The market for luxury products is buoyant. According to a recent Asia Pacific consumer confidence survey by ACNielsen ORG-MARG, consumer spending in India is on the rise. People are spending on anything that spells 'luxury', from apparels to accessories, to watches, cars, liquors…!
Given the circumstance, many foreign brands are taking this opportunity to introduce their brand to the high-end customer. In this context, a question that comes to mind is - with so many good options, what is the marketer's key to rise from the clutter? The answer, it seems, lies in differentiation.
The luxury market is not a big-volume business. It is different from aggressive big-budget campaigns of lower-priced products. Due to its exclusive character marketers of luxury brands prefer to use a personalised direct selling method.
Newly launched ' Dior Girly' from Christian Dior, priced between Rs 30,000 and Rs 60,000, is optimistic about selling 5,000 watches this year. "India is an ideal market for us as it represents tremendous growth opportunities," said Valerie Lachaux, CEO, Christian Dior Watches. CD's differentiation lies in brand experience. "We train our staff about the brand per se and, what it stands for, so that potential customers get the complete Dior experience when they step into any of our outlets. We also take a lot of care to ensure that our retail outlet worldwide provides the consumer with the same brand experience. Where India is concerned, we are working closely with Indian fashion, especially trendsetters like model Yana Gupta," Lachaux added while talking to exchange4media.com.
Hugo Boss launched the first BOSS shop in India on June 19, 2003. It was a deliberate strategy to launch the brand in Delhi. As Smrita Dhillion, Area Manger, Hugo Boss, put it: "Delhi is more of a suit market, considering the big winter season here. In addition, Delhiites are very status, brand and label sensitive, which makes them susceptible to spend a lot more money. Moreover, Delhi is located close to wealthy pockets like, Chandigarh, Ludhiana, Amritsar, Jaipur and Lucknow." Even before the store opened, people started calling to place orders, she said. BOSS exceeded its sales target by about 120% through its sole retail outlet in Delhi. With a strong focus on below-the-line marketing, Hugo BOSS hosts select previews for its customer base.
In the accessories segment, Louis Vuitton sells 15 - 20 products a day, each sporting a price tag of around Rs 40,000. Prasanna Bhaskar, Retail Manager, Louis Vuitton store, was happy to say, "The business is double of what we expected." Although the company has many local below-the-line activities including direct mailers and product previews, there is no local advertising campaign to appeal to the Indian palette. The Louis Vuitton launched global campaign for the Fall 2003 and resorted to only niche lifestyle magazines. Internationally, Vuitton is associated with music and art. The company is also planning to sponsor Indian music concert.
Alongside the global fashion biggies, Daimler Chrysler India reported a growth of 30 per cent in 2003, which was "much more than expectations", according to Hans-Michael, Managing Director and CEO, DaimlerChrysler India. "This year we are looking at growing by about 10 per cent," he said. A Mercedes Benz C Class costs Rs 25 lakh, E Class comes for Rs 40 lakh while the S Class comes at Rs 63 lakh and Maybach is available at a staggering Rs 5 crore. So, how does one market a super-luxury car? Daimler Chrysler plays up its 'luxury' features. "The marketing department of Maybach has the responsibility to make this car visible to those that would consider it. Once you put it on your shopping list, the car will automatically sell itself," said Huber. Although the company is in the process of generating a database of the who's who in the country, it is expecting owners of the S-class Mercedes to upgrade. "We will be marketing it through the 'direct relationship management network' where prospective buyers will be identified and approached," said Suhas Kadlaskar, Director - Corporate Affairs and Finance, DaimlerChrysler India.
Undoubtedly, super-luxury brands have conventional advertising low on their priority. "Mainstream advertising would not serve any purpose; luxury products don't attract big volumes," explained Kadlaskar. "To retain exclusivity, we are targeting S-class owners and of course, the who's who. Our target customers are those who are considered as the drivers of the economy - the CEOs and top management guys. They create the 'feel good factor' and they want to feel good; and, they are willing to spend. Auto Expo '04 generated a large number of serious enquiries. We also showcased the car at the Mercedes Benz Golf Tournament; the philosophy is to bring potential customers together for a sporting event that they can identify with and get them further associated with the Maybach brand."
To conclude, the luxury market has expanded with the entry of serious "biggies". Though their superior products and brand equity are valuable assets in marketing, marketers of luxury products are not taking chances. They believe in hard sell. In the world of luxury, bald information emitted through mainstream advertisements is out; direct selling and 'consumer connect' is in.