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Season 5: Luxury Advertising

1973_DianaRoss.gifAirs August 9 & 13, 2011 (Originally Aired January 15th/20th)

Luxury Marketing is a category that is completely different from traditional brand marketing - because it is in the business of selling fantasy. We'll look at the top 10 most powerful luxury brands in the world (six of which were created at almost the same time in the 19th century) and we'll analyze luxury marketing techniques. Most of all, we'll delve deep into our collective psyches to examine why we all desire expensive products in our lives -and what that really says about our inner selves.

Listen to this episode as streaming audio (runs 26:30)
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All of the TV commercials and print elements we referred to in the episode, as well as some bonus materials, are below. Enjoy.

The way to sell luxury items is to sell fantasy.

It is the "Dream Business."

Luxury marketers have to "create" a vision of the future that propels their customers to a place they could not have imagined themselves.

Few marketers do it better than Chanel. For years, they have set the standard for fantasy-fueled TV commercials, beginning with this one from 1979:

Remember the opening lyric to Queen's first big hit, "Killer Queen?" It said "She keeps Moet et Chandon, in a pretty cabinet..." For years, I wondered what that meant. Now I know. The number seven most power luxury brand is Moet & Chandon champagne.
The ultimate symbol of wealth and taste. Founded in 1743, the company sells over 26 million bottles of bubbly annually.

Here's a film promoting Moet & Chandon starring Scarlett Johansson:

Dom Perignon is another powerful brand when it comes to champagne. Here is a film shot by fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld, who also sells fantasy in his fashion lines:

Tiffany & Co is a study in class and branding. Their patented blue boxes have set many hearts a-fluttering. Here's a beautifully shot commercial with Sarah Vaughn providing the lovely soundtrack:

Buying luxury goods says many things about our inner selves. Sometimes it is conspicuous consumption (a phrase coined in 1899), which is the need to show off your extravagance. Sometimes this need can be a big statement, like a Mercedes (narrated by Mad Men's Jon Hamm):

Sometimes luxury means wanting to belong to an exclusive group. Membership has its privileges, as seen in this American Express ad.

Another way marketers advertise luxury brands is to link them to a celebrity. I have long believed that the concept of "prestige" must be transferred. A product, on its own, isn't prestigious until it's seen in the right company.

Like this campaign for Gucci, with actor James Franco:

But maybe the best, and most famous, celebrity campaign was for Blackglama Mink Coats. It ran for 30 years, and has recently re-appeared in the pages of Vanity Fair.

It was the ultimate use of transferring prestige from legendary personalities to a little-known association of mink farmers. It put Blackglama on the map. Click on "Campaign" then on "Legends Galley":

The very underpinning of Madison Avenue is based on the notion that you are really two people: The person you are, and the person you want to be.

The dreams and fantasies that luxury marketing weaves only want to talk to person number two.