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Show me the size of your logo and I will tell you who you are

The way logo are exposed on luxury goods, and in particular brand prominence, reveals a lot about yourself. This is the conclusion of an astonishing study published in September 2010 in the Journal of Marketing («Signaling Status with Luxury Goods: The Role of Brand Prominence» by Young Jee Han, Joseph C. Nunes, & Xavier Drèze).

The authors carriedout several experiments and first proved that brand prominence on luxury goods was inversely proportional to the price tag. In other words, the more you pay the less prominent is the brand name. It may look like a paradox or seem counterintuitive; actually it is not. It seems that some of the happy fews (the “Haves” as the authors call them) may look for understatement and are willing to stay discreet.

The authors of the study propose also an elegant classification of potential customers (see figure below). The most expensive objects are reserved to the «patricians», a category of consumers which doesn’t want to exhibit its wealth to anyone but which is looking for recognition among its pairs by letting them notice some subtle clues. The value of the objects they are wearing or possessing can indeed be noticed only from those who belong to the same category and are therefore connoisseurs enough.

«Patricians» are opposed to «Parvenus» who want to be noticed from the not-Haves, and from «Poseurs» who don’t have the wealth but well the desire to show off.

In a second experiment, the authors study counterfeits and show that the objects which are copied are mostly those with prominent brand names. This finding confirms the assumption that counterfeits are targeted for «Poseurs» who want to be noticed but don’t have the wealth.

My Take :

Managerial implications are numerous, although the results confirm logical assumptions. The authors stress that one segment can not exist on its own and that a brand should strive at keeping all four segments active (well actually the proletarians can only dream of the products but the fact that a large segment is dreaming about a product may encourage other segments to actually buy the product). This being said there are a few brands which appeal only to one of those four categories. Think about Rolls-Royce for instance. The flying lady, which has been known as the emblem of RR for a century, is indeed small in regards to the price tag. But other elements of the car have developed into more representative emblems. Think about the radiator for instance (which is even imitated by Chrysler on the 300). It has become the signature of Rolls-Royce and you can’t say it’s really discreet.

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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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