A Better Course

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The Cult of the Luxury Brand

October 29th, 2007 · No Comments

I recently went to see a talk by Radha Chadha on the rise of luxury brands in Asia, about which she has recently written a book. She had moved from India to Hong Kong a decade ago to work for an ad agency and, fascinated by the attitude to luxury brands that she noticed both around her and in the accounts she worked on, started to research a book about them.

Two facts that interested me most, because they speak about my demographic on a different continent –

  • 94% of women in their 20s in Tokyo own a Louis Vuitton bag
  • Office workers in South Korea buy Ferragamo shoes on installment plans

A lot of the talk focussed on handbags, and the rise of the “logo line”; these account for a massive share of the luxury market in Asia. This led into the main conclusion of the book and talk – that luxury brands were a convenient way of expressing identity within a group. This has become more important as old class systems in Asia have broken down; the idea that these brands emerge because “there are no rules for being rich” was an interesting one, although not entirely applicable to buying by those who weren’t rich (and were buying shoes on an installment plans).

Of course, Japan as a country has been relatively affluent for some time which, in itself, provided an accelerator for the market. Whilst salaries are high, houses are small and cars inconvienent; the body has emerged as the most convenient means of expressing wealth, in the form of luxury clothes and accessories. Other accelerators in other countries have provided different pictures of consumption. In China, where gift-giving is important for business and politics, 50% of the market is male, compared to 25% elsewhere in Asia.

My favourite quotation of the whole talk came at the questions, when someone asked Radha Chadha why she was so interested in it. In reply, she talked about enjoying finding out what drove people who had attitudes to buying so different to her own – not speaking to consumers of luxury goods, but speaking to people and finding out what matters to them about what they do. She concluded by describing this process of investigation as “just lovely, really”, an attitude that I think would result in far more empathetic marketing if adopted widely.

Categories: branding · marketing
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