The Luxury Strategy

During the month of March I decided to focus on luxury brand management. As the final chapter of my “luxurious” journey, today I am reviewing “The Luxury Strategy: Break the Rules of Marketing to Build Luxury Brands” by Jean-Noël Kapferer and Vincent Bastien.

The second edition of this book was published by Kogan Page USA in 2012.

Even since I read his book “The New Strategic Brand Management“, Jean-Noël Kapferer has become one of my favorite marketing authors. His books are insightful, well-documented, and filled with real life examples. The book I am reviewing today makes no exception.

Vincent Bastien teaches marketing at HEC School of Management Paris. Between 1988 and 1995 he was the CEO of Louis Vuitton, part of the French luxury conglomerate LVMH.

“Luxury” is a word that’s overused and often misunderstood. This books has two clear objectives: to define the true luxury brand, and provide a comprehensive luxury brand management guide.

Because, as the book illustrates, successful luxury brands shouldn’t be managed using classic brand management principles. Actually, as the title suggest, luxury brand management often requires going in the opposite direction and breaking the marketing rules as they apply to ordinary and even premium brands.

The luxury brand definition is comprehensive and consists of 6 criteria:

  • a very qualitative hedonistic experience or product made to last
  • offered at a price that far exceeds what their mere functional value would command

  • tied to a heritage, unique know-how and culture attached to the brand
  • available in purposefully restricted and controlled distribution

  • offered with personalized accompanying services
  • representing a social marker, making the owner or beneficiary feel special, with a sense of privilege.

Another important distinction the book makes is between premium and luxury brands. This separation is important in today’s overcrowded marketplace, where the two terms are often used interchangeably.

The chapter I found most interesting was “The Anti-Laws of Marketing”. Here we come to understand that luxury brands have to be managed fundamentally different. The 24 anti-laws of classic marketing listed here are sure to generate a lot of debate among marketing professionals.

Let’s take brand positioning, a fundamental brand management concept. According to the book brand positioning is not applicable to luxury brands:

Luxury is “superlative” and not “comparative”. It prefers to be faithful to an identity rather than always worrying about where it stands in relation to a competitor.

I personally disagree, as I believe positioning is applicable to all brands, luxury or otherwise. Brand positioning is relevant to all segments where consumer has to make a choice between brands, and I believe the luxury shopper makes choices as well (Ferrari vs Lamborghini, BMW vs Mercedes-Benz, etc.).

Another point of debate is the recommendation that luxury brands should avoid selling on the internet. Many will perceive this advice as simply outdated, and irrelevant given today’s fast growing digital channel.

I actually believe that, given the specificity of the luxury brand, this strategy makes a lot of sense. Luxury is characterized by very selective distribution, and a long sales cycle (the need to sell the “dream” before you sell the product). Internet provides instant availability and easy purchase, not to mention lower prices, which works against the luxury strategy.

“The Luxury Strategy” is a very intriguing book that can generate passionate discussions, depending on one’s perception of luxury.

If you are in charge of managing luxury brands, or an entrepreneur looking to add a luxury brand to your portfolio this books is worth a look. Will it change your perceptions of luxury? Probably not, but it will definitely present an original and competent point of view on luxury marketing.

If you are interested in luxury brand management, make sure to check my other related articles:

Marketing A Luxury Brand: Part 1

Marketing A Luxury Brand: Part 2

Luxury Branding: The Difference Between Premium And Luxury