2. Types of Luxury Products

As luxury marketing strategies differ to at least some extent between different product types, the major types of luxury products are outlined below:

Personal vs. Impersonal Luxury Products: Product categories are especially suitable for a luxury strategy in a context where consumers employ luxury products to manage their self-image (Vigneron and Johnson 1999, p. 4), and where they increasingly build up a personal connection with these products (Nueono and Quelch 1998, p. 62). In contrast to products such as hedge shears and kerbsides, "people related items" such as apparel, glasses, and wristwatches are therefore especially suitable as luxury products (McKinsey 1990, p. 19). Furthermore, within the luxury segment there is a continuum that ranges from these very personal to relatively impersonal products, such as bathroom equipment and garden furnishing.

Publicely vs. Privately Consumed Luxury Products: These types of luxury products are differentiated by the social setting of consumption. While publicly consumed products such as cars are seen by others, privately consumed products such as kitchen appliances are not usually seen by many others. For some product categories, the categorization is especially situation-dependent. For instance, a good wine can be consumed conspicuously in a restaurant or just all by oneself at home. This distinction is especially relevant for studies about social purchasing motives and reference group influence, which concentrate on products that are "seen or identified by others’"(Bearden and Etzel 1982, p. 184 et seq.).

Accessible vs. Exceptional Luxury Products: As mentioned before, the major characteristics of luxury products provide relevant means of differentiation. Dubois and Duquesne (1993, p. 38 et seq.) suggest distinguishing between accessible and exceptional luxury products on the basis of an inter-categorial comparison of their selling price, which also impacts their diffusion level and repurchase rate. While accessible luxury products such as perfumes are affordable for most people at least from time-to-time, exceptional luxury products such as private jets are only affordable for very few people (inaccessible for most people). This differentiation is especially relevant for the evaluation of the luxury consumption experience, as it is far more revealing if someone buys an expensive car than a bottle of champagne (see also Heine 2010c, p. 136). This dichotomy can be complemented with the additional category of intermediary luxury products such as Porsche cars. Although they are usually bought by wealthy people, in contrast to private jets, they are still within reach for many people. For instance, a genuine fan might fulfil his dream of owning a Porsche after saving many years for this car, instead of saving for an apartment (see also Allérès 2003, p. 56).

Unique Pieces, Limited Editions, Limited- and Expanded-diffusion Products: Luxury products can also be differentiated by their exclusivity and production volume (which also corresponds with their production method) into the following categories:

  • Unique pieces: This top category typifies the ideal of the luxury segment and is more accurately described by the French word "griffe", which refers to the clutch of an inspired creator, who is obsessed by the idea of forming a unique masterpiece, an œuvre d'art, that is truly unsurpassable in its perfection. This ideal is exemplified by the haute couture clothing of the exclusive circle of couture houses such as Chanel, Christian Dior and Jean Paul Gaultier (Kapferer 2001, p. 323).
  • Limited editions: Still very close to the ideal of the griffe are products made in highly limited editions. For instance, the Guerlain Kiss Kiss Or \& Diamants lipstick is produced in a limited edition of only 100 pieces (Trommsdorff and Heine 2008b, p. 1669).
  • Limited-diffusion products: The high rarity of these luxury products relies on their manufacturing complexity which requires a high degree of handwork and craftsmanship (Sicard 2003, p. 72). Limited-diffusion products include Gucci Bamboo bags, Maybach automobiles and Meissen porcelain figures. In the fashion segment, this category can be referred to as prêt-à-porter (Allérès 2003, p. 96).
  • Expanded-diffusion products: Although their production volume is still relatively limited in comparison to mass-market products, their production process resembles mass-market serial production (Sicard 2003, p. 72). Examples include Dolce & Gabbana jeans, Poggenpohl kitchens and Porsche automobiles. In the fashion segment, this category can be referred to as high genre (Allérès 2003, p. 96).

Conspicuous vs. Understated Luxury Products: These product types are differentiated by their proportion of conspicuous attributes. Manufacturers of conspicuous luxury products focus on price in particular, i.e. on a product image of being expensive. Therefore, they equip their products with typical symbols of wealth and high price such as big logos and rich decoration. It’s all about symbols, not about substance. True product quality and excellence are less important than maximum performance, features and size (Kapferer and Bastien 2009b, p. 315). A splendid example is the fountain pen "La Modernista Diamonds" by Caran D’Ache, an "over-priced savourlessness", which works with rather ordinary ink cartridges, but is decorated with 5.072 diamonds and 96 rubies (Marguier 2007, p. 85). Nevertheless, such products form a special market niche for consumers who feel extremely special. The biggest share of the luxury market consists of non-conspicuous products, which might also show some conspicuous attributes, but are not primarily made to be conspicuous. On the other extreme, there are luxury brands such as Jil Sander and Bottega Veneta that are known for their understated products, which seem to hide any conspicuous attributes. However, although Bottega Veneta bags cover no logo, they still have a characteristic design that can be easily recognized by connoisseurs, which makes them suitable for conspicuous consumption between connoisseurs. The major difference is that conspicuous consumption with understated products is nowadays considered a bit more sophisticated.