Points of View: What Does 'Luxury' Mean In Today's Marketing Landscape?

By Ashwini Gangal , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Marketing | January 13, 2015
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As marketers dissect luxury into 'premium luxury' and 'affordable luxury', we take a look at what the word really connotes today. And, if luxury is, in part, going mass, then how does a marketer create exclusivity around a brand?

Points of View: What Does 'Luxury' Mean In Today's Marketing Landscape?

Edited Excerpts of what our respondents said.

Sanjay Tripathy, senior EVP, marketing - product, digital, e-commerce, HDFC Life

Sanjay Tripathy

Until recently, 'luxury' meant 'exclusive'. Now, it has several different definitions. In India, luxury was the privilege of the wealthy. But now the boundaries have extended to the aspiring middle class, which, to a large extent includes young professionals, entrepreneurs and well-travelled corporate employees.

The rise of a confident consumer class, which is starting to experience premium and luxury brands, has become a symbol of an increasingly dynamic luxury market that transcends India's 'old money'. The luxury market in India has moved, from being exclusively for the elite few, to the masses.

Luxury has become younger. The young population that India now boasts of is all about instant gratification. Brands have realised this. For example, Mercedes in India traditionally targeted the older and affluent demographic. Audi, taking stock of the situation, decided to target the growing number of younger consumers who were aspiring for luxury cars. In the process, Mercedes learnt to not overlook this young, but growing, target group.

Luxury has evolved from being a statement to a reflection of one's personality. People wear luxury brands that reflect their personality, irrespective of the price. Smartphones are a perfect example: iPhone ruled the roost when it came to luxury phones, but Samsung, with its S series and Note series, took over the market. Now, the high-end models of both brands cost the same and are equally popular. It isn't about price or brand anymore, but about the personality of the phone.

Luxury has become accessible. The internet has levelled the playing field to a large extent, putting more power in the hands of consumers, who now have a platform that enables them to shop on their terms.

Khushboo Rai, senior manager, media and communications, Rajhans, marketer of Schmitten, a luxury chocolate brand

Khushboo Rai

Today, we want a change from the same old stuff. And what greater way to do so than be treated with à la mode stuff? It all leads to luxury in some way. For some it might be 'affordable luxury' and for some it might be 'premium'. Now that high quality things are easily available, and are endorsed by famed public figures, we wouldn't want to bargain.

Purchasing power has increased. The 'aspiring class' wants to have an enriched experience of quality and appearance; luxury appears to be going mass in India.

In the Indian context, if a product is able to offer a luxurious solution to consumers' recurring aspirations, then there is every chance the product will be picked up. While the Indian masses may appear parsimonious, they're willing to spend whenever it makes them feel distinguished or sophisticated.

Amit Kumar Gope, general manager, marketing, Centuryply, a brand that positions itself as 'aspirational', an overused marketing term that often connotes 'luxury'

Amit Kumar Gope

What often defines the perception of luxury is either the service itself or its communication. The same food assortment, by the same chef, served at a regular restaurant, as opposed to at a restaurant that stands for fine-dining, can define the gap between a 'normal dinner' and a 'luxurious dinner'. The way a service is perceived and received by the customer often defines the variable of luxury.

Communication plays a vital role. There might be very little differentiation on the product and quality fronts. But the logo on the product, and the communication, can create the perception of luxury. This is true for most categories.

As regards the degree of premium-ness that justifies the definition of luxury - sometimes there is no monetary value attached. And if a customer is willing to pay that premium, then the product becomes 'affordable'.

Charu Malhotra, DGM, marketing, Somany Ceramics, a sanitary ware brand, that belongs to a category that has come to position itself as a 'luxurious' one

Charu Malhotra

Luxury is a state of mind, one associated with a superlative price tag. But, it doesn't end like that. Luxury is different for different strata of people.

Being in the tiles and sanitary ware industry, we define our products as belonging to the luxury segment, as they ease the living conditions of the users. We provide customers with an embellished living ambience and gratify the elementary needs of 'living', by preventing skidding on tiles at home and by offering sanitation in the living areas and bathrooms. It's about the value that the product provides. The more the perceived value, the more luxurious the product becomes.

Through well-thought and beautifully articulated marketing, a product can be made to look luxurious to its target group.

Thus, luxury is a by-product of self-satisfaction and a feeling of fulfilment and achievement in society.

Subrata Chakraborty, managing director, Brand Curry Communications, an advertising and marketing solutions firm

Subrata Chakraborty

Money surplus has ensured that traditional luxury categories are affordable today, particularly amongst a socio-economic class that, in the past, viewed luxury as a forbidden indulgence. Also, the obsession with deals and bargains, which is a learnt obsession, has discouraged them from indulging in luxury.

Today, the desire for indulgence and the cognitive need for a good bargain are contradictory as per the traditional rule book of luxury marketing. This is a unique phenomenon in India.

Indian luxury consumers have handled this cognitive dissonance by turning into a set of closet consumers. They indulge in luxury as they extract deals and bargains. This defines the luxury market today.

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