One of the toughest things to do in today’s ‘age of austerity’ is to maintain a premium brand despite seemingly harsh economic conditions. As someone who’s doing a fair bit of work with premium brands (those whose positioning and pricing are well above mass market level), I’ve been asked a few times lately to write about this.
A few years ago, our sister company Scientific Intelligence did a study on premium brands, using its Structural Mapping Process® methodology. What we found was that there are four common ‘ingredients’ regardless of industry sector when it comes to maintaining premium standing in today’s economy.
In no particular order:
• Lead the zeitgeist – demonstrate your taste-making leadership, your ability to be on the cutting edge of culture, always aware of what’s happening and what’s next. A great example of this industry-leading edginess is Tesla Motors, which has become a symbol of the zeitgeist and the darling of premium car buffs. My esteemed colleague Tyler Brûlé of Monocle and Winkreative, has mastered this art.
• Be absolutely unmistakable – this is far more than mere ‘differentiation’, it’s about cutting such a distinctive silhouette in the marketplace that you can be spotted from a mile away. Such as the Hermes orange, that illustrious blue box from Tiffany’s. But this is much more than just brand identity colour palettes, it’s about being fearless about projecting your unique personality and character. Peet’s, a very premium coffee chain that is now expanding across the United States, has a completely unique store design and brand voice in the marketplace. Starbucks, watch your back.
• Offer quality that lasts – deliver consistently exceptional quality and craftsmanship, so that customers feel assured that they’re making an investment into a product that lasts. Brunello Cucinelli’s cashmere is second to none, and worth the pretty penny. Many, many pretty pennies, in fact.
• Be endorsed by the right people – earn the enthusiasm and public support of the influencers your audiences want to emulate. Recently, we worked with our PR partner Felicity PR to send out ‘kits’ of Benjamin Bridge sparkling wine to influential style bloggers, complete with a Riedel champagne glass and bottle of sparkling. Needless to say, it was a huge hit.
While one doesn’t have to do all of the above, and each brand has its natural strong suits, it helps to do more than one.
In the premium brand study, in addition to the aforementioned “Do’s”, we also discovered a few universal “Don’t’s”. Stay tuned for next week’s post, where I go into those.