Brands that sell luxury goods aim to increase their brand’s perception of exclusivity by increasing its perceived value, availability, and design characteristics. But not all luxury brands are born equal. For design-based brands, a vital branding notion is brand prominence, which segments brands based on how visible visual identity markings are.
In this space, there are two types of luxury brands: loud and subtle ones based on whether they chose a robust, in-your-face branding approach, or a more subtle, whispered retail philosophy.
Subtle luxury brands use fine branding techniques, focused on detailed and well-design customer experiences. At the same time, loud luxury brands use their logo and flashy colors to scream and impress their customers.
The truth is that mega-luxury brands, active in multiple categories, might have more subtle lines and louder ones. And this is also true concerning visual retail design. So while Hermes is mostly a subtle brand, Gucci and Louis Vuitton might change their prominence for specific products or retail experiences in certain countries or consumers. Even within the same category, Gucci is known to combine very classic sunglasses or frames with louder versions of them.
Does the approach to luxury branding change brand perception?
It is critical to assess the effect of luxury brands on consumer perceptions of exclusivity and how comfortable they would be shopping at a store selling luxury products.
According to the historical notion of Old vs. New Luxury – it would be easy to state that Subtle luxury retailers would be seen as more exclusive than Loud luxury brands in retail. But would Consumers feel more comfortable shopping at a Loud or Subtle luxury brand?
Consumer Research suggests that consumers perceive discreet luxury brands’ retail stores as more exclusive than loud luxury brands’.
Brands leveraging loud branding perform better when they have more entry-level products in their stores, which suggests they may be perceived as more comfortable (and somehow affordable) shopping environments.
Discreet Luxury Brands use subtle brand cues and rarely have cheaper products that would appeal to many shoppers. Their brand voice and retail visual approach are exclusive, not for everybody.
So what for luxury brands?
Careful luxury brands are expected to employ retail design to enhance perceptions that they offer exclusive products but must also be able to deliver in-store experiences that go beyond the traditional transactional nature of retail.
Modern luxury brands must carefully balance maintaining their exclusivity and accessibility. Premium pricing helps brands gain brand recognition and improve their image by offering exclusive products.
Creating scarcity by limiting the quantity available for purchase can increase the desirability of a product. Making something accessible can make it seem less exclusive.
Luxury brands can use accessibility to attract potential customers and current aspirational shoppers. Design should be used to communicate prestige to elevate the brand’s image and the sanctity of its retail space.
Products can be displayed in showcases, but – traditional wisdom tells us that shoppers don’t need to touch or view the items they’re interested in purchasing. This view might be obsolete with younger consumer groups, as the “touch and feel” senses play a critical role in the brand consumption experience.
Loud luxury brands tend not to care about creating a personal emotional connection but rather make statements, by shocking, by surprising their customers. That’s how they build memories with their customers. They are often more trendy and aligned with the tastes and aesthetics of younger and less affluent consumers. Loud brands use pop-ups to create stores that look more like exciting branded attractions than traditional brick-and-mortar locations. These spaces offer lower-priced products than their more expensive counterparts, meaning they may lose some of the prestige and status associated with the brand.
Luxury brands’ prominence has an essential impact on consumers’ perception of their brand status and trustworthiness. However, Luxury brands often face a dilemma regarding how prominent they want their visual identity in their retail experience.
Too little prominence makes the brand less credible, but too much will make consumers less comfortable in the shopping environment.
Conversely, the more status the brand has, the less the negative side of the equation is proper.
Loud Luxury brands trade prominence for credibility and lose a long-term opportunity to build an emotional connection with consumers. However, their ability to convert transactions lower price-tag items is higher.
Subtle Luxury brands have longer-term benefits from their status and approach but have longer journeys in front of them.