What makes a luxury brand?

In a world that is still reeling from the impact of covid, it is not enough for a brand simply to be expensive to be considered luxury. People understandably want value for money, and a high price tag runs the risk of being labelled overpriced, unless it is something truly special. So what turns an item from overpriced and unnecessary, to a luxurious item that is an essential buy?

This is where branding comes into play, specifically those values and characteristics that make up a LUXURY brand. We’ve been giving some consideration this week to the values that we believe are essential in creating the foundation for a truly luxury brand, as opposed to simply ‘designer’:

Quality

Arguably the most important of these is exceptional quality and craftsmanship. With higher prices come higher expectations, and it is expected that products have been lovingly crafted, using the best materials, often by hand or in limited production runs. Every single detail counts, from stitching to finishes, fastenings and packaging, and produced using sustainable and ethical practices. As a client of ours once pointed out, what is the point of having the most beautiful item that has been manufactured in terrible conditions? Aside from the fact that unethical production is a horrendous legacy for the people that are forced to endure it, it also tarnishes the product itself, like it doesn’t seem nearly as beautiful when you know the conditions in which it was made.

But quality comes down to more than materials and production, it applies to the entire brand, whether you’re a product-based business or not. Even something as simple as a website needs to get the luxury treatment. First and foremost, it needs to work, and not simply work but work PERFECTLY. It needs to feel custom and provide the user with an enjoyable experience, whatever it is they’re looking for. Not only that, but it needs to surprise and delight your customers with little details that inspire them to check back regularly and hopefully buy from you again in the future. Packaging too needs to feel premium, using quality and lasting materials that you can keep and treasure. When I turned 21, I bought my first pair of designer shoes – the most beautiful peach suede pumps from Ferragamo. They came in a gorgeous cloth bag, proudly sporting the Ferragamo logo, within an equally beautiful box. I kept the box for years, until unfortunately I didn’t have room in my wardrobe, but I still have those incredible shoes and they’re still stored in their beautiful bag in my closet. That is the power of a luxury brand – we treasure their products for years and maybe even hand them down to our children.

Service

Service is without doubt a fundamental ingredient in gaining recognition as a luxury brand. Whether you’re a service or product-based business, providing your customers with an exceptional experience at each stage of their journey is what helps to cement your luxury status. Attention to detail, and going above and beyond to provide your customers with an outstanding, personal service will not only make them feel special but also create a lasting impression in their minds that they will want to talk about. On the flip side, a negative experience will be even more memorable and for all the wrong reasons. Back to my 21st birthday, and I visited another store before going to Ferragamo. It was another, MUCH more famous brand, worn by celebrities the world over, and I had come quite a long way with the goal of buying these shoes. The service was terrible, and the staff so snooty that I left within 5 minutes and vowed never to buy from them. Fast forward 9 years and I still haven’t, but thankfully have discovered countless other small luxury brands that I plan to buy from for years to come, due to their exquisite quality and unmatched service. They have a customer for life.

Sophisticated Design Aesthetic

It goes without saying that luxury status comes hand in hand with a beautiful design aesthetic, or at least it should (Elon Musk, we’re looking at your cybertruck here). Whether your brand is futuristic or blessed with a rich heritage, luxury design in whatever form is beautiful, eye-catching, expensive and, well… sexy. After all, the entire point is that it’s desirable and aspirational. It needs to evoke a feeling in your customers, and tug at their emotions to the point that they ‘need’ your product or service –  and, if it’s not quite in the budget right now, be sufficiently memorable that they’re willing to save up for it. A strong and recognisable brand identity is crucial to a sophisticated design aesthetic – everything from your brand colours and how they’re used, your typographic and photographic styles and tone of voice combine to create an overall impression. And neither one can be treated as an individual element, separated from the rest of your brand. A sophisticated design aesthetic applies to the brand as a whole, providing a consistent and beautiful experience no matter what touchpoint a customer is interacting with. 

Timelessness

Now you might disagree with us on this one, but we firmly believe that an essential ingredient in establishing your brand as a luxury brand is timelessness. After all, trends come and go on the regular, with many instantly forgotten and retired to the history books in the blink of an eye. But those luxury brands are still around, still being worn, still being admired and not just by those who originally bought their products; new generations of customers still see the value in their products and reinvent them in their own unique way ready for the next generation to follow suit. Timeless design is relevant no matter how old the business is, and it’s that longevity that helps brands to become household names that will be treasured for years to come and passed down through generations.

Story / Heritage

Think about some of your favourite luxury brands. We would be willing to bet that most, if not all, have a fascinating and unique story to tell. The old addage ‘good things take time’ has never been more true, with many of these brands being lovingly crafted, curated and embellished over the course of many years, sometimes hundreds of years. Take a luxury watch brand such as Rolex, whose brand was founded over a century ago in 1905 and based on the principles of swiss movements and clockmaking established 100 years earlier still. That’s over two centuries of knowledge and expertise that has been fine-tuned and perfected into the pinnacle of design that Rolex watches are today.

This is not to say that all luxury brands necessarily have that heritage themselves, but they more than likely do make use of storytelling, traditions, or culture passed down through the years. Belmond, if we’re talking service-based businesses, is a comparatively new example having been founded in 1976, yet over the years they have made it their mission to acquire and create hotels and experiences that ooze history and character. With locations all over the world, and each one injected with it’s own unique charm, you know before you even set foot on each property that you’re in for a memorable and spectacular experience. Another example would be a brand whose ethos centers around the traditional techniques used by artisans around the world, who celebrates these unique skills and cultures and presents them to a more global audience. Yes this example might be a new brand but they have that story and the foundations of a solid concept that people want to buy into.  

There is so much more that goes into a truly luxury brand than purely rarity and an eye-watering price tag, and coincidentally it is all of these other elements that also create trust, authenticity, brand loyalty and longevity. So lets do our clients / customers and our businesses a favour and stop being so price-centric and instead focus our attentions on value – our unique stories, our service and the quality of our offerings. By providing the most exceptional experience possible. the luxury status will come regardless and we’ll probably have a lot more fun in the process. 

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