They’re not affordable, but fascinating
I’m not going to put on any show here, I’m a poor college student. I pass up the “organic” frozen burritos at Costco because they cost $2.00 per serving. With this as your gauge of my current socioeconomic status, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I can’t afford Prada, Chanel, or even Michael Kors.
In 2015, the personal luxury goods market skyrocketed to over $250 billion, according to a Bain & Co study. This data shows that now, more than ever — people are choosing luxury brands. But why?
One view of the luxury fashion industry is that brands rip off their customers by selling items that were produced at only a sliver of their price tags. And yes – brands definitely markup their products. But the lack of affordability is the precise reason why luxury brands are deserving of appreciation.
Instead of looking at the brands simply through the lens of the price of their goods, we can appreciate them by admiring their development of a psychological phenomenon that goes along with their names and logos.
In a book on fashion branding by Uche Okonkwo, she writes:
“When people purchase a luxury fashion item, they don’t just buy the product but a complete parcel that comprises the product and a set of intangible benefits that appeal to the emotional, social, and psychological levels of their being.”
Sunglasses that cost the same amount as my groceries for the entire month should be on my list of stupid and irresponsible purchases. After all, one can find sunglasses at Target or even Nordstrom for under $15.00.
However, they’re not just sunglasses. Luxury sunglasses are branded to seem like more than sunglasses – they’re sunglasses that fulfill some emotional, social, or psychological need.
A Vuitton Example
When a consumer purchases a handbag from Louis Vuitton, she is not purchasing the handbag specifically because she needs something that will carry her possessions.
She’s purchasing the what the handbag means. She’s purchasing it as a social status identifier; a picture of wealth. She carries it as a sign to herself and her peers that she has the kind of frivolous lifestyle that accommodates spending way more than necessary on something that carries her belongings.
How incredible is it that a brand was able to give her that sense of psychological satisfaction?
I think it’s freakin’ awesome. Through completely creative outlets: photography, advertising, copy writing, even architecture — Louis Vuitton was able to position itself as selling more than just handbags. Except their primary product is still just handbags!
Branding is the reason why companies can charge crazy prices for their goods and it works. That fact is endlessly fascinating.