Gangstas in Gucci trainers and Accountants in Aston Martins. Where’s the exclusivity in that??

Why...

Do we not see that the greatest trick that marketing has pulled off is to convince people mass produced goods can still be an exclusive luxury brand?

You only have to go back to when these brands actually started to see they were indeed the preserve of a very select few. Up until the 1980’s Ferrari's total number of cars ever made was still less than one year’s output of Porsche's production; yet now both license everything from pens to sunglasses. Cartier jewellery and Givenchy dresses used to be hand-made and the idea that either had a mass market or off the peg line would have been laughed at. Can you imagine what Coco Chanel would have thought of her elegant logo emblazoned across T-shirts?

And yet with the democratising of these once aloof high-end brands, they still manage to preserve a strong whiff of elitism. No wonder the companies who own them like LMVH are so profitable. I mean $225, 000 for a fuchsia coloured Birkin Hermes handbag?!

The ‘lower end goods’ (which still sell at a premium) are inserted into the mass market. From this pool a client may emerge with material success and still want to be associated with the brand going up their ‘exclusivity ladder’- Armani Exchange via Emporio Armani through Georgio Armani to Armani Privé - all at a huge premium This has been one of the most brilliant pieces of marketing abracadabra I have ever witnessed.

If you look at a number of other once luxury items that have become more widely available some still cling to the aura of ‘olde worlde privilege’ in the packaging; but they don’t actually fool the general public. However most are generic goods or services that never had a branded leader; smoked salmon, cashmere, brandy, leather clothing, even fancy restaurants. Some were simply superseded by technology whose price reduction democratised a once special item (personal phones in cars, cameras and colour TVs). Some just fell out of fashion (cruising by ship to New York, white tie and tails events and wearing tiaras).

Don’t get me wrong, I applaud the general growth in people’s wealth that our capitalistic system has provided. Yes it’s flawed, but less flawed than any other methods in improving living standards.

It’s just how the aspirational brands, such as cars (Aston Martin, Ferrari, Porsche, Bentley or Maserati), clothing (Gucci, Versace, Chanel and Dior), jewellery (Cartier, Bulgari and Asprey) and accessories ( Mont Blanc, Smythson, Louis Vuitton) have all enjoyed that democratisation and therefore dilution of exclusivity, yet still sell on it!

...and another thing

What many of these luxury brands do suffer from is the feeling of superiority given off by the staff. “Gentlemen, ladies, listen up! Smart as you may be… you are shop assistants. As such you are not at the same level as those you are serving while working, no matter how distasteful it may be to have some tattooed footballer or geeky internet czar clogging up your smart establishment”.

The public have all suffered from the Pretty Woman syndrome (the scene in the film when Richard Gere berates the shop assistant from talking down to Julia Roberts and insists she grovels to her as Julia is about to spend an obscene amount of money).

The sense of aloofness gets ten times worse in customer service. Customers are shoved into a small back office. They are made to sit and wait far too long for an assistant to get round to seeing them. These are very expensive goods that should not break down, and yet you are expected to wait a ridiculously long time for said repair. I have spoken to several jeweller friends who shake their heads at the amount of weeks quoted to service a watch, repair a fountain pen or re-stich a pair of shoes that just fell apart. The attitude is so often, ‘well quality takes time’ rather than offer any semblance of apology for the product being faulty in the first place!

Right now what’s exclusive to these brands is iffy customer service, sky high prices and all the rarity of raindrops in Seattle!

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2 Comments

  1. Avatar Les Mis says:

    Reigning!! Raining zut allorssur la République peut-être- Les Mis

  2. Avatar Les Mis says:

    Who can’t wait to have the next anniversary doilies or commemmorative coin to mark the reign of the longest raining monarch? Answer mostly those not associated with the brand- whatever way you see it this brand has not been diluted love it or loath it. Wouldn’t any marketing executive give their Obe to replicate this continuing success? her Maj doesn’t even need a passport – there’s untouchable exclusively – and exemplary customer service for everyone.