To Stand Out in a Crowded Market, Think Luxury, Not Price

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Marcia Roosevelt, Saatchi & Saatchi NY

In an era where household brands are locked in a battle for attention and loyalty in an overcrowded market, Amazon’s recent announcement that they would be launching a line of private label products felt like yet another blow to an already struggling industry.

The breadth of this new product line, which will offer everything from coffee to diapers to cleaning supplies, stands as a threat to hundreds of brands who are working to find new ways to compete in an environment where sales are shifting online, a category that Amazon itself already owns, and functional performance differences between leading brands are often negligible. The rules of engagement have changed, as the tried and true formula of strong product claims and mass distribution is failing to get the results it once did.

So how can legacy mass-market brands win against these odds, shoring themselves up against private label encroachment, and at the same time, stand out from one other? By taking a page from the luxury playbook. While many companies see fit to engage in a race to the bottom on price, smart brands - even those with a less than lux background - can use a luxury approach to win loyalty and create memorable, covetable user experiences that elevate them above the rest. Here’s where to begin.

Prioritize the “in-use” experience - For decades, mass marketers have been focusing on that first moment of truth - the retail encounter. But with brand loyalty at a low, it’s time to create meaningful engagement by shifting focus to the second moment of truth - the experience of actually using the product. One brand doing this well is Lululemon, who designs their products to evoke a response long after a buyer sees them for the first time with in-use experiences they call “engineered sensations.” Available in relaxed, naked, held-in, hugged and tight, these sensations are unique to the brand and allow buyers to choose how they want the product to make them feel. These experiences don’t always need to be tied directly to how the product functions. Aesthetics also play a huge role in this, as people will pay more for a product that they would be proud to display after the packaging is thrown away. Brands need to remember that luxury is an experience that lasts, not just something that drives a decision at the shelf.

Embrace simplicity - Today’s store aisles are a visual overload, with brands vying for attention with shiny packages, in-aisle promotional devices and ever more complicated display pieces. Brands working to convey luxury should think of packaging as a display and a means of generating equity building repeat business, rather than something screaming for attention in the aisle. To give consumers a luxurious respite in this chaotic marketplace, brands should consider refined graphics, nomenclature and character. Simplicity is reason why Apple products are synonymous with luxury and style, while also being a mass-market success story. You don’t have to be rich to own them, and yet they feel aspirational. This approach also works for many small cosmetics brands that command a higher price point by selling understatement and an air of refinement.

Make memories through emotion: As Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said…but people will never forget how you made them feel.” In the competition for memorability, emotional resonance is what brings consumers back for more. Household brands have always worked to connect with buyers through emotional messaging around caring for their families. For example, last June Saatchi helped Pampers launch its #BetterForBaby campaign which featured a re-write on the beloved “Hush Little Baby” lullaby that listed all the things people would do better for babies in the modern age. The heartwarming spot showcased how everyone can do their part to make a newborn’s life a little bit better, and gained an overwhelming number of pledges to make these ideas a reality.

Adding to this, brands would be well advised to find an emotional appeal that connotes luxury and is unique to their product such as making a buyer feel special, as if they’re getting something exclusive, or smart, in that they’re more knowledgeable than other consumers for buying your product.

Think about where you’re seen as well as how you’re seen - Where your brand is distributed conveys context and sets expectations about what products sold in that environment are worth. The reason why salon hair care products cost much is that they are equated with the expertise of stylists in salons. Think outside the normal retail channels and try to find another space for your product that will raise its cache, whether it’s placing a brand of coffee into high-end coffee shops or personal care products at luxury hotels.

There’s more to developing a luxury brand than just being expensive, or associated with the right celebrity or social influencer. With the right mindset and messaging, brands at any price point can communicate the values that make luxury goods special and memorable, and keep consumers coming back for more.

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