The Anti-Laws Of Luxury Marketing #16

Jean-Noel KapfererNovember 3, 20092992 min


16. Keep celebrities out of your advertising.

In traditional marketing, stars of stage and screen are very often used in advertising: there is nothing like a David Beckham for selling sunglasses or shaving cream. Nestlé has also got in on the act, with premium brand Nespresso calling on the services of George Clooney, and Nescafé recruiting the famous English soccer player Ian Wright. Nestlé, the world’s number one in food marketing, knows what it’s doing.

However, using celebrities to promote luxury products is extremely dangerous. A luxury brand is courted by the stars, in the same way as those stars are courted by journalists and paparazzi. As we mentioned earlier about a luxury brand’s typical relationship with its customers, it must respect them, but it also has to dominate them. Even the most famous ones. Calling on the services of a star is tantamount to saying that the brand needs some of this star’s status just to survive, and admitting that it has none of its own.

For the luxury brand, this is a gross error of strategy, for it turns the relationship on its head. Only brand domination, standing above everything like a god, is acceptable, not simply behaving like any ordinary mortal. If celebrities are used to promote the luxury product, the status of the latter is reduced to that of a mere accessory. Louis Vuitton advertising with Mikhail Gorbachev, former USSR President avoids this:

•    first, the celebrity is not a fashion symbol but a man who changed the world;
•    second, his Louis Vuitton is not the hero, but only the witness of an exceptional moment (a strategic negotiation).

Excerpted in part from: The Luxury Strategy: Break The Rules of Marketing to Build Luxury Brands by JN Kapferer and V. Bastien, in partnership with Kogan Page publishing.

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Jean-Noel Kapferer


  • Laurta

    November 3, 2009 at 11:15 am

    While I think this is generally true, there are luxury celebrities: Members of royal families, or higher end models, like Giselle Bundchen, that are interesting plugins for luxury brand advertising, especially when the brand has recently started to be known and still needs to position itself.

    Wouldn’t an ad with a random actress be reproducible, but one featuring Giselle Bundchen will be more likely to smoothly stand out?


  • Irina

    March 29, 2015 at 11:39 am

    Derrick, in “The Anti-laws Of Luxury Marketing #9” You submit examples of Tag Heuer’s advertising. Personally I don’t consider Tag Heuer to be luxury (masstige I’d call them, otherwise the advertising is not supporting their being a luxury brand), but as far as I got You, You consider them a luxury brand. Or perhaps not all brands understand the Anti-Laws and that’s the reason…
    Would like to know Your opinion, thank You in advance.


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