Why Luxury Branding Should Just Be Branding

It’s funny the way certain themes and strands emerge in the marketing world.

One that’s been building a head of steam over the past few years is luxury which, as a sector (if we can call it that), has been fuelled partly by the ‘greedy bankers’ and ‘emerging global economies’.

What’s fascinating and infuriating in equal measure, is the way marketers attempt to separate luxury into an impenetrable secret club that only those equipped with special knowledge and understanding may enter.  Indeed, we often receive briefs with requests that ‘the agency demonstrate their luxury credentials’ and ‘show us how you understand the mindset of our high net worth individual consumer base’.

The major issue with luxury, of course, is that it’s an abstract and subjective concept. In consumer terms, I guess you could loosely define ‘luxury’ as any purchase that lies beyond functional need. A Rolls Royce does the same functional thing as a Ford KA. A Rolex does the same thing as a Swatch etc. These are the obvious and extreme examples. But what about others? Ice Cream? Full-Fat Coke? A chocolate biscuit? Are they not sometimes elevated to luxuries in our everyday lives? And does that mean that Wall’s, Coca-Cola and McVities are sometimes luxury brands? What about time itself? Surely it’s the ultimate indulgence. It can all get a bit messy and shows that, as a consumer, there isn’t a fixed line you cross into luxury.

At Good, we do sometimes marvel at the unnecessary over complication of luxury as a concept. One quick look at high-end luxury brands tells you all you really need to know. Here’s the checklist:

  • Create an iconic mark or logo.
  • Set everything out of black.
  • Add a simple typeface.
  • Mix with a heavily retouched product shot.
  • Finish with a short, sharp emotive strapline.

That’s your luxury branding right there. That’ll be £150K, please! I’m joking of course but the serious point is that if there really was a specialist skill required for luxury branding, would the opposite also not be true? That you need to have a specialism in order to tackle commodity products too? (Surprisingly we’ve never been asked!).

Nowadays the role of brand is really important. In a world with thousands of SKUs, brand is the only differentiator: whether you’re a high-end spirits product or a low-end soft drink. It matters a lot. But, please let’s not pretend that luxury branding is somehow more complex, challenging or esoteric than any other type of branding. It just has a slightly different set of rules that any professional branding consultancy worth its salt understands.

So let’s leave it at this, shall we? It’s the principles of branding and good design that matter here, not trying to prove that one product or service is more luxurious than the next and therefore deserving of specialist knowledge. 

And, at the risk of coming across horribly pragmatic, every brand is made up of the same building blocks. Once you’re clear of your foundations and essence, then it’s down to:

  • Identity
  • Colours
  • Imagery
  • Tone of voice

Whether you’re a Swiss Watch or a Swiss Roll.