Into the printed world of luxury

12 Feb,2013


By Johnson Napier


Be it a shopping mall or a supermarket, one cannot help but notice some loud and in-your-face visuals that crave the consumer’s indulgence. In fact this practice is not just limited to malls and large stores where consumers flock in droves – these humongous posters seem to greet us everywhere.


And they are familiar sights – one sees them not just outdoors but within the pages of glossy magazines as well. Most of these larger-than-life posters are for luxury brands. While out-of-home is generally the medium of choice for brands, it still doesn’t compare to what the medium of print has been delivering as it continues to rule the course where advertising of niche and lifestyle-centric brands are concerned. At least that’s what can be inferred from a survey released by Cogito Consulting.


In its report ‘An Analysis of Marketing Communication of Luxury Brands through the Lens of Luxury Magazines’, Cogito Consulting decided to do a deep dive into leading upmarket magazines carrying advertising for luxury brands to unearth key trends and semiotic codes of luxury advertising in India.


The report is an analysis of some 511 advertisements in leading luxury magazines like Vogue, Verve, Time N Style, GQ, Harper’s Bazaar, MW and Cosmopolitan. All the ads were mapped quantitatively on various parameters and additionally, a qualitative analysis along with few expert interviews were done to arrive at some key learnings.


Kinjal Medh

Sharing his thoughts on the study, Kinjal Medh, COO, Cogito Consulting said, “The idea was to understand whether there were any patterns or codes that were common to most luxury brands. What we observed through our course of analysis over a six-month period is that a lot of luxury brands follow a similar pattern of advertising. We sampled over 500+ publications which typically feature advertising by luxury brands.” In fact according to Mr Medh, the unique trend that this study throws up is that “Luxury brands have grown perhaps more than the other brands in the market as they are not sensitive to economic conditions. As a result, people who can afford them can do so without being worried about what the economic climate in the country is. In fact my guess is that this sector will grow even faster and has a long way to go in India.”


Composition of Ads

According to the study, personal adornment brands feature the maximum number of ads in the magazines under study. On the other hand, products which do not directly enhance personality are advertised far lesser. For example: Apparel and watches which are a direct gateway to status elevation have the highest number of ads. While categories like real estate, home furnishing, hospitality etc. are relatively lesser.


Affirms Mr Medh on the trend: “Where the composition of ads is concerned, it has remained somewhat the same. In fact it has not changed since the coming in of international brands in India. Before that there was not much of luxury brands who advertised; just a few jewellery brands. This was a trend prevalent almost about a decade ago. But that has now changed with the coming of international titles in India who brought with them the scope for luxury brands to associate with.”


Another important trend that the study analyzed was the use or rather non-use of celebrities for luxury advertising. The study notes that only 12 percent of the ads studied, featured celebrities. Among the ads which featured celebrities, Watches, Jewellery, Perfumes and Apparel were the top categories using celebrities in their advertising. Further, of this 12 per cent, the majority (52 percent) were international celebrities while 48 percent featured Indian celebrities.


Sharing his views on the trend, Mr Medh asserted, “One of the things happening in India is that there is a celebrity overplay. In fact there are instances where a same celebrity endorses high-end products and then also endorses hair oil, which is contrasting in a sense. As a result the level of exclusivity that luxury brands require is often not possible. This is not the case with international celebrities who are very selective in terms of the brands they accept to endorse.”


Paradoxes of Luxury Advertising

An important facet of the study or rather a paradox is the occurrence of luxury brands going increasingly local while mainstream Indian brands were going international. The study goes on to state that lot of Indian brands are trying to project an international imagery by using international models in the advertising. Approximately 14 percent of Indian brands advertised have used international models in their advertisements, it claims. “It is part of the experimentation that luxury brands do to discover new ways of marketing themselves. So while international brands tend to look inside India most Indian brands are looking outside to expand their base,” Mr Medh commented.


Another interesting finding that the study highlights is that most of the brands advertised in the magazines have no body copy. About 60 percent of the ads analyzed did not have any copy, it noted. They featured only visuals and brand name. The ads project visuals which define the personality of the brand and along with visuals just the brand name. For those consumers well versed with the personality of the brand, only the name is enough and for the uninitiated, sharp visuals work in attracting them.


Ironically, from the consumer’s point of view the financial investment in luxury brands is far higher than mass brands and the justification from the seller’s point of view is correspondingly far lesser. In other words, Mass brands’ advertising sell, Luxury brands’ advertising evoke Desire.


The analysis revealed that primarily there are six key tenets that form the basis of most luxury brand advertising. These 6 codes include The Two Tone Code, The Exclusivity Code, The Sensuality Code, The Craftsmanship Code, The Origin Code and The Heritage Code. Of the whole lot, the study noted the Two Tones Code to be more effective. In its analysis of 511 ads, about 66% of brands that were advertised had black/white logo. On the other hand, in the case of mainstream Indian brands, logos do not necessarily follow a black and white pattern.


Asserted Mr Medh about the popular Code, “I think that the Two Toned Code is the most interesting be it for its advertising or even the use of logo which mostly is black & white. I expect this trend to continue going forward as black and white tones do lend a certain amount of mystique and sophistication; unless certain brand advertising demands the use of colour I largely see two toned as the most popular form of advertising.”


As for the Sensuality Code, the study observed that advertising for luxury brands is much more sensual than mass brands. Probably it is one of the ways to create a desirable personality and distance luxury brands from others brands. From perfumes to handbags to watches, sensuality is an integral part of luxury advertising, it noted.


Where the Exclusivity Code was concerned, the study noted that luxury brands try and create an aura of uniqueness since it gives an assurance of being owned only by selected people. Over abundance and easy availability of a luxury brand can cause dilution of luxury character, hence many brands try to maintain the perception that the goods are scarce.


Where the Craftsmanship Code is concerned, the study states that luxury brand advertising lays more emphasis on the craftsmanship and intricate mechanisms involved in the product. For example, an apparel ad shows the cut and fabric up close or a watch ad shows the mechanisms inside the watch.


The study further notes that for the Origin Code, some luxury brands elucidate the luxury quotient of their brand by mentioning the country of origin of the brand. Going ahead, luxury marketers are taking a step further and using the city of origin and bringing in more credibility to the brand.


As for the sixth code, the Heritage Code the study notes that the heritage of a brand builds an aura of several years of finesse and excellence in providing luxury products. It exemplifies the years of mastery or lineage to add a mystique to the brand. A mystique is generally built around the exceptional legendary founder character of the past, making up an integral part of the brand story and brand personality.


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