement? Beyond the relevance of the questioning itself, there is a tendency of most research and survey institutes to interview larger and larger proportions of the population.
Thus some brands consider that it is normal to interview the upper 50 per cent of the population of developed countries. Obviously they can buy a fragrance, a
lipstick or a small accessory but what about a bag costing $5,000? There is a growing tendency to accept these samples as normal: they are for the mass prestige
brands, such as Lacoste or Hugo Boss or Ralph Lauren. Why should they concern the luxury brands?
However, it is legitimate for a luxury brand to test new products with a selection of existing good customers of the brand, and especially on the shop floor, where a real face-to-face discussion is possible. Not only is the opinion of these brand-lovers good to collect, as they share the dream of the brand, but also it helps them to feel more ‘part of the club’, enhancing their brand loyalty.
You can even go further. By asking its customers, through the internet, their opinion on a new television campaign – more precisely, by asking them to vote between two campaigns – Nespresso made an excellent move both in its relationship with its customers and in the validation of the final decision.
Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: JN Kapferer, excerpted from his book, The Luxury Strategy with permission from Kogan Page publishing.
See all of the Anti-laws of Luxury Marketing here.
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