How Luxury Brands Are Communicating Quality

What does luxury look like in 2016? When everyone on the street has an iPhone and high-end headphones on, maybe the luxe look is a little less obvious than it used to be. Instead, companies are investing in a range of natural and synthetic materials that are coming to signal a high quality product in today’s market. Here’s what to look for when comparison shopping for the very best.

Cut The Chemicals
One of the prime conundrums for luxury brands today is the reality that many natural resources are diminishing and will eventually become unavailable to them. This poses a problem since purchasing trends haven’t waned, even in the midst of recession era predictions that they would. In response, many high-end companies are buying up resources they’ll need, and even additional companies that can help them gain a competitive advantage.

Other companies have begun to seek out variants on traditional products and processes that will appeal to the luxury product consumer. This is how Troubadour approached its line of carry-on luggage and accessories. The founders focused on leather tanners who used only vegetable tanning methods. Durable yet beautiful, these pricy pieces are meant for those who only travel in style and pride themselves on avoiding artificial anything, whether that be in food or fashion.

The Natural And The Indestructible
Companies that can create a great user interface and user experience will always have an edge in the luxury market, a fact that Apple has profited on for years. With the iPhone 5C, however, Apple took a step back from the luxury market towards accessibility, meaning that a contrasting step forward to an even more elite market needed to follow.

Enter the iPad Air 2. Working with the German company, Brinell, Apple has introduced several high-end options for the device’s outer casing. Purchasers can choose between an external shell of Macassar wood, leather, or even the virtually indestructible carbon fiber. Forget traditional case add-ons – now buyers can show their status in the fundamental make of their iPad. The rest of us will look like plebeians in comparison.

Sustainable Solutions
Luxury items are oddly complex in their presentation. While some are about outward opulence, some brands have focused in on living out their social missions through top of the line merchandise in ways that are all but invisible. This is what Patagonia has done in collaboration with the Arizona-based company, Yulex. Prior to working with Patagonia, Yulex was primarily supplying latex-free rubber for a variety of markets. This step towards sustainability was what caught Patagonia’s eye.

Together, the two companies developed a plant-based wetsuit for Patagonia’s performance wear market. The material is made from a North American desert shrub. While the material isn’t showy – it doesn’t look significantly different from a traditional wetsuit – buyers interested in making ecologically sound purchasing decisions are more than willing to drop some extra cash to feel good about their personal purchasing habits.

Know The Anti-Rules
In an odd way, Patagonia’s pricy plant-based wetsuit fits perfectly into a set of luxury marketing rules known as the “Luxury Strategy” after a book by the same name written by Vincent Bastien and Jean-Noel Kapferer.

Luxury marketing relies on rules that would seem counterintuitive as part of other marketing strategies. Luxury products, for example, don’t try to convert a significant new market – if you aren’t already an enthusiast, there’s no place for you in their marketing scheme. Luxury products are also difficult to buy, hence why Patagonia’s wetsuit was initially only available online and in a select number of surf shops while also costing about $200 more than traditional wetsuits. Ease of purchase doesn’t matter here.

Find Your Niche
The luxury product market is filled with odd little corners and passionate brand loyalty, so scoping out you brand’s position of advantage may lead you strange places. Overall, however, 2016 seems to be dominated by material innovation and accumulation. The marketplace is competitive, so grab what you need now.

Anna Johansson

Anna is a freelance writer and researcher from the Olympia, WA area who loves to obsess about weird topics and then write about them. When she isn't writing, she is outside on her bike and contemplating her eventual trip to graduate school. ...(Read More)

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