Rethinking Prestige Branding

Posted in Marketing
at 2015.08.10

Attraction can be a highly personal attribute, yet why do many people get attracted to and rally around a brand? Whether it is a commodity or a prestige brand, the price of a product is not always an indication of quality or actual value. What is value? It can be more than just money. The art of prestige branding has been deployed!

Sometimes it feels that there is not that much of a difference between brand X and prestige brand Y, yet people will pay a lot more for the latter and it is more than just exclusivity. If there is a limited supply of a certain French wine from a good vintage year you can understand it will cost more than a typical bottle of “supermarket red”. Yet how can a commodity item be a prestige brand when the manufacturer could make millions of the same product each and every year as long as demand remains? It is not always the case that there is a big difference in form, taste or looks and there is not a celebrity endorsement or film tie-in to help.

This book takes look behind some of the more successful current-day prestige brands to see what makes them tick. Some of the brands defy convention, yet they have succeeded. Some of the brands use luxury branding and marketing techniques for their commodity products with success.

Why do many of us aspire to (whether we vocalise it or not) or actively seek out one brand of toilet paper than another as, after all, colour and thickness of paper aside, what’s the difference? You don’t have a little logo with the slogan “Just Wipe It” in the corner of every sheet. You don’t have an audience when you are attending to your needs and neither do you tend to get celebrity endorsements from famous models who gush how they wouldn’t “wipe with anything else.” You certainly don’t go to a bar or a hotel and ask for a roll of your favourite toilet tissue to be provided. Well 99.9999% of us don’t, but invariably there must surely be one who does?

You will also begin to think about branding and marketing in a fresh way and the authors have been busy discovering why some brands are “created more equal than others”, pulling in over 100 case studies, interviews, observations and research, before mixing it into an interesting, humorous, detailed tale which is a lot more than a dry, theoretical textbook. It is quite possible that the interested, general reader would find a lot of good stuff here too, even if they might not ordinarily stumble across it.

The book cannot deliver you the secret formula to creating a prestige brand: you still need a good product or service and you need the fickle mind of the public on your side. Yet you can shape your product, polish your marketing message, highlight your image and propagate the impression that you have a prestigious brand. P. T. Barnum may be proud of your endeavours too! Is it smoke and mirrors or science…? Can it be a little bit of everything?

The idea behind this book and the whole theory emerged from a simple origin. As the authors admit: “It all started with a glass of beer and a simple observation: Some brands have gained almost mythical status – seemingly beyond any price or performance considerations. We were having an after work drink when one of our bar mates cut through our conversation, ordering a ‘Supercharger’ (aka Vodka Red Bull), triggering a spiral of questions: Why do people flock to a ‘gourmet vodka’ like Grey Goose, where vodka is mostly liked for being flavour neutral? What keeps Red Bull cool after all those years? And isn’t the mystery around Taurine, its famous ingredient, eerily similar to that of skin care brand Crème de la Mer’s miracle broth? Such different brands with different targets at vastly different price points, but both applying similar strategies and achieving a relative premium.

Fast forward to today and an excellent, intriguing, landmark book. You don’t have to have a prestigious brand and any connection to one to enjoy it. It has rather a lot for everyone. What you may think is responsible can be a mixture of old, out-of-date, fractured thinking, i.e. you are just plain wrong! The authors admit that we can be effectively in confusing times and, of course, maybe some new terminology is needed to accurately define this brave new world where classic notions are shattered into a thousand pieces.

We quickly felt uncomfortable using the established terminology and started talking about ‘modern prestige’ or finally ‘Ueber-Brands’. This newly emerging breed of ‘prestige’ brands thrives on paradoxes, breaks with branding traditions and inspires us with an innate sense of mission paired with often very counter-intuitive commercialization strategies,” say the authors, pointing out that purpose increasingly beats performance and that price is often rather a catalyst than a barrier to purchase.

A lot is contained in this relatively slim book and you will find yourselves reading it several times to maximise your use of the authors’ revelations. As if that is not enough, there is a massive bibliography of further reading suggestions, allowing you to dig deeper into existing research and published articles, should you wish to learn even more on a given point.

So, this book could be an ideal description of itself. A prestige product that stands out, despite it being something that deserves to be a commodity product, that is to say something that should be on the bookshelf of everyone involved in marketing, branding or advertising… as well as the “information curious” generalist reader.

[bctt tweet=”Why do we buy prestige toilet paper when nobody really sees what we do with it?”]

Rethinking Prestige Branding Book Cover Rethinking Prestige Branding
Wolfgang Schaefer & J. P. Kuehlwein,
Kogan Page

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Copyright 2015 Autamme

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