Right word, right time

By Narayan Iyer , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media | September 01, 2010
Communicating to the affluent should neither be too overt nor too covert. Striking the right balance will achieve the goal

Someone truly said that the rich are different from most of us because they have the money. But the rich are unlike each other too.

Savvy marketers know that finding this difference is the key to success in marketing to them. The language for the affluent is different from what is used in most mass communication. Moreover, sophisticated and affluent buyers do not have the time to shop and negotiate as they did when they were building their fortunes, which makes it important for marketers to perfect their communication.

Affluent consumers are becoming increasingly selective about products. Media channels that allow companies to communicate with consumers are growing in diversity and reach. The result is that marketers are increasingly focussing on differentiating their products and communicating their values to potential customers.

Marketing to the rich should be about creating salience that will get allure and buzz. "When I was at Amex, we did an event with Abhishek Bachchan in Goa creating innovation and freshness that gave customers something to talk about," recounts Amit Dutta, managing director, Luxury Hues and CEO, Luxury Marketing Council of India.

Affluent buyers value their anonymity and don't flaunt their wealth. "They are demanding and prefer to buy brands with a reputation for quality and stick with them once they find the right fit," says Prathap Suthan, national creative director, Cheil Communications India. Buying for value or price (sometimes both) they look for experiences that will enrich their lifestyle. The brand proposition is as important as the product. The affluent buyer will spend on an expensive watch, as long as it is a brand he associates with.

Brand positioning

Brand-building is a different ballgame in case of affluent goods. "Every affluent brand has a certain belief and ideology. It also speaks a certain language," says Prasoon Joshi, executive chairman, McCann Erickson, India. Thus, when advertising an affluent brand, it is the brand's attributes that are key. "You will never find the price tag in a Rolex watch ad. You will find that they have a new model and the location of the store where you can pick it and no more," explains Suthan.

It is true that affluent brands are often confused with luxury brands. Though there seems to be a thin line separating the two, in reality the difference is stark. A luxury brand is to be flashed and flaunted, unlike an affluent brand.

Creativity plays a key role in creating an affluent image. Many affluent brands achieve authority as a result of the creative talent of their design teams who respect the brand heritage and yet continuously reinvent it. Says Ashish Chordia, director, Porsche India, "For us, the potential buyer is a person who wants a car that is high on luxury, performs at par with a sports car and is sporty for driver and passengers alike." Porsche follows a strong direct communication policy with its customers and prospects with high quality, updates on new products that are sent personally.

Straight talk

It is a tough call for marketers to create that halo around their brand to attract the affluent. "The aura of the brand needs to exist for it to exemplify exclusivity, value and snob appeal," says legendary adman, Alyque Padamsee. This can be built by increasing the exclusivity quotient when looking at a communication strategy for the affluent.

"Deep down, if you understand the human emotions associated with the brand, no medium is bigger than that," says Joshi. The communication technique adopted for a high-tech gadget will be starkly different from say a financial or hospitality service.

The communication experience needs to be consistent and uniform. "The premium private banking services offered by us espouse different brand attributes compared to the main ICICI Bank," says Chanda Kochar, managing director and CEO, ICICI Bank. While the basic banking and finance product suit will be the same across banking customers, private banking clients enjoy services and benefits that make them feel their affluence.

A high-end luxury home, for instance, will have attributes beyond price and look for buyers who share certain similarities. When Mantri Developers created 11 exclusive apartments in Bengaluru, it made sure that the prospective buyer was chosen from a list of 100 (not based on one's ability to pay) like-minded prospects.

"Some years ago a premium bag brand managed to create affluence by holding a party where a few amongst the guests had the bags with them when they arrived. Without placing a logo or mentioning it, it generated the aura amongst those who did not have it," recollects Padamsee. The brand managed to strike a chord with the target and many asked for it later. "The affluent are a well-connected, close-knit community. Any communication that can turn into a cocktail or dinner table conversation, achieves the task of reaching them," suggests Suthan.

Says Josy Paul, chief creative officer and chairman, BBDO India, "Whatever the brand and the consumer type, the communication will be both above and below-the-line, planned to suit what needs to be communicated." Special events and other public relations efforts must be carefully coordinated to convey the desired image of the brand. For instance, the magazines selected for advertising a fashion brand are often unconventional and trend-setting. It is the kind of people who read them, not the numbers, which matter.

A new medium that is fast catching up is in-film placement. This creates the buzz, which needs to capitalise on other means - say, a select screening or a meeting with the brand ambassadors to maintain the exclusivity. "The movies in which the brand appears, the celebrities and pop icons who endorse the brand must also be selected carefully," warns Padamsee. More often than not, as the affluence rises, exclusivity goes up too. "Direct communication with customers and prospects is our preferred mode of contact," stresses Chordia.

It is for this reason that social marketing has a huge fan following amongst the affluent. Testimonials and recommendations do the trick better. For instance, the hospitality sector identifies that frequent guests relish inconspicuous service as well as having their preferences for all sorts of things, including food and drink remembered by hotel staff.

For successful communication to reach the affluent, one needs to develop a good public relations programme that speaks to these consumers in innovative and non-traditional ways, communicating how the experience a brand provides satisfies their emotive needs.

(With Inputs from Ankit Bhatnagar)

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