For that Elitist Feeling

A creative, well-made product is not enough to pleasantly surprise a VVIP customer today. Brands need to devise exclusive realms that become a beacon for their top clients

By: Sanjana Chauhan, Luxury Marketing & Branding Expert

Posted on: October 17, 2012

A creative, well-made product is not enough to pleasantly surprise a VVIP customer today. Brands need to devise exclusive realms that become a beacon for their top clients.

The dream is not to own a crown. It is to be a king” - These words by Gian Luigi Longinotti Buitoni, Ferrari North America’s former CEO, hold a deeper implication than most people realize.

Years back, luxury brands offered services like personalized shopping to a select few clients, but now these services are offered to all. Each client, after all, is important in these recession years. So what now to make VIP customers feel elevated from the ordinary?

Some luxury brands have been innovative and creative in coming up with offers and ideas to attract the affluent, not just to buy their products, but to make these clients feel special too. Many of these offers proved to have an enormous influence on feelings of association to and loyalty for the brand. Companies are seeing increased growth linked to exclusive luxury treatment.

In India, one of the most relevant examples is the Oberoi Belvedere club - a by invitation only club – initiated by The Oberoi Hotels & Resorts. Members, who are whetted by Mr Oberoi himself through a long process, are given special privileges like access to all-equipped meeting space, concierge services and lot more.

Most Indian luxury retail brands have exclusive offers for their top clients and exclusive salons for privacy while showcasing unique products to them. But some have been creative in going a step ahead for their loyal customers. Ganjam, the Indian jewellery brand, not only invites its customers for special previews, but also to their annual events like Ganjam Jaipur Polo Trophy in London and Flights of Fantasy in Bangalore. Their retail team brainstorms on the event/launch type and invites clients based on their interest.

Last year, India also experienced the Amber Lounge after the Grand Prix F1 races, for the first time. Amber Lounge invites the elite to hobnob with the racers in a unique, one-of-its-kind celebration, after the races. Ms Sonia Irvine, founder and owner of Amber Lounge, says, “What really makes Amber Lounge is the service and attention to detail. We treat everyone as a VIP. There are no cornered off areas or queues on entry, and all drinks, including the world’s most prestigious Luxor and Belvedere, await your arrival.”

Seeing a phenomenal response last year, Amber Lounge will be back this year, again at The Claridges Surajkund. The sponsor for 2011, Mercedes-Benz, has been re-signed. Last year it was Lady Gaga. This time is going to be even bigger we suspect!

Spinning the web
It’s luxury brands’ growing dilemma: how to sell more and remain exclusive. In this era of economic turmoil, taking either of the extreme steps might spell doom. Louis Vuitton, however, the most copied and sold luxury brand in the world, found a creative answer. The company has created a purchasing experience for customers that psychologist, consultant, and author Peter Collett calls “fantasian.” “The surrounding is as important as the product,” Mr Collett said. The idea is to mix art and luxury to “create a little bubble” to make the clients feel special.

Based on this, LVMH has created a luxury apartment above its New Bond Street store in London. Louis Vuitton’s most valued customers now have exclusive access to this luxury apartment which has three lounging areas adorned with artworks such as Basquiat’s Napoleonic Stereotype Circa 44 and pieces by Gilbert & George. Dinner parties are hosted and private suites used for viewing products shown by personal stylists in this apartment while you can order a drink too. Of course, all this is by invitation only.

Similarly, Fendi organizes shopping brunches for their top clients, where new collections are launched and limited edition products showcased. International high-end department stores are a part of the game too. Bergdorf Goodman’s ‘Incircle’ is a rewards system. The more you shop at Bergdorf Goodman or Neiman Marcus, the more points you’ll receive, which will lead you to an elevated status within the exclusive Incircle. The circle four and Presidents circle, called the “In” crowd within the Incircle, receive one of a kind private offers related to shopping, travel, exclusive invites, gift cards and many other benefits.

Luxury connoisseurs even have their own social network now. After all, not all want to join the ‘herd’ that Facebook represents! BestofAllWorlds - an invitation only website - caters to the wealthy crowd. Users can meet other world travellers, make business connections and find services such as nannies. But, of course, you cannot just go online and join – you have to be invited.

The need of it
Most of these exclusive concepts are not overtly marketed. It’s a new way of innovating a product or service and elevating its value to appeal to a select group of customers. It’s a marketing strategy to create an unspoken loyalty program that the dedicated luxury shopper finds of great value. Such ‘clubs’ are good for clients shying from media gaze and general public. The elite experience they promise to provide, with tight privacy controls, make them sell. “I wanted to create a special event for the F1 community to have a good time as I knew there was a need for a VIP nightlife experience where the teams, drivers, sponsors and guests could all enjoy together. It had to be private, glamorous and fun,” says Mr Irvine.

Creating exclusive clubs not only urges your clients to buy, but also nurture a relationship with them, which would not have been possible otherwise. It creates a psychological satisfaction in the consumer’s mind that they are getting the true worth of their money. So when Amber Lounge offers Luxor, champagne with actual 24kt gold flakes, you know your money is well-spent. The Indian luxury consumer, especially, doesn’t mind spending money as long as each rupee is justified. For such a hard nut, exclusive clubs and experiences might just serve as the crack needed to open them up!

More than being a ploy to increase sales, these strategies are well designed, elegant marketing plans that create brand value which cannot be replicated or duplicated by competition. It’s a creative way of saying “Thank You” to a shopper who spends huge amounts and leads to relationship building and brand association with the shopper. It’s the finest form of CRM (customer relationship management) activity that only a luxury brand can afford to indulge in!

Sanjana Chauhan, former Head of Marketing at DLF Emporio, is a luxury branding and social media marketing expert. She has worked for numerous luxury brands in the US, Europe and India like Villeroy & Boch and Louis Vuitton. During her recent stint, she pioneered social media marketing for luxury retail in India. Her company LuxuryNext provides innovative and customized solutions to luxury brands internationally in the areas of luxury brand management consulting, CRM solutions, social media strategies and customer experience evaluation.  She can be contacted at [email protected]

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