By Christopher Zoukis
So-called “rich” people sit at the pinnacle of the financial pyramid. Even the so-called “moneyed” category, those making $200,000 or more per year have access to more money than 97% of the population in the U.S. This means wealthy people compose an elite group, a group that is separate from all other groups, in a financial sense. Like any other homogenous group of people, wealthy people tend to think and act the same as other wealthy people. This is an example of acquired behavior, which takes place because wealthy people socialize with other wealthy people, just as any group with definite characteristics tends to socialize with those of similar characteristics. They feel comfortable with people who are “like” them.
This tendency explains why there is an Irish enclave in Boston; a Dutch enclave in Ann Arbor, Michigan; and German Baptist enclaves in Pennsylvania. People feel comfortable around other people who are similar to them. It also explains why people from an upper-middle-class suburban area feel uncomfortable around outlaw biker gangs. Each of these groups is distinct from the others for any number of reasons, which means they acknowledge those in their group, because they are similar. This similarity draws them together.
Wealthy people prefer to associate with others of the same economic level. They feel comfortable with each other. This comfort-zone is as much psychological as economic, which means it is emotional. Any business or individual who desires to market and sell luxury goods and services to the affluent needs to recognize this elite psychology, and incorporate it into marketing. To put it bluntly, the wealthy feel and believe they are different and distinct from the other 97% of the population. In that sense, they are special. Feeling special is an emotion, and emotions need to be affirmed. Which means wealthy people crave acceptance, approbation, and confirmation of their uniqueness.
This desire for affirmation is normal and universal. Each human being wants to feel special, desires acceptance, and searches for approbation. Everyone wants recognition, including wealthy people. Even rich people feel unappreciated. They drudge through their projects, jobs, and daily lives like anyone else.
Wealthy people seek for and find their recognition in the group they feel most comfortable with – other wealthy people. This explains why they shop at the same venues, wear the same haute-luxury brands, travel to the same resorts, drive the same types of luxury cars, and eat at the same fine restaurants. They want to be recognized and affirmed by their peers. They want people to notice them.
At the same time, since they are highly motivated and very successful people, the affluent compete with each other. They want to be recognized as unique within their own special group. This type of competition is common among human beings of every socio-economic status.
In marketing terms, this means they want better service and more luxurious goods than their peers. Which means they seek out the most exclusive products and buy them. They search for the most exotic places to vacation and travel to them. They hunt for the most superb personal services and obtain them. They do this to satisfy their emotional need for recognition. Having the very best, the most exclusive, the most sophisticated, and the most expensive gives wealthy people a feeling of self-worth.
It is vital in marketing to the affluent to remember that the feeling of self-worth is emotional. Therefore, the marketing of products and services to affluent customers must appeal to this emotional need.
The goods and services, which have successfully appealed to this emotional need, are called luxury brands. According to Forbes the world’s most desirable luxury brands attained their supremacy by means of marketing that appealed to the emotional needs of affluent customers. Studying these most desirable brands provides insight into how others might emulate success.