Bow Down, Brands: Luxury's Strategy Reigns Supreme
The luxury category doesn’t stand as aspirational only to the consumers it serves: Brands of every size and from all industries desire a taste. For good reason — high-end brands have attributes, an appeal and an attitude irresistible to fans. Knowing what makes these remarkable brands the top of their kind can help your own company create a more desirable brand and better reach customers.
ATTRIBUTES OF A LUXURY BRAND
In truth, the percentage of brands in this coveted category is small. While a market for offbeat, expensive items usually viewed as a necessity exists (such as Theodent 300, an average-sized tube of toothpaste selling for $100), the chances of turning paper towels into a decadent purchase from a fundamental one are slim.
According to luxury brand builder Dr. Dan Herman in “The Eternal Principles for Creating Luxury Brands” (http://bit.ly/1LeVPIv), illustrious services and products all possess several shared characteristics.
“There are three defining factors of luxury:
1. Luxury is nonessential. You don’t need a Montegrappa fountain pen to write. You can do without it, but you don’t want to. Luxury is desired, not needed. In luxury, you are at your best. It makes your life richer.
2. Luxury is hard to get. Its availability is restricted by high price, by small series, by exclusiveness. If you are allowed at all to try and get it, it demands an effort, a sacrifice. You cannot ask for the Amex Centurion black card, which attests that your credit is absolutely limitless. You have to be invited.
3. Luxury is superb, inspiring feelings of wonder and excitement. Just visit the exquisite Prada store in Tokyo. It represents an outstanding achievement; it is a divine experience. You cannot help but admire the people that created it. You are so charged up that you must share your experience with others.”
APPEAL OF A LUXURY BRAND
Herman identifies reasons that people seek out luxury items: to feel special, reward or console themselves, delight the senses, or feel taken care of and show love, among others.
One doesn’t need to go further than personal experience to know he or she has satisfied those wishes at low price points: a tea or coffee as a treat, for example, or a carryout for the family when mom or dad is too tired to cook. Something luxurious for one person may be a basic for others, especially when considering the extremes our world contains, but what makes consumers eager to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to get a similar emotional response?
To have the sought-after luxury brand appeal — one worth the price paid for the product — legitimately special traits are required. It’s the product craftsmanship and brand heritage of well-heeled names that give the items and companies a pedigree people desire.
No matter the item they make — cars, watches, couture, champagne — everything luxury brands do is strategic to their story and unapologetically exceptional, from the product quality, showrooms and service to the marketing and packaging.
ATTITUDE OF A LUXURY BRAND
Above all, the most important detail to take away from luxury brands is their understanding of the customer. Your company may not be centuries old, and your product may only ever sell at a small dollar amount, but every brand can give their customers honest products that work, presented in a way they find special.
In Dana Thomas’ book, “Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster,” French shoe designer Christian Louboutin, famous for his red-soled creations, succinctly sums up what luxury brands accomplish: “Luxury is the possibility to stay close to your customers and do things that you know they will love. It’s about subtlety and details. It’s about service … Luxury is not consumerism. It is educating the eyes to see that special quality.”
PHILIP KINGSLEY: A CASE STUDY
Have you ever had a “bad hair day?” You can thank hair guru Philip Kinglsey for the phrase but not the frustration you felt: The man behind his namesake brand has been working with and studying hair since the age of 16 and understands how to improve it unlike any other. Kingsley completed the requirements to become a trichologist in 1953 and has never stopped receiving accolades for his work in hair and scalp science.
As a company, Philip Kingsley, trichology experts and makers of over 50 bespoke products, understands the principles to which luxury brands adhere. The U.K.-based company has a trove of dedicated fans, celebrities and brand evangelists because the packaging is beautiful, the heavily-awarded products work and the niche brand has a heritage and story all its own. To wit, for the third year in a row, Philip Kingsley has been honored with CoolBrand status, the prestigious acknowledgement of brands excelling in style, innovation, originality, authenticity, desirability and uniqueness.
BRANDPACKAGING talks with Heather Berry, sales and marketing director, about the person, the products and the packaging that make Philip Kingsley the desired brand it is.
BRANDPACKAGING (BP): Let’s start with a background on Philip Kingsley, both the man and the brand.
HEATHER BERRY (HB): Philip Kingsley is the world’s leading trichologist, with clinics in London and New York.
The retail range, launched in 1997, was the first trichologically driven hair care range on the market. By adopting a tailored and holistic approach to hair care, encompassing optimum nutrition and a regular regime, the line provides clients with the science to help them love their hair.
BP: Philip Kingsley has had quite the clientele: Royalty, politicians and everyday women who adore the brand. Describe the intended buyer.
HB: Kingsley’s client list has included Hollywood stars from Audrey Hepburn to Cate Blanchett. In fact, Philip Kingsley’s bestselling product, Elasticizer, was created for Audrey Hepburn in 1974. The Philip Kingsley buyer is women aged 35+. They are affluent, discerning shoppers who are conscious of using high-quality, efficacious beauty products. The Philip Kingsley customer is very loyal to the brand.
BP: Kingsley clearly has a passion for his work, having been published in many respected journals and appearing near-countlessly on radio and television to give expert opinions and advice. He’s improved the product formulations for other brands and perfected his own. Tell us more about what sets the Philip Kingsley brand apart.
HB: Philip Kingsley has incredible heritage, having been developed by the world’s top trichologist with over 60 years’ experience. The product range was the first to address the different needs of hair textures (fine, medium, coarse and African Carribean), as opposed to the prevailing standard of normal, oily and dry. It was also the first to launch the concept of pre-shampoo conditioning treatments, scalp masks and scalp toners. Philip Kingsley takes into consideration the health of the scalp as well as the hair, and the brand also looks at nutrition and lifestyle in order to take a holistic approach to hair care. Philip Kingsley is an expert in female hair loss and recently launched Trichotherapy, a holistic regime to help treat fine and thinning hair, which has seen incredible success rates.
BP: Kingsley has stated that hair is the most important element on a person in regard to mood control. Packaging has to have that same feel-good appeal. What is the goal for the packaging the brand uses for its products?
HB: The Philip Kingsley packaging has to convey the brand objectives: premium, luxury, classic, sleek, yet high performance and functional. Packaging can be very emotive, and it’s important to us that customers enjoy the packaging, find it easy to use and also feel proud to see it on their bathroom shelves every day.
BP: Describe the reasoning behind the elements of the package design and structure.
HB: Philip Kingsley design is all about clean lines and the power of white space. Each product has its own identifying color for the text, inspired by the color of the original formulas made in the Philip Kingsley Clinics. The linear design is inspired by long, flowing strands of hair and the text on the packaging hangs vertically to reflect the way hair hangs.
An example of great structure is the 100ml airless dispenser used for Preen Cream, Smooth Cream, Straight Hair and Curl Activator. The packaging has stylish form, great shelf appeal and includes notable technology such as precise dispensing and a suck-back feature that pulls excess product back into the dispenser. As we offer premium products, it is essential that the dispenser is easy to use and able to evacuate the entire product.
BP: The packaging certainly is beautiful and professional without coming close to a typical “clinical” design, despite the products’ scientific basis. What was the purpose behind that choice?
HB: Although Philip Kingsley products have been created with trichological expertise and are highly effective, we want to be thought of as more than just ‘problem solvers’ but also as luxurious, high-quality products that make hair care a pleasure and make women proud to display their Philip Kingsley products. The packaging is designed to evoke trust in both the products and the brand and work in both a salon setting and retail environment.
BP: Were there any challenges in creating the design or choosing the packages, and if so, how were they overcome?
HB: Our customer feedback is so important to us. When we learned that customers were finding the shampoo and conditioner caps too difficult to open and close, we made the decision to change the caps completely and tooled a unique shape that was much easier to use while fitting in the overall pack design.
In terms of design, it’s really important that the packaging enables the customers to make the right product choice for their hair to ensure they always get the best possible results.
We recently launched Geranium & Neroli Elasticizer, a new version of our best-selling product, scented with 100 percent natural essential oils. We wanted to make this stand out on shelf and decided to create beautiful floral packaging, inspired by Philip’s annual trips to Portofino on the Italian Riviera. The packaging was developed to surprise and delight the Philip Kingsley customer and has proved exceptionally popular since its launch in May this year.