Luxury Marketing\’s Higher Calling

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\"RRFrom the 4Ps to the 4Es

In 2013 the American  Marketing Association  changed the definition of  marketing. It went from the old 4Ps definition, which  most of us practicing  marketers were drilled in: Product, Price, Promotion, Place, to a new definition based on the idea of value:

Marketing is the activity, set  of institutions and processes for creating, communicating, delivering and exchanging  offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners and society at large.

Judging from the sorry state of  business today—the closing of 100 Macy’s stores as the most recent example—most marketers never got the memo, or if they did, they gave lip  service to it, but kept on marketing the way they always had.

Today’s marketers must answer to a higher calling, one that truly reflects the changing mindset, expectations and needs of customers. This is even more important for marketers aiming at the luxury market, as its affluent customers are on the cutting-edge in search of  value and meaning in the consumer goods and services they purchase.

A case in point: luxury brands continue to believe that the way to market is by creating “aspiration” for the brand—  the hope or ambition that acquiring the brand will enable the consumer to achieve some special status or position. But I’ve got news for those brands: Aspirational marketing may work for some people, but not those who can actually afford what the luxe brands are selling. The affluent consumers already have plenty of status and position. They don’t need any brand to give it to them.

Luxury marketing needs to evolve  from its focus on” aspiration” to one of  “inspiration.” It’s about inspiring the affluent to see how the brand is meaning-ful and delivers a measurable value that enhances their lives. Here’s how:

Marketing Luxury in a Brand New Style

Education and training aside, one reason we cling to the old 4Ps of marketing is its simplicity. Following that model for simplicity, Ogilvy & Mather’s Brian Fetherstonhaugh has proposed a new formula, the 4Es: EXPERIENCE,  EVERYPLACE, EXCHANGE and  EVANGELISM. The secret is to use these 4E ideas to communicate and deliver meaningful value to the customer.

Luxury brands, and the customers they serve, are the pinnacle of the consumer hierarchy. Marketing strategies and tactics based on the 4Ps make a clear statement that the brand is outmoded, old-fashioned and worse, for the masses. To sell to the contemporary affluent, luxury marketers need to use the 4Es.

EXPERIENCES Replaces Product

We all talk about the experiential economy, and it’s easy to market a brand when it’s an experience, such as dining, travel or spas. But what about all the luxury goods brands? How do they turn their products into an experience for the customer? Yes, customer service is important, but it takes more than that.

Take LVMH, for example. In the first half of 2016, the company’s traditional luxury leather and fashion goods business dropped 1 percent from the previous year.

The business was buoyed by rapid growth in two of its experiential categories, perfumes and cosmetics (8.2 percent) and wine and spirits (6.5 percent). To turn luxury goods products into experiences for the customer, companies like LVMH need to do a deep dive into understanding the feelings that drive customers to make a purchase, and no ‘big data’ or quantitative data can provide that answer. It requires getting up close and personal with the customers to understand the special experiences they get from the brand
and its products.

Brands that understand this new experi-ential dimension in the marketing formula include Stitch Fix and Trunk Club, both of which use a personal stylist to select complete outfits according to a woman’s or man’s style profile. Then the company delivers care packages of items that the customer can try on at home. Laudi Vidni guides customers to create personal handbags, allowing for different styles, leather, linings and do-dads. Project Gravitas started with a simple idea: give women the perfect LBD (little black dress) designed to enhance her body shape,  with the added confidence of a shapewear lining so she always looks her best.

All these brands turn the chore of  shopping and buying into a personal ex-perience for the customer. And they do it thanks to the internet, because they have also mastered the next E: everyplace.

Place becomes EVERYPLACE

The concept of everyplace includes  allowing customers to engage with brands on their own terms, through  their own paths to purchase, be it  online, in store, at home or by phone. Many luxury brands have given in to this idea of everyplace by selling their goods online, but they’ve done it kicking and screaming rather than embracing the opportunity to make their everyplace meaningful and memorable.

Sales don’t have to be through the internet only, with its many different platforms (mobile, tablet, computer) to support. They can take the customer experience directly to the customer,  face-to-face, person-to-person. For example, custom-menswear brand J. Hilburn employs more than 3,000 stylists across the country to meet with customers to conduct personal fittings and give fashion advice to find the right style and fabric to suit the man and his lifestyle. Lincoln Motor Cars offers its clients pickup-and-delivery service when their cars need repairs. And this is offered across all its brands and through every Lincoln dealer. It is all part of “The Lincoln Way” of delivering services and experiences to its customers. In other words, Lincoln has evolved into the 4Es way of marketing.


Robin Lewis has bemoaned the race to the bottom caused by retailers’ reliance on price as the driver for engagement. Without a doubt, price still matters, even among the affluent with discretion to spend. But for the highest potential customers, price takes a back seat to value, because affluent buyers are willing and able to pay when real value is there.

Exchange involves more than money in the till; it is the entire value experience  a customer derives through the process of engaging with the brand.

Part the exchange can be respect for  the customer’s time, which is often at a premium among the affluent. Special insider knowledge or know-how helps customers navigate their lives. MAC cosmetics delivers expertise through makeup lessons and professional application. A pay-it-forward gift of something meaningful can be passed along. That’s the spirit behind Toms Shoes, which donates a pair of shoes to needy children for every pair of shoes purchased. Warby Parker’s ‘buy-a-pair/give-a-pair’ eyeglass program and FEED tote bag model, which offers meals to the hungry for  each bag sold, both have loyal followings.

Engagement can be simple, like a  “thank you” that makes the customer feel appreciated. Beekman 1802, the company founded by the Beekman Boys Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell, greets its Facebook followers every morning with a beautiful picture, often showing the Beekman farm. It’s a way of saying thank you to their “neighbors,” what the company calls its customers. Engagement becomes a no-brainer.

Promotion is EVANGELISM

By making the brand experience meaningful, and the exchange valuable, brands can tap the potential of their  customers to evangelize for the brand. While luxury brands are wedded to the idea of traditional paid advertising and celebrity endorsements, creating individ-ual brand evangelists that will spread the word about the brand is the highest mark of engagement and the ultimate in the new expression of marketing promotion. It’s activated through content marketing, social media-driven, traditional public re-lations, influencer blog posts and through old-fashioned word-of-mouth marketing.

That WOM is profoundly effective goes without question. Surveys of B2C and B2B companies show that word-of-mouth is ranked among the most important marketing strategies. The Word of Mouth Marketing Association shows its impact: WOM drives 13 percent of sales, two-thirds of which is offline talking and sharing and only one-third social media- driven. For success, it takes a planning and organizational commitment, not leaving it to chance.

Apple is one of the most effective brands in turning its customers into evangelists. Outdoor brand Patagonia cemented its engagement with its brand loyalists in its “Don’t Buy This Jacket” advertisement that encouraged its customers to think responsibly before buying new products. The campaign underscored the brand’s core values of quality and lifelong performance. It was such a remarkable program, it succeeded with positive buzz.

Beekman 1802’s daily exchange of life on the farm invites their neighbors into Josh and Brent’s lives. Those good neighbors pass those inspiring photos along, not in a strong-armed way to market Beekman 1802, but simply because the pictures are remarkably beautiful. Brent and Josh reject the ‘lifestyle brand’ label in favor of being a “living brand.” The story of the Beekman 1802 brand is alive and well.

The time is now to answer to marketing’s higher calling by evolving from the 4Ps to the 4Es approach. It takes more than just a shift in tactics; it requires a complete reset of how your company looks at customers and the ways you engage them. Essential to the process is to talk with customers in a personal way and draw them into a discussion about how they view the brand and ways they  might want to participate. This is the raw material from which real insights can lead to marketing innovation.



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