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Promotion involves communicating the message of a brand to consumers through various means. The means of communication include advertising, personal selling, sales promotion, public relations, sponsorships, cold-calling and several others. Additional 'new' promotional methods are online banner advertising and pop-ups; e-mail alerts and mobile phone alerts; movies, music and books; celebrity collaborations; and the recent iPod-casting.

Traditional brand promotion is a one-way process while communications is a two-way process that emphasizes exchanges with consumers. Communication with consumers features receiving feedback when brand messages have been effectively delivered. This is what yields the most benefits for brands. The communications strategy is an offshoot of the branding strategy.

The communication strategy has the following features:

1 The Push Trade promotion, where the brand is promoted to the market. An example of this is the traditional print advertising.

2 The Pull Customer promotion, where the market is pulled to the brand. An example is the various Internet promotional methods.

3 The Profile Stakeholder promotion, where the wider market environment is targeted for the promotion.

Luxury brand promotions follow the conventional promotion pathway where a brand sends a message to the consumer who receives and interprets the message. The complete process involves the sender (the brand) encoding the message through a package of images, colours, moods, feelings, sound and other elements that reflect the underlying message before sending it out. The receiver (the customer) then processes and decodes the message received from the brand. This process sounds simple but is oftentimes ineffectively implemented by several brands. Some of the hitches of effective brand communications can be found in four broad cases:

1 When the wrong message has been designed for the target audience.

2 When the right message has been designed and sent to the wrong audience.

3 When the target audience misinterprets the message as a result of failed sender encoding.

4 When the wrong medium has been used to send the message.

In designing promotional messages, it is imperative in all cases to define and target the right audience. Luxury brands have the additional task of conveying the brand's essence and all its elements in each communication. This means that the appropriate message, channel and execution style should be utilized in addition to the communications design itself. The identified effective promotional mediums suitable for luxury brands are:

1 Advertising

2 Direct marketing

3 Personal selling

4 Public relations

5 Sponsorships

Advertising is often defined to be a way of reaching a mass market because it utilizes the mass media. It is also often wrongly implied that advertising is non-personal and non-targeted. The reality is that although advertising luxury products through the mass media such as magazines and television is viewed by a mass market, the message within the advertisements are often targeted to a narrow group, that is the luxury consumer market.

Luxury brands are niche brands and their advertisements are tailored towards a specific consumer market. In addition, the advertisements of luxury brands are a means of communicating the brands' story, starting from their history and development to their personality and image, products and services.

Advertisements are highly important in the luxury goods sector, as they enhance the visibility of luxury brands. As a result, luxury brands allocate a large percentage of their earnings to advertising. The annual advertising budget of the average luxury brand is between US$14 million and US$50 million, representing between 5-15 per cent of revenue in most cases. This budget increases to approximately 25 per cent of the sales revenue with the inclusion of other aspects of communications such as public relations, events and sponsorships.

Traditionally, advertisements of luxury brands are mostly featured in fashion magazines, business publications, airline in-flight magazines and other high-end publications. This is because these publications are the most widely read by the target audience. Current statistics from Luxury Briefing indicate that Vogue, which is the foremost women's fashion magazine, circulated more than 2.1 million copies of its UK edition between January and June 2005.

Also more than 9 million people read its US edition in the first quarter of 2005. Furthermore more than 5 million people read men's fashion and lifestyle magazine, GQ, in the first quarter of 2005 in the USA alone. These examples represent a small fraction of the numerous fashion and lifestyle magazines that exist in different parts of the world. The indicators point towards the importance of the print media in advertisement and its influence on the luxury fashion consumer market.

Also, the glamorous nature and credibility of fashion magazines complements the characteristics of luxury brands. Fashion magazines also reinforce creativity through their high visual quality and long-lasting nature. The same can be said of television advertising. Although television advertising is used minimally by luxury brands, its prestigious nature complements luxury brands. It can also provide both entertainment and excitement through high-impact messages that utilize visuals, movement and sound.

Luxury brand advertising is significantly different from consumer goods advertising because they address different audiences. Sometimes however, several luxury brands wrongly adopt the same advertising channels as consumer goods. Other brands copy their competitors' media and style without understanding the strategic reasoning behind the choices. For example, it is common to find the advertisements of luxury products on street billboards and bus-stands in France, although these media are considered to be advertising domains of Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCGs). However, it can be argued that these media do not diminish the brand image of luxury brands in France because luxury fashion is an embedded aspect of French lifestyle and culture. However, if this strategy were transferred to the United Kingdom, where the majority of luxury consumers do not commute by bus, then the adverts would be addressing the wrong audience and its objective would be misplaced. On the other hand, in a city such as London where the majority of luxury consumers in full-time employment use the public underground train system in and out of central London on a daily basis, luxury brands might achieve a strategic objective by advertising at the train stations where their target consumers commute. Other advertising media that several luxury brands utilize, which require assessment and revision, are the bodies of taxis and buses (Figure 5.16).

The second issue to be determined after choosing the medium of advertising is selection of the products to advertise through each specific medium. In order to do this, it is important to ascertain whether the advertisement is product-specific or brand-specific. This factor indicates whether the advertisement aims to emphasize and reinforce the brand or if it seeks to promote a particular product in the market or both. For example, an advertisement of a fragrance might be placed at a bus-stand as a means of targeting the consumer group who commute by bus. In this case, the product (fragrance) is used as a tool to attract and invite new or old consumers to interact with the brand. This means that the advertisement is product-specific. On the other hand,

People Looking Street Billboards
Figure 5.16 Who do luxury brands target when they choose bus-stands, train stations and street billboards as advertising media, such as these found in different French and United Kingdom cities?





placing the advertisement of a product such as expensive jewellery or leather handbag on a billboard in a highly tourist district of Paris could be a tool to invite wealthy tourists to purchase the particular product or to visit the brand's store while in Paris. In this case, the advertisement is brand-specific. Advertisements could also have a hybrid objective between brand and product specificity but if the objective is not set prior to deciding the medium, then the result could be counter-productive.

Luxury brands often feature products, models, celebrities and society personalities in advertising to reflect the brand essence and message. In addition to these, other tactics that generate rapid and instant publicity or rejuvenate the brand have been adopted. For example, Tom Ford has been known to use the 'Sex' concept to sell luxury. As the Artistic Director of Gucci, he oversaw the use of a controversial print advertisement in February 2003 featuring a female model displaying her pubic hair shaved into the Gucci logo. The picture shows the model pulling down her underwear to reveal Gucci's G logo, with a male model crouching between her legs. Needless to say, this advert generated great public coverage. Tom Ford again applied the 'Sex' advertising concept by featuring pornography stars as models in the 2006 print advertisement for his own branded sunglasses. Reports indicate that the models were also paid to have private sex on the set of the photo shoot in order to effectively transfer the 'feel' of sex onto the print adverts.

Additional advertising tactics include the use of a brand's origin, location, history and heritage as a source of its credibility and communications. This could be done through pictures, words and products. For example, Bally includes the tagline 'Since 1851' in its print adverts to reinforce its history; Lacoste's print advert has featured a 1921 picture of company founder Renee Lacoste playing tennis, to underline the brand's long history and sports association. Also Burberry used images of London, the English lifestyle and a British celebrity, Rachel Weisz, to advertise its 2006 fragrance Burberry London (Figure 5.17); and Jean-Paul Gaultier uses a similar tactic of selling 'Frenchness' in its Spring/Summer 2006 advertising campaign.

The effectiveness of advertising can be measured in different ways. The factors that are considered in this exercise are the following:

• The persuasion level of the advertisement in terms of creating a favourable consumer predisposition towards the brand and its offerings.

• The accomplishment of the message delivered in terms of understanding and conveying the brand essence.

• The level of delight and enjoyment of the advertisement to consumers.

• The result from tracking the pre- and post-awareness level of the brand and products.

• The result from a panel research regarding the long-term advertising effectiveness.

• The impact of the advertisement compared with those of competitors.

Burberry Advertisement

Figure 5.17

Burberry emphasizing its English heritage through using a British actress to depict the quintessential English lifestyle, (2006)

Figure 5.17

Burberry emphasizing its English heritage through using a British actress to depict the quintessential English lifestyle, (2006)

In order to achieve a high level of effectiveness in luxury advertising, it is important to differentiate the general style, message and execution of the advertisement. The luxury goods sector is highly competitive and as brands strive to get noticed, they end up falling into the trap of sameness. It is not uncommon to look through the pages of a fashion magazine and find advertisements of several brands that are so similar that if the brand names were concealed, they could pass for the same brand. Consumers long to see fresh and distinctive advertising that has high and lasting appeal and this is only achieved through differentiation. The message of the advertisements also ought to be deeper than the surface beauty of a pretty model flaunting a desirable product. Luxury brands have differing underlying personalities but their advertising messages sometimes reflect the same brand image and personality which is wrong. The distinct brand images could be effectively portrayed with a more focused attention on insight, innovation and imagination.

Also, the concept and style of the advertisement of the sunglasses product of Armani, shown in Figure 5.19, has been adopted by several luxury brands.

Figure 5.18 The Dior Crystal Watch advertisement (2005/2006), which focuses on the product features and design to accentuate its luxury status. The advertisements of other luxury products like the Chanel Camelia watch advert (2005) and the Hermès Cap Cod watch advert (2006), have also applied the same advert design and strategy concept. This depicts sameness, which is contrary to the quality of substance that consumers seek. Luxury brands have distinct identities, personalities and images and these are required to be reflected in all aspects of marketing communications, including print advertising

Luxury Brand Fashion AdvertisementArmani Eyewear Advertising
Figure 5.19 The Emporio Armani eyewear advertisement, 2006. Several luxury brands have applied the same concept and style in their eyewear advertisements, depicting 'sameness'

This depicts similarity in terms of products and brand personality portrayal. Consumers are bored with this level of sameness and monotony and now have higher expectations from luxury brands.

In response to the monotonous images and messages often found in luxury goods advertisements, several luxury and mass fashion brands constantly devise innovative advertising means and messages that act as 'firsts' in their categories. A notable example is the spring-summer 2006 advertising campaign of premium leather-goods brand Furla, which features its own employees as models (Figure 5.20). The strategic aim of this advertisement for the brand was to 'express the spirit of the brand' and to show that the brand understands its consumers' real needs. This tactic represents a new approach to fashion advertising. It portrays the employees of Furla as 'brand stewards' and 'brand ambassadors', who are attuned to serving their customers and fulfilling their expectations. This is an effective representation of perceived product efficiency and customer services. Another advantage of this advertising tactic is that it gives the brand a 'face' through revealing the dynamic and creative team behind the products and their complement to the brand's personality. This advertising method could however raise other questions related to the 'fantasy' aspect of a luxury brand's image projection to the public.

Furla Daniela Bernardi

Figure 5.20 Furla's advertisement featuring employee Daniela Bernardi (2006). This is an innovative advertising technique that shows the brand's employees as its ambassadors. However, it raises the question of whether luxury consumers relate more to the people who represent the brand or to the 'fantasy' and 'desire' aspects of luxury goods

Figure 5.20 Furla's advertisement featuring employee Daniela Bernardi (2006). This is an innovative advertising technique that shows the brand's employees as its ambassadors. However, it raises the question of whether luxury consumers relate more to the people who represent the brand or to the 'fantasy' and 'desire' aspects of luxury goods

Figure 5.21

Oscar de La Renta (Spring 2006) advert, featuring Liya Kebede, effectively captures the brand's essence of stylish and modern chic, (2006).

Photographed by Craig McDean

Figure 5.21

Oscar de La Renta (Spring 2006) advert, featuring Liya Kebede, effectively captures the brand's essence of stylish and modern chic, (2006).

Photographed by Craig McDean

While striving for differentiation in the luxury market, it is also important to critically evaluate the impact of an advertising campaign on a brand's positioning and image. This evaluation should also feature customer expectations and the effect of the advertisement on their perception of the brand.

Luxury and high-end fashion consumers constantly seek to be enticed and excited through desirable goods and dazzling models or celebrities in advertisements. While consumer goods like detergent and toilet paper project a sense of reality to their consumers, luxury brands project a sense of fantasy. These contribute to creating the 'desire' and 'lust' that propel consumers to seek luxury goods. However, when consumers are exposed to a different form of advertising, it is essential to ensure that they understand the underlying message.

Figure 5.21 shows a luxury brand advertisement that has effectively applied advertising communications to recapture the major qualities of the brand.

Direct marketing is defined as direct communication between a brand and a consumer designed to generate a purchase behavioural response. The response could be in the form of information request, a visit to the brand's store or website or actual product purchase. The goal of direct marketing is to lead consumers to interact with the brand. Its methods include the age-old mailorder selling technique through catalogues and direct mail. Others are telemarketing and home shopping, although these are rarely used in the luxury sector.

Direct marketing is one of the fastest growing media of communication among fast moving consumer goods, but their application in luxury goods promotions is minimal. This minimal use arises from several discrepancies in its utilization. For example, several luxury brands produce product catalogues designed for consumers but there is a continuous inconsistency over how, when and to whom these should be distributed. Several brands such as Roberto Cavalli and Gucci offer their catalogues to consumers on request and at no cost. Other brands such as Louis Vuitton sell their catalogue to consumers for a small fee. Yet others like Coach provide the possibility to order a free print catalogue from their website, in addition to the online version. Also, Jimmy Choo provides an online downloadable catalogue in PDF version that consumers can print. Most of these online and offline catalogues often do not make provision for product purchase although they provide product information.

One of the challenges that luxury brands face in using the direct marketing strategy is the retention of the 'exclusivity' and 'prestige' qualities while pushing products commercial-wise. This challenge raises the question of the range of products to present through direct marketing.

Direct mail has several disadvantages in addition to its numerous gains. The first disadvantage is the risk of overwhelming consumers with information which they might not be interested in; the second is related to ethical marketing concerns like seeking consumer permission prior to utilizing personal details for direct marketing purposes of the brand and its partners.

Personal selling is the most direct and longest established means of promotion in the promotional mix. It is the presentation of products and associated persuasive communication to potential clients. Personal selling is widely used in business-to-business exchanges where products or services demonstrations are required. However, it can also be an effective promotional tool for luxury brands.

Personal selling is manifested in several ways in the luxury goods sector. These include private shopping programmes, special customer events, private product previews, online privileged information access, fashion show sales and so on.

Personal selling in the luxury sector usually requires the presence of the product creator or other specialists that understand the product components, history, use and care. Specialized information and one-to-one interaction is the core of the personal selling strategy. It is also one of the avenues of providing personalized and customized customer relations services. This strategy is also effective for collecting customer data that could be utilized for data mining and re-designing products and services according to customer needs and expectations.

Public relations involve the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between a company and its target audience. The aim of public relations is to influence and in some cases, change people's knowledge and feelings regarding a company and its offerings, including its identity and image.

In the luxury goods sector, public relations is a promotional tool used to persuade consumers and the public of the authenticity of the brand, while also facilitating understanding between the brand and the public. It is a means of building good relationships with not only consumers but also all the stakeholders of the company. The stakeholders include shareholders, associations, partners, collaborators, suppliers, distributors and competitors. For example, representatives of several luxury brands are often invited to their competitors' events and fashion shows and they are expected to share the goodwill of their brands during these events. This is because consumers and other stakeholders are influenced by the information they receive about a brand from different sources; therefore the brand must maintain positive associations at all times.

Public relations messages are often more credible than paid advertising because they involve a story that frequently leaves a lasting impression with the public. They also create a continuous buzz around a brand or a product. This contributes to a positive image for the brand and fuels word-of-mouth publicity. It also helps luxury brands to stay in the limelight through exposing their good deeds. The deeds can range from humanitarian acts to those concerning environmental protection. For example, in 2004, Jimmy Choo launched the coffee table book, Four Inches, featuring photographs of celebrities and models wearing nothing except Jimmy Choo shoes. The photographs were sold by auction in London, Los Angeles and New York and raised more than £1.6 billion. The proceeds went to the Elton John AIDS Foundation, which particularly benefits women and children with AIDS in Africa. Also in 2005, Salvatore Ferragamo celebrated the tenth anniversary of its Beijing store with a fashion show and gala night. The proceeds from the events were donated to the China Welfare Fund for the Handicapped. These are effective public relations tactics.

The Internet provides an additional effective medium to advertise and inform the public of public relations deeds. For example the corporate section of websites is an avenue to feature public relations deeds particularly on the 'News and Highlights' pages.

Among the main objectives of public relations in the luxury fashion sector, the following are the most prominent:

Bringing attention to a brand's good deeds. For example, Stella McCartney supports the anti-fur movement and this is known as a part of her brand legacy. Burberry also supports the Breast Cancer Awareness project through donating a percentage of specific product earnings to the cause.

• Enhancing the image of a city, region or country. Several Italian and French luxury brands are involved in initiatives that promote their countries as fashion and art centres.

• Introducing new products or sub-brands to the public such as the 2005 co-branding collaboration between Zac Posen and Jaguar for the design of a limited edition driving gloves collection for the launch of the Jaguar XK Sports Coupé. A percentage of the sales turnover was donated to the Teachers Count charity.

• Influencing government authorities and legislation. Louis Vuitton is one of the luxury brands actively involved in initiatives such as lobbying to aid governments in fighting counterfeit luxury goods.

In order to execute an effective public relations strategy, it is imperative for a luxury brand to have a clear set of objectives and a specific target audience. An analysis of the brand's current position in public relations, the competitors' activities and the public's expectations is also important.

Public relations effectiveness can be measured in several ways. These include internal assessments, brand preference research and media coverage generated by public relations activities.

Public relations deeds are increasingly important especially among the current consumer base who are more ethically and environmentally aware and therefore seek substance and depth from luxury brands.

Sponsorships can be considered as an extension of public relations because they both aim to achieve similar objectives such as providing a good image and reinforcing a brand's credibility. Unlike public relations, sponsorship initiatives involve the provision of financial support channelled towards funding an event often relating to art initiatives, sports and goodwill. These actions generate a lasting positive impact among consumers and the public towards the brand. It is also a great source of brand loyalty especially among the consumers that have enjoyed the event or have an affinity with the specific activity that has been sponsored. For example, Louis Vuitton has been known to sponsor several young artists, painters and photographers. The brand also has an exhibition centre at its flagship store in Paris, dedicated to exhibitions by various artists. Other brands such as Pierre Cardin provide art and history exhibitions through the brand's private museum. Yet other non-fashion brands are implementing sponsorships through fusing fashion and gastronomy. An example is the champagne brand Moët & Chandon, which often sponsors and promotes fashion-related deeds. Every season, the brand commissions a designer to create a dress that would reflect the qualities of the Moët & Chandon brand. Past designers include Roberto Cavalli and John Rocha. The brand also sponsors the Fashion Tribute Award.

Sponsorships are also a way to target specific market segments. For example, Louis Vuitton sponsors the annual American Yacht Regatta competition, and in exchange the trophy has been named the Louis Vuitton Cup. The company also receives immense positive publicity and access to some of the world's wealthiest individuals through this sponsorship venture.

One of the major benefits of sponsorship is that it is a precise way of marketing because it provides a brand with its own specific territory. This makes both the brand and its message stand out. It is also a great way to attain competitive advantage. Like public relations, the sponsorship programme should involve an analysis of the current company situation, a definition of a clear set of objectives and the identification of the target audience. This will provide a guideline for mapping out and clarifying the strategy and its resources and performance measurement.

Some important points to remember in the development of sponsorships and other promotional tactics are the following:

1 Be distinctive and innovative.

2 Be consistent in portraying the brand personality and image.

3 Understand who the target is and satisfy them.

4 Analyse competitors' strategies and differentiate from these and avoid sameness.

5 Understand that each brand is unique and different and therefore promotional messages should correspond to the unique nature of a brand.

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  • alaric
    How many people look at billboards?
    8 years ago

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