A Feeling of Specialness

Christopher Zoukis

Way back in 1948, Elmer Wheeler authored a book called Tested Salesmanship. Wheeler recognized that people shopped more for psychological reasons than logical reasons. As a result, Wheeler advised sellers to “sell the sizzle, not the steak.” This advice was based on Wheeler’s five psychological stimulators, which were the five most important reasons shoppers bought goods and services. Number one on the list of identified stimulators was “importance.” Wheeler believed the number one reason any person made a purchase was to feel special. 

Feeling special is not logical or rational. It is a feeling. More than that, it is a chemically induced feeling. The New York Times reported that the pleasure shoppers experience when they buy something is real. When a shopper buys something, the activity makes him feel special. It is an actual, physical feeling that takes place by causing the body to release dopamine, which is a brain chemical that produces a good feeling, a feeling of specialness. In other words, people shop and buy things because it makes them feel special.  Image courtesy thenextweb.com

Unity Marketing (UM) did a survey of affluent customers for American Express Platinum Card in 2010. The survey demonstrated that affluent customers encountered the strongest feeling of “specialness” when purchasing an experiential luxury. UM concluded that today’s luxury buyer has gone experiential. Because they are wealthy, these customers have the ability to buy almost any luxury item. Which means luxury items are easy to obtain. Therefore, UM concluded it was not surprising that affluent customers received their strongest feeling of specialness from luxury experiences.

UM performed a nationwide omnibus survey of affluent customers. Those individuals surveyed were asked to rank three types of luxury purchases: personal luxury, home luxury, and experiential luxury. The survey participants were asked which of the three types of luxury purchases made them feel the most special? Over 80% responded that the purchase of a luxury experience provided them with the feeling of being special.

UM drew three conclusions from the survey:

     ~All affluent customers, regardless of income levels, desired to purchase the best quality possible. They wanted to feel special.

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Marketing: The Image of Reality

By Christopher Zoukis

In his delightful book, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell inadvertently underscores the idea of status when he writes about teenage smokers. Gladwell explains the reason the anti-smoking movement has failed is because the tobacco industry has made smoking cigarettes cool. The anti-smoking movement’s response was to present smoking as uncool. As Gladwell writes, “But that’s not the point. Smoking was never cool. Smokers are cool.”  Image courtesy wallpaperstock.net

In other words, the idea of cool carries status. Status is the goal. Therefore, teenagers smoke, because it provides them with status.

This idea of status and marketing to it is especially true in the toy industry. In fact, The Toy Zone, which is an online site devoted to analyzing the latest trends in toys, states that the toy industry is completely marketing driven. The reason toys are so driven by marketing is because “need” does not sell upscale toys. “Desire” is what sells luxury toys. Luxury toys sell because toymakers instill in children the desire to want to own them. This desire is instilled by means of marketing, which includes:

     ~Affiliation with popular brands and current media products, such as blockbuster movies.

     ~Generating artificial shortages of a luxury toy by limiting production of the toy.

     ~Communicating the idea that ownership of the luxury toy carries popularity and status.

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Specialized Marketing: Status Psychology

By Christopher Zoukis

All of life is nothing more than an eternal quest for status,” says Tom Wolfe, the bestselling novelist.

Nancy Etcoff, author of Survival of the Prettiest, maintains that affluent men market themselves to members of the opposite sex through “displays of status and resources.” Etcoff goes on to quote Ovid, who said almost the same thing 2000 years ago: “Girls praise a poem, but go for expensive presents.”

Status, according to Etcoff, who is one of the world’s leading psychologists, is psychological because it is based on comparison. One person has more status than another person because he has more money, or is better looking, has a more prestigious job, lives in a bigger house in a more desirable neighborhood, wears more stylish clothes, drives a more expensive car, has a prettier wife, and so on. The list is endless. All human beings participate in this comparison, this hunt for status.  Image courtesy statuskicks.com

Status may be psychological, but is often conferred by “things.” This means luxury products and services can confer status. Like everyone else, affluent people seek status. Which means understanding and targeting the psychological concept of status is an important part of marketing luxury brands to the affluent customer.

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Marketing: Brand Differentiation

By Christopher Zoukis

The makers of luxury brands in the areas of liquor, watches, high-fashion, perfume, and cosmetics traditionally use luxury pricing to present the concept of exclusivity. This was accomplished by inflating prices and limiting the availability of certain luxury products. Due to the advent of new companies offering new luxury products, relying on traditional marketing strategies is risky. Any brand that does so risks becoming irrelevant or what is even worse, becoming ordinary.  Image courtesy createwanderlust.com

New marketing strategies are being introduced. These strategies include exclusive sponsorship of events and activities associated with the rich and famous, and luxury product differentiation. The agenda is to make affluent customers aware of just how exclusive one luxury product is when compared to another product.

Sponsorship of exclusive events is considered one of the best ways to convey the desired image. The new rich in emerging markets love to attend exclusive events attended by others of their economic level. A restricted list of guests serves to augment the glamour. Glamour heightens the sense of privilege. The presence of famous celebrities enhances the feeling of exclusivity.

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If You’ve Got It, Flaunt It

By Christopher Zoukis

In 2012, The American Affluence Research Center (AARC) surveyed 522 affluent men and women. The average household income of those surveyed was $304,000. Average net worth was $3.1 million, and the average value of their primary residence was $1.8 million. The survey revealed that the most desired quality of any luxury purchase was exclusivity. Those surveyed indicated they expected to remain loyal to brands offering exclusive luxury.  Image courtesy searchenginejournal.com

Tiffany & Co. agreed with AARC’s survey results. The company’s marketing plans revolve around the concept of exclusivity. In fact, that’s what Tiffany & Co. sell, privileged exclusivity. Only instead of calling it exclusivity, they call it “statement jewelry.” As part of the experience of buying a precious stone, in 2006 Tiffany started offering to take clients to a diamond mine. After watching the diamond being cut out of volcanic rock, the client chaperones the stone home, where the client actually helps decide how the diamond will be cut. The cutting or shaping of the stone takes place in Canada or Belgium. From there, the client travels with the diamond to Tiffany’s headquarters in New York City, where experts create a one-off design for the stone. Depending on the size of the stone, it could be used in a necklace, tiara, pendant, etc.

The affluent customer’s entire experience at Tiffany revolves around the feeling of exclusivity. It is the thrust of Tiffany’s marketing. And the same concept can be adopted by any company marketing luxury products to their customers.

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Old Luxe and New Luxe

By Christopher Zoukis

Why do affluent customers buy luxury items such as perfume, jewelry, and cars?

Because of the way the products make them feel, and the way they perceive other people will feel about them for having the product. This feeling is exclusivity. It is not about functionality per se, although functionality is part of the feeling of exclusivity. It is not about price and quality per se, although both price and quality also add to the feeling. It is about exclusivity.   Image courtesy fantasymomentsworld.info

Exclusivity commands admiration, respect and the acknowledgement of others when they notice the luxury product. This idea of exclusivity requires that marketing campaigns be carefully planned. Why? According to Simon Black, a director at Design Bridge, luxury has different meanings to different people. Black suggests there are at least two different views of luxury among the wealthy. He calls them New Luxe and Old Luxe. The New Luxe group desires exclusivity that is showy and status-driven. Old Luxers seek exclusivity through traditional luxury, and like to present themselves as “too posh to care.”

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Luxury Products Move Down As People Move Up

By Christopher Zoukis

The definition of the word “luxury” changes very rapidly. What was considered a luxury product yesterday is commonplace the next day. On a certain Tuesday only rich people could be seen wearing a certain brand of clothing. Two days later, everyone is wearing it.

Some experts call this phenomenon “product migration.” Another term used is “product devolution.” Simply put, it is “movement.” Luxury products move down because lots of people want to own them. They do not own them because they cannot afford them. So they work hard to improve themselves and their skills. They may start their own business. The result is they make more money. When they do, the first thing they do is “move up.” They go out and buy the luxury items they always wanted, but could not afford.  Image courtesy rides-mag.com 

People move up as soon as they can. This upward movement toward luxury products and services tends to pull the definition of “luxury” down. As more and more people obtain a luxury product, the product loses its luster. It is not as exclusive as it once was. In fact, it becomes almost commonplace. It becomes “affordable luxury,” which is an oxymoron, because the term “luxury” implies exclusivity. If people who make $50,000 per year are now buying it, technically, it is no longer a luxury product. And the company marketing and selling a luxury product that has become “affordable luxury” is no longer marketing and selling luxury. They are now selling a product that affluent customers perceive as ordinary. When this happens, affluent customers, who are just like everyone else, move up. They begin looking around for luxury products that are exclusive. Affluent customers always move up, never down.

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Red Cape Marketing

By Christopher Zoukis

Many people are wine aficionados. They are passionate about wine, and some of their purchases are made as investments. A fine bottle of wine can go for $600 or more. These investment-wines require proper storage, which includes temperature and humidity control, along with security.  Image courtesy alleywatch.com

Jim LaBonte, who owns Tropical Storage in Miramar, Florida, saw a unique opportunity. He expanded his self-storage business, adding separate wines storage facilities, with 24-hour keypad access. A computer-monitored refrigeration system keeps the temperature at 55 degrees. Humidity is maintained at 5 to 70 percent.  “It’s important for our customers to feel their investment is well cared for,” says LaBonte. So LaBonte has back-up air conditioning units and a security system, which give customers assurance.

Marketing wine storage to aficionados is vital to its success. It is not merely a case of “build it and they will come.” LaBonte used the following marketing techniques:

~A custom website that made aficionados aware of the facility’s unique offerings.

~He joined a local wine tasting club, which gave further exposure to the wine storage, and added to his reputation as a wine expert.

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By Christopher Zoukis

The word “aficionado” refers to an enthusiast. Aficionados are devotees, who are zealous about a particular person, place, thing, or idea. From ball point pens to the Boston Red Sox, aficionados are fans of everything and anything. There are no limits.  Image courtesy flickr.com

All rich people, simply because they are people, have one or more areas about which they are aficionados. Marketing and selling to this area demands creativity and careful targeting, because the target area is very narrow. For example, Cigar Aficionado (CA) is an upscale magazine that targets affluent customers who are zealous about buying and smoking fine cigars. CA reviews or tests various brands of luxury cigars and reports their opinions in the magazine. Additionally, CA presents articles on subjects that affluent cigar smokers might find interesting, such as fine wines and other alcoholic beverages, exclusive destination restaurants and the best hamburger joint in America. Each of these ancillary subjects swirls around the main focus of the magazine, which is cigars. For instance, after chowing down on the best hamburger in America, which, by the way, is found in Florida, the magazine suggests an appropriate cigar to complete the experience.

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The Energy of Targeted Marketing

By Christopher Zoukis

Regardless of what they collect, most collectors want to keep their collections safe. They have invested time, energy, money, and love into their collections. This means they need insurance. Any insurance agent or company marketing such a service to this specialized group needs to follow certain precepts. The Insurance Alliance of America (IAA) offers the following helpful information. This information can be utilized by any business catering to affluent collectors. It will aid in designing their own marketing efforts.  Image courtesy questahead.com

According to the IAA word-of-mouth referrals are the key to selling products or services to affluent clients. Garnering referrals means understanding the special needs of rich collectors and networking. Some of the factors insurance companies use to understand wealthy collectors are:

            ~Home value: affluent collectors usually own houses worth more than $1 million.

            ~Possessions: many affluent collectors specialize in fine art, jewelry, or other collectibles.

            ~Policy amount: policies for wealthy collectors usually exceed $10,000 per year.

Marketing to these wealthy collectors means being available. For example, the IAA cites the example of a collector who purchases a rare painting. Naturally, the collector wants immediate insurance coverage to protect it. Therefore, the collector needs to know he can reach the agent at any time. Often, collectors use personal assistants or managers to handle such arrangements. This means clear communication is vital.

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