Are you the target?

I came home this evening a very disappointed consumer. I had just seen “Man of Steel” and “The Wolverine“. I know it seems so off-message to start my post on luxury with talk of comic book heroes, but read on to see where this leads. 

How could I have been disappointed with the remakes of such superhero classics? For starters, the movies looked and felt nothing like what I knew growing up. As I sat in my seat at the end of “Man of Steel” matinee, I figured out why I might have been so disappointed. It dawned on me that there are two houses of reason for my calamity:

  1. The studio, writers, producers, marketers, etc were inept at managing the brand and thus produced a shoddy movie that alienated core fans; or
  2. I just might not have been the consumer target of the marketers for these brands.

Either conclusion is hard for this comic book fan to swallow. However, you should do the same introspection and analysis if you ever have a brand experience that doesn’t meet your expectations. Ultimately, I concluded on the latter reason because I doubt that any professional worth their salt, could make the mistake outlined in reason #1. If that was the case, then this post should have been a lot shorter. I landed on reason #2 when I analyzed the situation in the context of a luxury brand.

Luxury Branding

Whatever your definition of it may be, one of the biggest conundrums of any luxury brand marketer is how to keep their brand relevant to their core adorers while bringing new fans into the brands franchise. In other circles, you may hear this dilemma termed as:

  • Merging the old with the new;
  • Redesigning the old in a new way; or
  • Innovating

Per the aforementioned movies, I believe I was an expected casualty of the brand marketers. Their need to keep their brands relevant to new consumers (a polite way of saying “much younger” superhero enthusiasts) trumped their obligation to keep me happy. In my eyes, the story, the characters, costumes, and the dialogue in both “Man of Steel” and “The Wolverine” left much to be desired. However, that was probably so because those components had to be refurbished to fit the tastes of the new marketing target. As a consumer, I felt cheated and unappreciated, but as a brand guardian and marketer myself, I could see the justification.

I am not saying that what occurred was the right thing to do, but such does happen when managing a brand. Managing brand loyalty (or fandom) is somewhat like a subscription business – you have to bring more subscribers in (growth) than you lose (churn). In the best situation, you should keep a strong hold on your core base of subscribers, but in reality, you could still lose some of them for various reasons.

Brand Value

When assessing the best brands in the world of luxury, I think one would make a grave mistake if they just looked to see which brands have been around for the longest time. Brand longevity and heritage are only pieces of the puzzle, and they might not have the strongest correlation with the economic viability of a brand (this post would be meaningless if I didn’t tie it all back to economic concepts such as profit, employment, sustainability etc). We could try assessing a the brand’s exclusivity, or the inflation adjusted price of its product line, but those measures leave out something really important: engagement.

If correctly defined and quantified, engagement can be a reflection of cross consumer appeal – that is how relevant is the brand to old and new consumers. I keep coming back to this issue because it greatly interests me as the strongest leverage to add value for a brand. I also welcome your thoughts on the issue. So please drop your loyal correspondent a note if you come across effective brand engagement measures.

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