What comes to your mind when you come across the words 'Open Happiness'? It will invariably be a bottle of Coca-Cola. 'Open Happiness', after all, has been the brand's tagline for decades now. While the beverage is a way of life in many countries, in markets such as India, people drink Coke, or for that matter any aerated beverage, as they enjoy it. They don't bother about its ingredients or the manufacturing process. The company also does not talk about these things.
However, for a company that sells luxury silk tea bags, talking about a delightful cup of tea may not be enough. It has to be more detailed. From the garden from where the tea leaves were sourced to the method of blending and the quality of silk used, it has to build a compelling story to sell consumers the idea of using silken tea bags.
The ideal medium of communication for a mass product like Coca-Cola is television. But for a company selling luxury tea, the best way to reach out to its target consumers, who are connoisseurs of luxury products, is a powerfully-told story, with help from good images, in a luxury magazine.
The number of Indians who consume luxury products or services has been growing at 20-30 per cent a year. Apart from members of royal families and industrialists, who have been buying luxury products for ages, there is now emerging a new class of high net worth doctors, lawyers, investment bankers and even agriculturalists who don't bat an eyelid before spending on a solitaire diamond or a luxury holiday.
Luxury advertising, however, is just 0.5 per cent of the $6-billion advertising market. However, consistent growth in the number of consumers has encouraged leading advertising and communication companies to launch luxury verticals. Be it WPP, Dentsu Aegis or independent agencies such as Bang In The Middle, luxury is now an integral part of the strategy.Group M's experiential marketing arm, Dialogue Factory, has tied up with a global luxury services company, Quintessentially Lifestyle, to offer experiential marketing services to companies that sell luxury products and services. "Between our agencies (Mindshare, Maxus, MEC and MediaCom), we have a host of luxury clients. While we understand consumers of mass products, there is a gap when it comes to luxury consumers," says Dalveer Singh, Head, Experential Marketing (APAC), Dialogue Factory.
However, traditional companies in the luxury communication space, such as Alok Nanda & Company and Design Temple, say that although these conglomerates are setting up luxury arms, they lack the skills to understand the nuances of luxury communication. "It is about selling a dream or a myth and for that you have to create a credible, seamless world. It's not about just doing an ad campaign, because if the consumer sees any crack in this myth, it will shatter. It's about painstakingly crafting a world and requires special skills and attention. Most communication companies don't have the skills for luxury communication," says Alok Nanda, Founder and CEO, Alok Nanda & Company.
What Is Luxury Communication?
Mondeleez India has won many accolades for its 'Kuch Meetha Ho Jaye' campaign. The big idea behind it was to get consumers to substitute traditional sweets with Cadbury chocolates for special occasions. Mass brands are always looking for similar big ideas to get through to their target consumers.
Luxury, says Nanda, is different, as it doesn't need a big idea. This is because it has limited functional value. It is more about emotional values and involves buying into a person's thought process. For instance, people don't buy a Rolex watch just because of its features. They invest in it due to attributes of timelessness and attitude that are linked to the brand.
"A lot of investment goes into finding the right photographer, the right nuance and the right model. It sounds a little boring to those looking for big ideas," says Nanda.Luxury advertising, says Divya Thakur, the founder of Design Temple, is about adding to a brand's characteristics. So, if the Taj Group wants to advertise its super-premium Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jaipur or Falukanama Palace in Hyderabad, it will not talk about the room tariff, she says. "I have to transport you to the world of luxury this property offers you. I will give you a feel of the place through pictures and captivating text about its history."
While a high-decibel television and print campaign, followed up by some quirky communication on digital platforms, can do wonders for mass brands, a similar course of action for a luxury brand can not only be limiting but also detrimental, say experts. The reason is that luxury consumers, by virtue of being widely-travelled, know the experience that should be offered.
Adarsh Jatia, Managing Director, Provenance Land, the maker of Four Seasons Luxury Residences in Mumbai, says when mass communication tactics, such as celebrity endorsements, are used for luxury brands, the buyer is often put off. "If you are a luxury brand, you should ensure that you get your product or service right. If you do this, consumers will seek you out and you will not have to scream on the top your voice to get their attention." Jatia, who claims to have sold almost all the 26 luxury apartments on offer in his project, says he did not use above-the-line media. "We relied on word of mouth. When the first set of 10-15 influencers experienced what we were offering, the word spread."
And, creating a good-looking campaign is not enough. "From the carry bag's design and the way sales staff folds your bill to music that is playing, if anything falls apart, the myth falls apart," says Nanda of Alok Nanda.
The Digital Way
Almost 75 per cent luxury advertising and communication is dependent on the print media. "Print allows you to feel the product. From the type of paper we choose to the design and strength of the colour to the way it is detailed, it's hard to get that sense through e-mailers," says Thakur of Design Temple.
However, the tide is turning towards digital, says Amit Chaloo, General Manager, TAG Heuer India. Three years ago, the watch brand's communication was entirely dependent on the print media. Now, almost 30 per cent has moved to digital.
LUXURY BRANDS GO DIGITAL
DIOR: It has launched Dior Eyes, a virtual reality headset that takes people behind the scenes at the brand's runway shows. The headset gives people a chance to see artists applying make-up
RALPH LAUREN: It tied up with Bloomingdales to unveil an interactive window display for Father's Day. A mobile app allowed users to purchase products from the displays directly from their cellphone
FERRARI: It has an augmented reality phone app that helps consumers in the US choose the car's colour, wheels, etc. The process can be recorded as a video and shared via email
JAGUAR: Using sensory technology, Jaguar's 'Feel Wimbledon'captured the emotions spectators felt at the tennis tournament in July 2015 and then shared the results
Thakur says while print communicates the feel of the brand better, digital helps brands personally interact with the target audience. She cites the example of MS Scarves. "They not only had someone to make you wear the scarf in different ways, they also had a little booth where you could photograph yourself and post the picture to Facebook or Twitter. You could even walk away with a small Polaroid print."
"Luxury brands are recognising the potential of the digital media to reach out to their target audience and are embracing it rapidly, but digital hasn't replaced offline yet," says Tripti Lochan, CEO, VML Quais, a digital agency of the WPP Group.
Singh gives an example of a 26-year-old who was his co-passenger on a flight from Delhi to Mumbai. The guy tore off a page from the newspaper which had a section on how to pronounce the names of popular luxury brands. "The person's father is with the Delhi Police and had just made Rs 40 crore by selling six acres land outside Delhi. He is young, aspiring, and wants to live life king size. This is the new generation of luxury consumers in India."
The point Singh is trying to make is that luxury is no longer restricted to royalty and industrialists. Therefore, while digital and experiential may be great ways of reaching out to consumers, it may not be a bad idea for a luxury watch or a car brand to advertise in a newspaper. After all, India has millions like the 26-year-old man that Singh had met who are eager to consume luxury brands.