Selling high-end products during hard times

Consumers are likely to see some moves aimed at selling high-end products at a slightly lower cost as a result of the hard times. Marketers strategized that one obvious step would be to sell fragrances in smaller containers, as long as the actual product is not diluted. You can still maintain your brand integrity, but you are selling at a price point that is more accessible for the consumer in today’s market.

A similar move is to ensure that some version of your key products are more available in mid market retailers like Target or even in the case of skincare products drugstores like CVS, because during a recession even upscale Americans are likely to do more shopping in such stores.

The key is not to make any move that will diminish the value of a brand with a well-established name for luxury. Good management weathers good times and the difficult times and fashion does not change. Marketers have to stay the course.

Marketing and branding issues are very different for high-end luxury companies than for large mass-market consumer goods firms, which typically seek to identify sizable voids in the marketplace and then create new products in an effort to fill them. For luxury goods the business plan places trust in the artistic vision of a designer and hopes that will lure customers.

With high end fashion, you are buying into a lifestyle. You are buying into someone’s point of view, and that’s reflected in the products that are created.

Because of the luxurious image they must portray, these marketers also need to guard their brands in ways that mass market companies do not. A Company rejected an idea for a digital billboard in Times Square as insufficiently high-brow. Tom Ford sees its fragrances as competing with Chanel and “would Chanel have a billboard in Times Square?”

That does not mean, however, that luxury firms do not want their products to reach a fairly broad audience. “Targetization” in which a coast-to-coast mass retailer ‘Target’ offers something of a higher design aesthetic to customers, who are slightly more upscale than those of rival chains. The United States can develop its appreciation for good design much further.

In Europe, fashion and design are the fabric of the culture, but they are not a part of the fabric of domestic culture. Indeed, luxury marketers believe that their success in establishing an aura of desirability is what will ultimately get them through the financial crisis. It may be counter intuitive, but demand for a consumer product like Cheerios cereal is finite, in a way that the need for a luxury item is not. When it is a tough day and you are on the way home and you have to buy that handbag it is just a different factor driving that purchase. A customer could always use another purse.

But to boost the bottom line, fashion firms are likely to focus now on pampering their best and most loyal consumers, using computer technology to increasingly customize upscale products that will be designed or tailored especially to their needs. The success of individualized luxury goods such as designer clothes or eyewear is a development that could keep a customer repeatedly coming back for more.

Everybody wants to have a lifestyle and once the customer adores they are going to stay for 10 or 15 years with your product. Among the designer trends in customization are monogrammed handbags, personalized options for a color or a fabric in accessories, or a wider array of fragrances that are “personalized.” Prada which started its success with a simple but well-designed nylon backpack is focusing on a similar approach, one in which “customization makes the purchaser feel special and unique.”