High class brands put on an approachable face

What strategies can premium and mass-market brands adopt that will enable them to keep a foot in both camps without alienating core users?

There used to be an unbridgeable divide between premium and mass-market products, but the recession has prompted many premium brands to tailor their offering to reach a wider audience. High-end supermarket Waitrose, for example, launched its own Essentials discount range last year to cater to consumers who are feeling the pinch.

Similarly, a number of low-cost ranges are now successfully competing in the premium arena as discerning consumers seek out products that look and feel expensive, but come without the hefty price tag.

Brands at both ends of the spectrum are trying to exploit this shift in consumer demand. One option is to sell a premium product, yet remain approachable. Premium chocolate brand Hotel Chocolat is trying to achieve this by selling its products in shops with a wider customer base.

The company has decided to side-step the “grande luxe” school of luxury that other high-end chocolate brands have bought into. Hotel Chocolat chief executive Angus Thirlwell says he has avoided an atmosphere of snobbery, elitism and astronomical pricing in favour of a more inclusive approach, which sees all sectors of society coming through the doors of its 41 UK outlets. “Our staff are very secure in their knowledge of chocolate, so when they’re engaging with our customers they behave naturally,” he says.

Brand is so important in beauty. It can be in Sainsbury’s, it can be in Harrods, it can be in Boots and it can be in Superdrug. They all attract a different customer. Whereas traditionally you would say you were a mass-market or a premium brand, you can now exist in both positions if you are a very true brand. We maintain price, even though we sell in mass. It’s about maintaining that deliverable quality and brand positioning.

Nine times out of ten, our Harrods customer isn’t going to go into Superdrug. But our Harrods customer might go into Sainsbury’s. As long as the packaging, the brand image and the work that you’re doing to communicate that image are all good, then you can operate in that way.

We are launching sun protection and aftersun next year exclusively with Boots. The biggest growth in that category is premium. It’s going to have gold packaging and silver packaging for the aftersun.

We’re also launching a naturals range, exclusively with John Lewis. We’ve developed this with as natural as possible ingredients for a different audience. It’s about going to where your customer is.