Dear CMO:
We love High and To The Right. Nothing pumps the ego like premium positioning. There’s plenty to suggest that starting here and “moving down-market” is a winning game plan, all things considered. You can slum your way to success in a lot of markets.
There’s another idea that appeals to me a lot, and if you’ve been reading the memos lately, you know that my head is in the luxury market right now. Anyone can start high and go low. What’s very intriguing, however, is starting high and not moving down-market, but moving the masses up-market.
Said another way, how one can move down the pyramid is less intriguing than lifting the pyramid itself a little higher.
There are plenty of reasons to think this is a good idea. High pricing means the opportunity for high margins. There’s the ample opportunity for the aura of exclusivity. There’s the positive halo effect that premium positioning can bring to a brand, as well. Being aspirational can be its own reward. The converse is also clear, where dropping your price can deteriorate your brand positioning. Again, your experience may vary and there are plenty of exceptions to each archetype.
There are plenty of challenges that face the marketing who stares down this assignment. Is the market ready to pay a lot more than they used to for what you’re selling? Is your channel ready to sell it (or do you have to do it yourself)? A good acid test might be asking yourself, “if I turned on the demand generation spigot today, what would happen?” Would consumers scratch their heads in wonder at the experience you’re offering them or at the price you’re charging? If it’s the latter, you’re moving too fast.
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Key Takeaways:
> Preparing the ground: changing the consumer’s frame of reference is needed before you can turn on demand generation. Whether this means honing the experience so that the price fits the emotional impact or planting the idea that you are what’s next, we all need to acknowledge that you can’t rush consumer mindshare. As Mao says in his treatise on guerilla warfare, “the people’s war is a political struggle.” If circumstances change, you delay your timetable. When the time is right, you strike.
> Preparing the channel: if the phone started ringing today, would the consumer experience with them be as good as the experience you expect them to have with your product? Or would it be a wing and a prayer? If you have to think about this for a moment, it’s probably the latter. Time spent ensuring a rigorously consistent consumer experience would be time well spent.
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Plenty of people before me have been pulling on this thread, from the Experience Economy to Trading Up. Wolf Ranges and Sub-Zero fridges aren’t just for restaurants anymore, are they? Coffee pretty much costs $4 a cup, doesn’t it? And you can probably afford a Mercedes if you want, whereas for most of our parents’ generation, such a thought would never have entered their minds.

It’s not about “affordable luxury” anymore — it’s about bridging the gap between luxury and why it makes sense for me.

Has luxury become an entitlement? Is this a good thing? If you’re a social philosopher, no. For a marketer? Probably yes.


Copyright (c) 2007 Stephen Denny