Luxury Branding and Inconspicuous Consumption

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Anneke Zwart
Student (University), Netherlands

Luxury Branding and Inconspicuous Consumption

Since about a decade there is a rise of so-called 'inconspicuous consumption', referring to the affinity of elite consumers for discrete rather than traditionally branded luxury products. This change is driven by three factors:
  • First of all, traditional logos and brands have spread to the middle class. As a result, they don’t signal wealth in the way they used to do.
  • Secondly, the desire of the upper class to overt status symbols has decreased.
  • And thirdly, niche brands are becoming increasingly popular, particularly through social media.
As such, organizations can now benefit from a more inconspicuous way of branding. However until now, the response to this trend has rather been slow. Wilson, Eckhardt and Belk have developed two best practices that can support organizations to respond to the trend:
  1. Redesign offerings to downsize logos and luxury: Elite brands have started to downsize their brands or even hide them. Another trend is that those organizations make the display of logos and brands optional. Patrón, for example, has reduced the gilding on its tequila bottles.
  2. Rebrand around the utility and experiences of products/services or artisans behind products/services: Rather than focusing on the luxury of products in branding, companies should start to focus more on artistry, the experience of services and utility or quality of products. An interesting example of a company that has rebranded its products is the Chinese brand Shang Xia, who now focuses on artistry, its tasteful stores and the quality of its customer service.
Source: Wilson, J.A.J., Eckhardt, G.M. and Belk, R.W. (2015) “The Rise of Inconspicuous Consumption” Journal of Marketing Management
HBR “Marketing Luxury Branding Below The Radar” HBR September 2015

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