Exclusivity remains last word in luxury

When Marketing Week columnist Mark Ritson took to the stage at one of our conferences last September to present “seven big lessons on brand management” to an audience of brand managers, he told them that targeting means two things. Identifying the segmented audience your brand wants to reach and clearly identifying all the other audiences your brand should exclude.

“Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young and old, fat and skinny,” Ritson said. “But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.”

Ritson can authentically preach the need to alienate and exclude entire audiences from one’s brand because he is a specialist in the rules of luxury, having worked in-house for LVMH for nearly a decade.

The greatest luxury brands in the world rarely loosen their grip on that lofty status because they have always been totally uncompromising about the customers they target.

They know who their customers are. For the rest, there is only the opportunity to desire these brands from afar. That tension and longing is all part of the story of a luxury brand – until now, perhaps.

The recession has seen luxury starting to break its own rules. The chic aura of many luxury brands has crumbled as they make themselves accessible to new audiences to protect revenues.

Some dabbled with Facebook and other social media, some have started selling their goods online, others have created new mass-market ranges in partnership with high street retailers.

Our cover feature explores what one marketing manager calls “a thin line between exclusivity and frustration”. So when Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld lent his name to an H&M line, for example, he was horrified that the clothes retailer made his creations for larger sizes, stating that they were designed for “slender and slim people”.

Such rule-breaking looks set to continue however. Our cover feature writers MaryLou Costa and Lucy Handley note that the recent horrors in Japan, a market representing 11% of the world’s total luxury goods sales, will impact heavily on the sector.

And who better than Mark Ritson himself to examine the make-up of the list of top 10 luxury brands atMWlinks.co.uk/luxurybrands.

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