4. Communication Policy

The Communication Paradox: The communication paradox of luxury marketing deals with the following problem:

  In contrast to mass-market brands, an increase in the luxury brand awareness does not necessarily lead to growing, but rather to decreasing demand.

This paradox refers to connoisseur brands, which are often bought by individualistic consumers in order to express their extraordinary lifestyle and to differentiate themselves from others (see above). With growing awareness, the brand attracts bandwagon-consumers, who consume products mainly because their role models do so. At the same time, this distracts the original consumers, whose major purchasing motive is to differentiate themselves from other (bandwagon) consumers (see also Leibenstein 1950, p. 183 et seqq.). Investments in brand awareness can therefore reduce product benefits for individualistic consumers. As a consequence, bandwagon consumers start turning away from the brand, because it does not promise them affiliation to an attractive reference group – the original consumers – any longer (Trommsdorff and Heine 2008a, p. 1674). In order not to risk their future success, connoisseur brands do not strive to increase the general awareness of their brand, but try hard to protect their customers from the people they like to differentiate themselves from by focusing their communication precisely to their target group and by keeping their brand a secret to others (Dubois 1992, p. 34). For this purpose, direct marketing and especially exclusive events are suitable for connoisseur brands. On the other hand, it is counterproductive for these brands to make advances to everyone and to emphasize the success of their sales, and therefore it is also a counter sales argument that a generally popular product is one that sells well. Accordingly, bulk mail or television advertising are not adequate marketing measures for connoisseur brands (Belz 1994, p. 648).

Figuer 1: Influencing the Associations about the Luxury Brand Characteristics by
segment-specific Marketing-mix Strategies

As star brands, on the other hand, strive for maximum brand awareness well beyond their actual target group, they employ much broader, sometimes even aggressive communication strategies (Kapferer and Bastien 2009b, p. 319). Typical marketing measures of star brands include advertising in glamour magazines and sponsoring.

Achieving Non-functional Associations

The communication policy impacts especially the symbolic dimension and aims to communicate the intended luxury brand personality. Many luxury fashion brands consider catwalk shows a vital communication tool for fostering their brand’s prestige and dream value. Other typical communication tools of luxury brands include celebrity endorsement and PR (Fionda and Moore 2009, p. 358).

 

 

This section gave a short overview about how the segment-specific, marketing-mix strategies allow for the influencing of associations about the luxury brand characteristics, which is exemplified by this figure above. Mastering these marketing techniques is essential for luxury brands, because, as explained above, they only qualify as luxury brands if they actually succeed in evoking the constitutive associations in the minds of their target groups. Each of the marketing-mix instruments can be used to evoke associations about each of the major luxury brand characteristics. However, as shown in figure 1, some marketing instruments are more suitable for influencing associations about a specific characteristic than others. For instance, the product policy has a strong impact on quality and aesthetics, while the distribution policy especially influences the associations about rarity, but also about aesthetics and the brand personality.