Agent Provocateur

How funky brands can be profitable

D&Gperfume In one of my previous entries, called Funky Brands Defined, I published a list of attributes shared by most Funky Brands™.

An important one is the fact that they are not driven by innovative and creative ideas alone, but are or have the potential to be profitable. This, of course, requires a good deal of  business development and brand building work done.

In today's post, I want to talk about how your brand can benefit and become profitable from mass luxury brand positioning.

Mass luxury (often referred to as affordable luxury or new luxury) brand management essentially combines characteristics of building brands that have the luxury and exclusivity appeal, with techniques that can lead to relatively high sales volumes.

My marketing professor at ESSEC (a Paris-based business school famous for its luxury marketing program) was a former Armani guy. He certainly knew a lot about sustaining those "old luxury" brands like Chanel and Gucci (and Armani, of course). But he was nevertheless fascinated how some innovative companies managed to combine classical Kotler marketing with  the know-how of luxury brand management by building extremely funky brands in the mass luxury segment.

Some of these brands were created completely from scratch (for example, Coach and Victoria's Secret in the US, Agent Provocateur in the UK, and a Dutch brand Marlies Dekkers whose founder spoke in an interview on this blog), and others were born under the umbrella of already existing "true luxury" brands (for instance, Armani Exchange as a modest brother of the brand Giorgio Armani).  Over the past decade or so, many brands were launched to satisfy a desire for a better lifestyle expressed by wealthier middle class eager to splash out on previously unaccessible items.

So, what can you learn from mass luxury brands in order to make your brand profitable? You'll be surprised how many potentially funky start-ups fail just because they are disconnected from their potential customers. So, the most important rule of thumb is that you gotta get to know your consumers, their lifestyles and their desires as much as you can.

Stop for a moment doing this tedious market segmentation based on geographical location, age and gender. This stuff tells you nothing about your consumer's deep emotional needs and desires. Unless you've understood what emotional connections they can make with the products you sell, you'll be wasting your time.

Besides that, keep in mind the following factors which, in my view, may trigger consumers' interest in purchasing your funky mass luxury goods or services:

  • The lifestyle factor: Whereas splashing out on a single Gucci outfit is an extremely rare occasion for most people, and buying a Lamborghini is simply out of the question, a sizable market out there still wants to have a luxurious lifestyle. "Luxurious" can mean different things for different customers, and the trick is to find your loyal segment for whom your product will be a luxury. The right combination of such items as furniture, consumer electronics, food and drink, beauty products and fashion can do wonders and make our lifestyles luxurious and enjoyable. Not every item in your customer's home has to be of super funky design and great quality, but make sure your brand can end up on your customers shelves!
  • The self-worth factor: people appreciate goods and services that can contribute to their enjoyment of life (e.g. high quality perfumed candles, a meal at a gastronomic restaurant, or a visit to a spa) and feeling of self-worth. Do you know what contributes to the feeling of self-worth within your customer segment? If not, the first step towards making profits is to find that out fast and act on it.
  • The funky factor: people like standing out from the crowd, and making a statement about who they are. They often express themselves through the clothes they wear, or items they use (computers, phones, cars).  If your customers have created emotional connections with the products you sell, and even made them part of their personal brand, you've for sure kept the funky factor in mind successfully! Again, if you know how the attributes of your brand can enhance the funky factor of your customers, you've certainly moved forward towards a beefed up bottom line.

Mass luxury is the most profitable segment of many markets because attractive margins can be combined with sales volume. But the challenge is, mass luxury brands do not sell themselves . They are driven by hard-to-define factors like fashion, word-of-mouth, and constantly evolving preferences of your customers. If you've managed to apply a rigorous framework to identify these factors, and closely monitor them, you'll certainly be on the path towards making sizable profits and building funky brands.

Finally, a good article on the subject that I can recommend is "Luxury for the Masses" by Michael J. Silverstein and Neil Fiske, published in Harvard Business Review in April 2003. Have fun learning the tricks of the funky brand trade!

Flirting with your customers: funky, cool and seductive brands on Twitter

agentprovocateur

Do your flirt with your customers on Twitter? If not, maybe it's time to give it a thought. Twitter is growing like crazy, and brands are beginning to embrace its simple yet powerful capacity to enable dialog with us, real people (aka consumers). Well, at least the online geeky addict kind!  Some of these brands join just because it's a trendy thing to do, and once there, don't really know what to do with it. Others get a bit more creative, attract many followers and use the Twitter medium for their own benefit.

For already quite some time I have intended to take a closer look at Twitter to determine the presence of funky brands there. Funky in the sense of zesty, innovative, and modern. AND, importantly, VERY customer-oriented.

Let’s face it, such great brands, often referred to as lovemarks, are quite hard to find on the web and in real life. My hope was that Twitter, which is known for creating close connections between brands and consumers would attract some of the funkiest brands like a magnet. Or, maybe just being on Twitter makes a brand more funky by definition?

As a point of departure, I considered the UK list of coolest brands and checked if any of them were on Twitter. Also, I added some of my own hand-picked brands.

Some cool brands that I checked, didn't appear to have official profiles on Twitter, but instead, boasted numerous fan accounts, or at least, accounts which contained references to the  brand in question. This reminded me of an article I once saw. It was warning brands about the so called “brand-jacking” on Twitter, but I don't think this is such a bad thing, actually. On the contrary, if your brand already seems to be present on Twitter in the form of your fans' accounts, it can definitely suggest only this: you are a true funky brand.

Here is a selection of some funky brands on Twitter that I have hand-picked for the Schmoozy Fox readers, in no particular order. Follow them and see how their funk-appeal evolves in the Twitter-sphere.

Funky fashion

Agent Provocateur (@msprovocateur), : a famous lingerie brand. Apparently, the brand created a Twitter profile in December 2008 to prepare for Valentine's day, but I see that their enthusiasm for Twitter didn't last long – the last post went out on February 26th. Was it just a short-lived campaign? Come on, @msprovocateur, you should give it another try!

Nike: some strange stuff goes on here. There are several Nike-like accounts, and one of them is called @notofficialnike, supposedly written by the “official” Nike's social media guy. Kind of confusing!

Funky Technology

iPhone: this one has been definitely “brand-jacked” on Twitter as there are many iPhone-related profiles there. Conclusion: great for iPhone, this only suggests its strength.

Apple: same story here, lots and lots of “Apples” on Twitter!

Bang & Olufsen (@Bang_Olufsen) This ueber-cool Danish company which manufactures high end audio products, TVs and phones opened its Twitter account on March 23rd. Only 10 followers by now, but I am sure the numbers will grow pretty quickly.

Funky vehicles

Vespa, an Italian line of scooters produced by Piaggio. It must be a true lovemark, I don't think it has an official Twitter account, but look at the amount of Vespa fan profiles!

Funky personal brands

For me, number one funky person on Twitter is Gary Vay-ner-chuck from Wine Library TV: @garyvee (I already wrote about him on my blog). His Tweets are sometimes very personal, sometimes informative, and often fun. Obviously, lots of stuff about wine. I have no idea how the guy manages to run all these sites, businesses, give numerous speeches, launch TV channels and send messages on Twitter. @garyvee, do you have time to eat and sleep?

Also, Google's founders Sergey Brin (@SergeyBrin) and Larry Page (@LarryPage) are on Twitter. Many people follow them, but they follow only each other. Not too many tweets from them though.

Truly yours is on Twitter as well, feel free to connect with @FunkyBizBabe!

Do you know more funky brands on Twitter? Post a comment!