Learning how to create a luxury brand like Gucci, Rolex, and Cartier is not easy or as straightforward as most founders like to imagine it is. In fact, there’s a chance that the more you know about business, the harder it might actually be to build a luxury brand.
Why? Because luxury brands are nothing like regular brands.
Even people who don’t care about business have at least some idea of the best practices to grow a brand, let alone most entrepreneurs, because of the billions of dollars huge corporations like Macy’s put into their advertising and marketing efforts. But the truth is that these same best practices are usually the exact opposite of what you want to do if you really want to be like Patek Phillipe or Armani.
In other words, you have to forget everything you think you know about luxury branding. This way, we can start building your luxury branding mindset from the ground up.
Once you do that, let’s start with the first big question…
What Is A Luxury Brand
I won’t bore you with an A through Z history of luxury brands, but the important part to remember is why luxury is even a thing in the first place.
Long story short, people have always tried to one-up each other in society. When it comes to our social relationships, both men and women have always tried to become the top dogs of their little groups. We want to separate ourselves from the “commoners” and be part of the “elite”. So what’s the easiest way to make this known to others? Through material goods that people can actually see.
This phenomena then evolved to actual royals who wanted to live well and the artisans or traders who supplied them with these goods. That’s where you get kings being fed rare foods from exotic locations that no commoner could afford to buy. You’ve also got queens who hired highly skilled artisans to create diadems from hand and made with the absolute rarest metals and gems. This is where the luxury industry was truly born.
Today, while there is less of a literal separation between “commoners” and “elites”, people’s desire to build on their social status hasn’t changed at all. In fact, it’s only become easier to do so. This is part of the reason why “Gucci Gang” is a thing. People aspire to it because they subconsciously know it puts them on another level than most other people. They can literally buy their way to differentiation and in turn, self esteem.
This is what a luxury brand truly is.
It’s a symbolic vehicle for people who want to move up the social ladder.
That’s why some people will pay $100,000 for a car even though a cheap car from a used car salesman will literally get the same job done. Because at that point, it has nothing to do with traveling from point A to point B. It’s about traveling from point A to point B while feeling better about yourself and telling others you’re at another level.
And for other luxury buyers who see your luxury car?
They now see you as an equal and understand you’re part of their exclusive club too.
That is what every luxury brand strives to do.
Luxury Branding: The Secret Behind What Makes Luxury Brands Different
Luxury brands are different from regular brands because it’s about social status rather than function. Luxury branding is different because the way you build social status in a brand is different than just promoting the function of the products you’re selling.
To promote a regular brand, you usually want to focus on…
Unique selling propositions
Feature, benefits, proof
This allows you to promote why your product is superior versus other competing brands. For example, you might say your protein shake contains 24g of pea protein instead of whey. It’s used by the world’s top vegan bodybuilders. And if you buy today, you can get it at 20% off the retail price.
This generates sales, but not social status.
So what do you need to build status?
Basically, you want to express that it’s a product for the rich and well off. It’s a fine good, not a discount product. For example, let’s say you’re selling luxury chocolate. You can say it’s a limited edition Swiss chocolate bar made by a celebrity chocolatier. It’s covered with 24 karat gold. The wooden packaging it comes in was created by a local artist. And only 1,000 of these bars will ever be made. Oh, and the price starts at $1,000 per bar.
That’s the gist of it anyway.
But what about the difference between brands like Dior and Louis Vuitton?
In a situation like this, it gets a little more complicated. That’s because luxury branding doesn’t really allow for “superiority” claims. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t claim to be different. For example, there’s a big difference between English suits and Italian suits. At least, it’s a big difference for the customer.
With that said, that comes later.
The first part of luxury branding though is actually looking and sounding like one.
So with that said, let’s look into how to name your new luxury brand.
How To Create A Luxury Brand Name
In luxury, there is a clear pattern when it comes to brand names.
Dior, Gucci, Armani, Prada, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana…etc
Because luxury brands are usually started by designers, the brands are then naturally named after them. This is usually true even for brands who might not be pure luxury, but definitely flirt with being one such as Ralph Lauren.
So if you happen to have a name that fits this mold, feel free to use it.
If not, you could also just make up a person’s name to be the brand name.
With that said, this isn’t actually required. Using a person’s last name in it of itself is not a signal of luxury. With enough marketing dollars behind it, it can be. But there are also plenty of non-luxury brands that use the founder’s name. There are also plenty of luxury brands that do not use a founder’s last name. This leads to a very important point…
Any name can be a luxury brand name.
Of course, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, anything that’s crazy generic probably wouldn’t be a smart choice. However, the vast majority of possible brand names can be luxury. That’s because in all cases, what makes a name sound luxurious is the marketing behind it, not how it literally sounds.
So the best thing to do is to name your brand after what makes it different.
Funny enough, this is partially why designer names are used. It’s the designer’s unique and exclusive products that give the brand its differentiation.
But for most people, it’s going to come down to attributes.
Origin, audience, materials, ingredients…etc
How To Create A Luxury Brand Logo
Back in the day, luxury brands used very distinct logos.
They were typically a lot more creative and used serif fonts. The reason was because marketers wanted to convey luxury through text. And because the main marketing channel for a luxury brand is offline, they had the flexibility to do so.
Today, it’s a different story because of the internet.
Talk to any graphic designer and they’ll quickly tell you there is a huge difference between fonts that work for offline projects and fonts that work best for online projects. The reason is readability. Some fonts are easier to read in paper, but other fonts are easier to read while looking at a screen.
In response, most luxury brands have updated their old logos to work for digital.
The biggest difference?
The use of simpler, sans serif fonts.
Technically, this means you can just fine a tasteful sans-serif font and you’d be good to go. Of course, this doesn’t replace the trained eye and skill of a professional graphic designer. In all cases though, you will end up with a sans-serif font that looks great.
How To Start A Luxury Brand From Scratch
Once you have a good brand name, a logo, and understand the basics of luxury branding, it’s time to actually start your luxury brand. Fortunately, it’s not too complicated. But if you miss a step, you’ll seriously hurt your chances of being treated like a true luxury brand. So pay attention to these next steps.
1. Target a luxury category with affluent customers
Every luxury brand starts by identifying who they’re selling too. This means identifying the right audience, which can mean anything from young people who live in the city to yacht owners who want to spoil themselves. You also want to identify what category as there is a big difference between selling handbags versus selling luxury wine.
2. Offer rare, exclusive products to that audience
Most luxury products have the same characteristics. They are usually made in places that are associated with luxury like France and Italy. The products themselves are made with some type of material or ingredient that is hard to find, relative to most mass market items. The production process to create the product is usually more in-depth or complicated. And they’re not made in massive quantities. They’re also just harder to buy for reasons like price.
3. Build a strong brand identity through visuals
You can’t just say your luxury. You have to visually demonstrate it. That means every point of contact with your brand should feel luxurious including everything from your homepage to your product packaging. It should be an experience that screams “exclusivity” from start to finish. For example, handcrafted wooden packaging is always going to feel more luxurious than simple polybags from Amazon.
4. Build your brand’s legend through storytelling
Unlike most marketing, which is usually direct response in nature, you want to attract your customers as much as possible. The best way to do this today is through content. Create mini-documentaries of how your brand was born or how your product is made. Publish articles that tell the story behind your founder. Record podcasts that interview luxury artisans within your category. This can be supported by advertising, but just remember to focus on storytelling, artistry, and status building rather than a “good deal”.
How To Become A Luxury Brand If You’re Not One Already
So you didn’t start your brand as a luxury brand and are wondering how you can make that switch? If so, the good news is that it is possible. At least for the most part.
Now, if you were a big discount brand, your best bet is to just trash your old brand altogether and start fresh. You can’t really make that kind of ascent from discount to luxury because they’re polar opposites and you won’t be able to shake off those associations. At least, not without millions in marketing. And even then, it’s probably better just to start fresh anyway.
However, if you were a premium or even a mid-tier brand, it’s possible.
You just need to start selling to the rich.
The first step to make this happen is to start upgrading all of your visuals. Again, everything from the hero picture of your homepage down to the extra slip of paper inside your packaging matters. Exclusivity can only be relayed when the experience itself feels special and exclusive.
The second step is to launch products that can actually be considered rare and artistic. You also want to improve your current catalog of products to reflect your new luxury positioning as well. This includes upping your prices to match that of other luxury brands. At the same time, this all means dropping anything that doesn’t fit these rules. And by everything, I mean everything. Luxury has no patience for plebeian associations.
Lastly, you need to overhaul your marketing. No more of this discounting nonsense. No more trying to compete directly with other brands. And no more talking about the function of your product. You are now in full “social status” mode and you need to reinforce that at every touchpoint with your brand.
If you do each step correctly, you’ll have successfully transformed from a regular brand to a luxury brand that’s spearheaded by luxury products and marketed in a way that builds status over function.