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A call to reinvent the codes of the luxury sector

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It’s too much. I was reading last week an article about Sushi Shop in a monthly French economic magazine. The author explained that Sushi Shop just let redesign its packaging by Kenzo, the famous clothing design who has diversified into a myriad of other activities. Sushi Shop claims to be a luxury firm within the Sushi industry and all the clichés of the luxury are actually used to justify its upper-tier positioning: black packaging, wording (they speak about their sushis “collection” for instance), top-notch ingredients (like truffles, caviar and the like), sticks sourced from a luxury supplier (Christofle) where your initials can even be engraved.

What’s wrong with that? Actually I just had the impression to read an article where the name “Sushi Shop” could have been replaced by “Nespresso”, “Paul” or any other brand which claims to be in the top-tier of its sector. When will this eventually stop? When will brands eventually stop to take consumers for sheep they can dupe by using “marketing tricks”?

My impression is that the same recipes have been used over and over again for several years in order to justify a higher positioning. There’s virtually no industry which didn’t fall into the trap: food (have a look at the chocolate industry … it seems they all followed the same marketing course), retail, websites, … the whole B2C sector is regarded by this “trend” which eventually will commoditize those luxury codes. The challenge is interesting for those who will proactively anticipate the danger of becoming has been through the use of obsolete marketing signals.

Those marketing tricks will soon prove to be useless because firms are using them excessively without being consistent with the promises these tricks convey with them implicitly in the head of the consumers.

The luxury industry must and will re-invent itself. Apple has already started and chose not to follow those marketing codes. Simplicity and purity are represented by the white color used in all product ranges as a leitmotiv. In a overcrowded world where consumers are exposed to too many stimuli, this quest for simplicity, this back-to-basics (well actually not so basic), proved to be a good differentiator and an acknowledged justification for a higher positioning of the brand.

I can’t foresee the future unfortunately but I do believe that the usual marketing tricks of the luxury sector are obsolete and that consumers, more and more aware of the expected value of products and services, will sooner or later not believe in those tricks anymore. I foresee a future where the intrinsic value (i.e. the value that the consumer gets for herself out of the product) will be higher than the extrinsic value (i.e. the social value of the products and service also called the possession value). Luxury will become a matter of connoisseurs. Luxury will still be instilled with the 2.0 values but it will be a constellation of interlinked smaller communities.

I already stressed in a previous post that the size of logos gets smaller with the price tag. Luxury will become more and more discrete and the real luxury will be hidden and accessible only to “those who know”

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Author: Pierre-Nicolas Schwab

Dr. Pierre-Nicolas Schwab is the founder of IntoTheMinds. He specializes in e-commerce, retail and logistics. He is also a research fellow in the marketing department of the Free University of Brussels and acts as a coach for several startups and public organizations. He holds a PhD in Marketing, a MBA in Finance, and a MSc in Chemistry. He can be contacted by email, Linkedin or by phone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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