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How to market luxury in a recession

How to market luxury in a recession

By Steve Grant, global planning director at Euro RSCG Luxe, the specialist luxury and premium brands division of Euro RSCG.

In the grip of an economic downturn, you would be forgiven for assuming that luxury brands would be the first to suffer. However, the recession actually represents a great time for brands with a plan.

Disruption and stress in the market also mean this is a time of opportunity, as consumers reappraise their engagement with your brand and create new patterns of spending.

This is a new kind of recession, so the rules for surviving it are just as new. Here are our ten top tips for successfully marketing luxury brands in a recession:

1. Stay true to the values of new fashioned luxury

Today’s luxury consumer has a new, meritocratic idea of luxury. What they value is imagination, intelligence and innovation. Ask yourself, how are my products and services enacting these values? What about my brand? Yes, market conditions are harsh, but the fundamentals of new fashioned luxury are a constant.

2. Offer the right kind of luxury

The fundamentals are a constant, but the recession has created real, structural changes to the nature of the luxury that consumers want. Traditionally, luxury brands have been socially disengaged.

Those days are now over, as offering the right kind of luxury is now a mandatory for giving luxury consumers permission to purchase. Green credentials, ethical sourcing, corporate transparency and honest employment practices should be a core component of your brand promise.

3. Be concentrated. Don’t dilute your brand

Don’t make the mistake of watering down your brand and overextending your identity. This is the time to head back to your core offering, and reinvent it. The key is making sure you create and pay off a clear brand identity in your consumers mind.

4. Continue to invest in marketing, even if by alternate means

Even though we are all in marketing hell these days, with shrinking budgets and staff, luxury brands need investment. The good news is that there have never been more high engagement, low-cost tools for marketers to use – Twitter, YouTube, the web and even just email are all powerful tools that can build out a cadence of contact for your consumers.

5. Are you a luxury or a premium product? Do not confuse your brand

Premium products are those which align with FMCG, albeit offering a higher quality. This should not be confused with luxury, which creates fantasy beyond the functional value of the product. Your marketing strategy should never lose sight of this. If your marketing is confused, your customers will only be more so.

6. Deepen the connection and engagement with your customers

Brands should always be engaged with their customers, and encouraging feedback can only ever be a positive thing. Remember, if consumers are making fewer but more meaningful purchases, then they will need mechanisms other than buying to touch your brand. Remember that a compelling window shopping experience, whether in person or online, is a rehearsal behaviour for the day a consumer is in-market. Make every point of contact deep, engaging, and a point of entry to further contact.

7. Find your best customers, bring them in and give them tools

Ten percent of your customers are generating over 60% of your word of mouth, and this is the number one driver in the consumer’s decision to buy, now or in 12 months time. Identifying brand apostles, and equipping them with the conversational capital to turbocharge their word of mouth activity has never been more important.

8. Material realism

The material reality of the things we buy has never been so important. Demonstrable durability and build quality are vital. For fine dining, the sourcing of the food – local, fresh, organic, fair-trade – is crucial. The path from commodity to luxury goods is increasingly paved with transparency of supply chain

 Where did the fabric of your clothing come from? Who sewed it? If you bought your ‘cheap chic’ shirt at Target, you might know the name of the designer, but you have no idea about whose labour actually made it. If you bought it under the rules of enlightened luxury, you are likely on a first name basis with the person that measured you for it, sewed it, designed it. 

9. Cultivate a sense of place

Sense of place is a new way of thinking about heritage. Rather than being a stuffy recitation of brand history, sense of place is dynamic – it’s the way a brand’s past informs the way it behaves in the present. Sense of place mashes up ‘heritage DNA’ with new cultures and new markets.

10. Your key assets are your people and your relationships. Maximise their use!

Ultimately, luxury is about ideas, values, and the personal connections between your people and the customer. Nobody knows your customer better than you do; their aspirations and dreams, the hopes and desires that your brand promise fulfils.

This is a time to tap into the talent and insight of your people and put them into motion, and to reach out to your best customers with a revitalised commitment to your brand’s promise.

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