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Asia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics

Luxury branding: the industry, trends, and future conceptualisations
Yuri Seo Margo Buchanan-Oliver

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Yuri Seo Margo Buchanan-Oliver , (2015),"Luxury branding: the industry, trends, and future
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and Margo Buchanan-Oliver Downloaded by AIR UNIVERSITY PAKISTAN At 02:08 01 April 2015 (PT) Department of Marketing. the idea of “luxury brands”. critically evaluates the existing literature on luxury brands. 2009). Luxury. and offers directions for future research. These corporations (e. 82-98 © Emerald Group Publishing Limited 1355-5855 DOI 10. artisan family-owned businesses – that emphasised premium quality and the aesthetic value of their goods – into a consolidated economic sector led by powerful brand-driven luxury corporations ( Jackson. and retail capabilities in order to build and maintain the luxurious appeal of their brands (Okonkwo. Originality/value – The study calls for a shift in the focus from the characteristics of luxury brands per se. and to advocate for the advancement of the consumer-centric paradigm of luxury branding. 2002). 1994). In this endeavour. and future conceptualisations 82 Received 14 October 2014 Revised 22 October 2014 Accepted 23 October 2014 Yuri Seo School of Marketing and International Business. 27 No.) made substantial investments in strategic management.emeraldinsight. which call researchers and practitioners to consider the consumer-centric paradigm of luxury branding. to highlight several developments in extant literature. University of Auckland. social. This study examines the emergence of a global luxury brand industry and discusses previous conceptualisations of luxury brands.g.1108/APJML-10-2014-0148 Introduction Luxury is as old as humanity. Early essays on the meaning and social functions of luxury had already been written in ancient Greece (Berry. 2008). in the pursuits to understand what brand luxury conveys in the broader context of post-modern consumer culture.com/1355-5855. However. and towards phenomenological experiences and socio-cultural influences. we will start with a discussion of the evolutionary growth of the . the study illustrates the unique context of luxury consumption.htm APJML 27. product design. The study offers two distinct areas for future research to address these developments. Auckland. 2015 pp. New Zealand Abstract Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine the emergence of a global luxury brand industry and discusses previous conceptualisations of luxury brands. LVMH. Wellington. as a special form of branding and a cultural force behind fashion and an affluent consumption lifestyle. Cultural trends. Findings – The study highlights that luxury brands have emerged as a special form of branding that conveys the unique sociocultural and individual meanings to their adherents. and to advocate for the advancement of the consumer-centric paradigm of luxury branding. the Gucci Group. etc. discusses macro-environmental trends that have influenced luxury brand consumption. to highlight several developments in extant literature. It was not until the late 1990s that the market for luxury offerings was transformed from a constellation of small. is a relatively new concept (Chevalier and Mazzalovo. and external trends. Moreover.The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at: www. Design/methodology/approach – The study reviews the emergence of a global luxury brand industry. New Zealand. trends. 1. It does so to illustrate the unique context of luxury consumption. Brands. it was found that these meanings have been shaped by a number of important cultural. Meaning construction Paper type Conceptual paper Asia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics Vol. marketing. Keywords Theory development. In this endeavour. Victoria University of Wellington.1 Luxury branding: the industry.

Interbrand provided a generic definition of a luxury brand. show that being expensive is of neutral or even positive impact to its image. 2009). while some conglomerates continued to emphasise their heritage and superiority of products to please the most affluent circles of consumers (Kapferer.Downloaded by AIR UNIVERSITY PAKISTAN At 02:08 01 April 2015 (PT) luxury brand industry and market. such as the enhancement of self. 1980). such as LVMH and Richemont in the late 1990s and the Gucci Group in the early 2000s. and. This is particularly important for the luxury industry. it is very hard to imagine that Rolls Royce cars compete with Louis Vuitton bags and Tiffany jewellery. Finally.. combined with a shared customer base for luxury offerings. Luxury branding The luxury brand industry Under the Standard Industrial Classification system and according to the “five forces industrial analysis framework” (Porter. customer diversity ( Jackson. although luxury offerings vary in terms of their functional uses. 2000). demonstrate that perceived price plays a minor role amongst drivers of purchase (Interbrand. 2006). product range. However. However. The managers of luxury brands noted that “firms that invested substantially in brand building were shown to have a stronger competitive positioning than those whose core values were linked more to products and services than to branding” (Okonkwo. 2008). which has resulted in scholars and practitioners referring to luxury brands as a consolidated industry segment (Okonkwo. 2002). 2002. Therefore. 2009). we will revisit previous conceptualisations of luxury brands and will offer novel contributions to the current discussions on how to increase our understanding of this unique phenomenon in the broader context of consumer culture. 2009. Keller. Still others diversified into new international markets to increase their customer base (Chadha and Husband. p. We will then examine important cultural. In 2008. with the emergence of large multinational conglomerates. when we talk about the luxury brand industry. luxury brands cannot be formally defined as an independent industry. 2009). the market for luxury offerings was comprised of small artisan family-owned businesses that were valued for the high quality and craftsmanship of their products ( Jackson. It is this commonality in brand positioning.or social esteem (Nia and Zaichkowsky. a common theme that characterised all luxury companies was their commitment to brand building. and external trends that have influenced the post-modern consumption of luxury brands. 2009). 2009). 2009). 2004). others combined a perceived high prestige with reasonable prices to attract middle-class consumers (Truong et al. the luxury sector has significantly increased in its market size. Historically. 288). as goods and services produced by such brands vary from automobiles to wristwatches. As a result. for a product to be called “luxury” it 83 . they provide consumers with comparable symbolic and experiential benefits – such as prestige and social status – that mostly come from the intangible attributes of their brands (Kapferer and Bastien. the luxury market underwent some major changes (Okonkwo. 2009. In order to qualify for this definition. 2006). we refer to an exclusive group of brands across different product segments that are distinguished from the rest by their ability to convey certain elements of consumer-perceived characteristics of luxuriousness (Vigneron and Johnson. a brand must: sit within a tier of a product category that seemingly demonstrates price insensitivity. In particular. Okonkwo. Indeed. Accordingly. because in purchasing decisions their consumers are driven by social and psychological needs. social. Although luxury conglomerates varied in terms of their approaches to expanding market share and generating more revenue. most importantly. and thereby connote luxury in their respective product categories (Okonkwo.

. and their association with fashion and an affluent lifestyle (Okonkwo. 2014) has been a growing appreciation of global luxury brands (e. Branding can add this value to the company’s products (Levy. Louis Vuitton and Gucci) by consumers in Asia. 2009). The growing popularity of luxury brands in emerging markets seems to make consumer tastes for these brands increasingly similar around the world (Catry. 1959. the major consequence of globalisation and multicultural influences (Seo and Gao. a constant rise in the number of wealthy consumers. As a result. it has been noted that new emerging markets are displaying luxury consumption styles different from . Rolls Royce in the automobile industry) tend to become leaders in the canon for luxury brands around the world (Chadha and Husband. social. 2009). however.g.1 Downloaded by AIR UNIVERSITY PAKISTAN At 02:08 01 April 2015 (PT) 84 is not enough for it to possess superior quality and distinctive design. technological. it should also convey a particular symbolic meaning. but they also cause important changes in the composition of brands and. an elusive phenomenon that has been receiving a vast amount of attention in the last two decades. These trends can be loosely divided into three main categories – cultural. 1998). the growing popularity of internet shopping. within the customer base for luxury brands. the customer base for luxury products is becoming more culturally diversified. 2009. an obvious choice for luxury corporations. Not only do these trends contribute to a rapid growth of the luxury brand industry. and external to the industry trends – and they are explained in more detail below in relation to luxury brand consumption. Louis Vuitton and Gucci in fashion. the increasing attention that luxury brands receive from the media (Mandel et al. As a result of this trend.APJML 27. can be defined as an ongoing process by which regional economies. Thus. 2012). therefore. such as globalisation and cultural convergence (Chadha and Husband. Strong brand image and identity have become the key determinants of success in this industry (Kapferer and Bastien. Cultural trends Globalisation. For the luxury brand industry. bringing new opportunities and challenges for the managers of luxury brands. Trends influencing luxury brand consumption The consumption of luxury brands has been influenced by a number of macro-environmental trends. BRIC. and increased international travel (Nueno and Quelch. the emergence of new market segments (Okonkwo. 2009). 2006). political. social. a story behind the product that can be linked to the consumer’s perception of luxury. On the other hand. in particular. and cultures are becoming more integrated through economic. A market segment that was formerly linked purely to design and creativity in production evolved into a consolidated brand-driven economic sector led by the vision of powerful luxury conglomerates. Keller. Substantial investment in brand image was. cultural. 2003). In the late 1990s. CIVETS and other developing countries (Kapferer. luxury brands have now become some of the most remarkable and valued brands in the world (Kapferer and Bastien. 1992). Holt et al. 2006).g. and other exchanges (Robertson.. Brands that successfully convey these characteristics of luxury to their consumers (e. societies. Some common characteristics that consumers seek in luxury brands today include high perceived prestige. the luxury brand market went through a dramatic transformation in terms of its identity and focus. 2007). aesthetic value. 2006). 2004). this transformation caused business and academic circles to take note of the emergence of the luxury brand industry (Okonkwo. 2009).

and Russia. 2007. such as China. 2006). Finally. the markets of Asia varied in terms of their levels of “luxury addiction”. According to Okonkwo (2007). the distant attitude towards luxury implies that consumers are not very attracted to it Luxury branding 85 . Chadha and Husband (2006) observe that in Asian countries. North America. 2007). the democratic stance implies that luxury should not be reserved for “refined” people. Several researchers have previously attempted to explore luxury brand consumption in the context of different international markets.g. and distant. luxury consumers in Europe tend to be much older and have a higher disposable income than their counterparts in other regions. p. Dubois et al. “the potential problem that this contradiction creates for luxury brands is a clash of the genuine luxury consumers’ population and the counterfeit consumers who might dilute the image of the luxury brands to an extent that could drive the genuine luxury consumers to seek alternatives” (Okonkwo. consumer attitudes and consumption styles may vary from one market segment to another. Although. (2005) conducted a cross-cultural study of luxury across 20 different countries. For instance. Okonkwo (2007) identifies six main regional markets for luxury brands – Europe. South Korea.g. democratic. although luxury consumers across the world generally exhibit similar expectations for luxury brands and their products (e. and consumer attitudes for luxury brands tended to reflect socio-cultural beliefs that permeate these countries (Chadha and Husband. China poses challenges and contradictions for luxury brands that managers have not previously encountered in other countries (Okonkwo. are also characterised by their unique luxury consumption styles. high quality. In contrast. 2007). Consumers in emerging markets. it should be widely accessible and can be mass-produced. 74). 2012). p. Hong Kong. For instance. For instance. For instance. there could also be differences in the luxury consumption styles within the market segments themselves. prestige. According to Okonkwo (2007). Consumers in Japan and other developed Asian countries (e. the meanings that they ascribe to these brands could be different. They found that. (2005) identified three types of attitude towards luxury consumption – elitist. American luxury consumers are younger. and exclusivity). it is also reputed to be the largest supplier of counterfeit luxury goods. and Russia. In particular. Within this view. they are willing to experiment with different luxury brands. China has the potential to become the largest market for luxury brands in the world. China.g. about 94 per cent of Tokyo women in their 20s own a Louis Vuitton product. and do not stay locked into loyalty for one luxury brand for the rest of their lives (Okonkwo. status-orientated consumption. the elite. reflecting the economic.g. 2006). Confucianism in South Korea). extreme label-consciousness). Chadha and Husband (2006) have investigated luxury consumption in Asia. Thus. social. It follows that. In another study. On the other hand. while consumers may purchase the same brands globally. 2006. Moreover. India. Dubois et al. Taiwan) are reported to be very fashionable and label-conscious (Chadha and Husband. and concluded that consumer attitudes towards luxury brands are different. while the countries of the region share some common elements of luxury brand consumption (e. “each country has its own endearing eccentricities that make it unique” (Chadha and Husband. and cultural forces that influence these regions. Japan. India. consumer motivations for purchasing luxury items are deeply rooted within the cultural traditions of these countries (e.Downloaded by AIR UNIVERSITY PAKISTAN At 02:08 01 April 2015 (PT) those of more established markets (Shukla. 56). and 92 per cent own a Gucci product. due to its rapid economic growth and large population. the elitist attitude proposes a traditional belief of luxury as appropriate for only a very few.

with upwards of a million dollars in financial assets. 24/7. the superior quality of the products. p. consistent with other studies (e. 376). or on more hedonic grounds on the basis of self-rewards” (Truong et al. who partake in a few small bites of luxe every season. suggesting that consumer perceptions. whereas others can have a mix of two or three attitudes. who while not quite in the gourmand league are nevertheless on staple diet of luxury goods. While globalisation and the consequent global appreciation of European and the US brands make consumer preferences for luxury brands similar. but with an increasing income-generating capacity thanks to a decent education and well-paying job (Chadha and Husband.. p.. identify three distinct social segments of luxury consumers: the “luxury gourmands”.1 Downloaded by AIR UNIVERSITY PAKISTAN At 02:08 01 April 2015 (PT) 86 at all. Thus. Chevalier and Mazzalovo. a watch there. and the “luxury nibblers”: (1) At the top end are the luxury gourmands. whatever they can afford. 2009. Chadha and Husband (2006). Social trends Traditionally. there are the luxury nibblers. experiences.APJML 27. 2006. donning designer labels from head to toe. luxury items were consumed by the wealthiest circles of society to display wealth and social status (Grossman and Shapiro. (2) Next you have the luxury regulars. cross-cultural studies investigating luxury brand consumption suggest that cultural processes. if we accept that the world is moving towards a global culture where consumers are connected through the consumption of the same brands (Holt et al. They are typically young people with next to no savings in the bank.000. the luxury brand industry is experiencing a rapid expansion of its customer base to include more modest social classes. different countries and markets vary in terms of these three attitudes towards luxury. these include “a desire to emulate the lifestyle of the richest or the social class immediately above them. This is influenced both by an increasing disposable income among those less affluent consumers and by the appearance of new luxury brands which combine a perceived high prestige with reasonable prices to make luxury products more affordable to a larger circle of consumers (Truong et al. new consumers of luxury buy such products for different reasons than those of the traditional elite consumers. their behaviour and lifestyles are significantly different. Needless to say these are high net worth individuals (HNWI). and motivations for purchasing luxury brands could also . such as historical context and cultural conventions. it is evident that their consumption is strongly influenced by regional and cultural differences. 47). These are affluent people with financial assets in excess of US$100. While all three segments are part of the customer base for luxury brands. Therefore. the “luxury regulars”. (3) And finally. 1988). 2005). This also suggests that. (2005).g.. the consumption of luxury brands is not only culturally diversified. a bag here. According to Dubois et al. 2006. According to Silverstein and Fiske (2003). emergent markets will necessarily bring new connotations to luxury branding within and beyond those cultures. play important roles in exploring consumer perceptions and attitudes towards luxury brands. 2008). Some countries can display more of one attitude than another. This trend is known as the “democratisation of luxury” (Evrard and Roux. However. but also ranges across different social segments. 2009). who devour luxury in great big bites. Michman and Mazze. 2004).

2009). these external trends also encourage communication and information sharing among the consumers of luxury brands. understand how consumers from other cultures perceive luxury brands. 2006. such as In Style and Vogue. such as globalisation. According to Lippmann (1922. In addition. On the other hand.. ascribe different meanings to what brand luxury means. indulge in the consumption of luxury brands. These factors are often contradictory and have different impacts on consumers. there are also trends that make consumer perceptions of luxury brands increasingly similar across these segments. and stimulate the purchasing of luxury items. Below we discuss several key approaches that have been used to understand brand luxury. For instance.. and increasing international travel (Nueno and Quelch. External trends Luxury brand consumption is also influenced by a number of factors external to the industry. Popular magazines. we are also witnessing movements towards a convergence of perceptions regarding luxury brands across segments and. consumers from different cultural and social segments appear to exhibit different perceptions regarding luxury brands. These trends make luxury products more accessible. perhaps. Luxury branding 87 . 1998). depict how successful people. given the multidimensionality of the brand concept and ambiguity about what constitutes luxury. 1988). thereby. the increasing attention that luxury brands receive from mass media (Mandel et al. and the democratisation of luxury. and highlight important aspects of luxury brands that require further attention due to changing socio-cultural consumption patterns in the luxury brand industry. Therefore. These trends indicate that with such culturally and socially diversified customer bases for luxury brands. and so inspire the mass of other consumers to emulate their affluent lifestyles through clothing and other consumer purchases (Mandel et al. Previous conceptualisations of luxury brands The growing importance of the luxury sector has stimulated research into the marketing and consumption of luxury brands. researchers have struggled to develop a comprehensive conceptualisation of luxury brands (Kapferer. and increased international travel provides consumers with an opportunity to experience luxury brands in different cultural contexts and. the emergence of a global luxury brand culture. 2003). middle and lower classes were found to think about luxury items more as a type of self-reward or a prize (Silverstein and Fiske. cultural convergence. 2007). Okonkwo. such as the growing popularity of internet shopping (Okonkwo. On the one hand. this section highlights that contemporary luxury brand consumption is influenced by a number of micro-environmental trends. Luxury brand web sites and internet shopping make it possible for consumers to interact with each other via website communities and virtual clubs dedicated to a specific luxury brand. 2006). 2006). However. perhaps. contrary to cultural differences and the democratisation of luxury. 2006). such as celebrities. making consumer perceptions of luxury brands increasingly similar. some studies report that while the wealthiest consumers tend to perceive luxury more as a social “badge” (Grossman and Shapiro. These differences suggest that consumers in different social segments look for different things when they purchase a luxury brand and. 2006) the media defines consumers’ worlds by sketching images in their minds.Downloaded by AIR UNIVERSITY PAKISTAN At 02:08 01 April 2015 (PT) vary across these segments (Chadha and Husband.

As a rule. a limited production to . 1999. achieving a sense of belonging to an affiliated group. increase a product’s “upmarket” or “snob” appeal (Grewal et al. Escalas and Bettman. Nueno and Quelch (1998). 2000). 310) specify as “the motivational process by which individuals strive to improve their social standing through conspicuous consumption of consumer products that confer or symbolise status for both the individual and surrounding others”. 2008).1 Downloaded by AIR UNIVERSITY PAKISTAN At 02:08 01 April 2015 (PT) 88 Luxury brands as conspicuous goods In early studies. luxury brands have acquired a range of new roles other than being simply social markers of prestige and status. because these premiums connote the exclusivity of the brand and. Therefore.. consumers were perceived to be driven primarily by their desire to gain status or social prestige from the acquisition and consumption of such goods (Grossman and Shapiro. Nia and Zaichkowsky. These characteristics included consistent delivery of premium quality across all products in the line.g. and role position of their users. which makes those brands more conspicuous than those without international presence. a heritage of craftsmanship. Thus. that increases their status” (Eastman et al. Luxury brands. the more he/she will engage in behaviours. 1899)..APJML 27.. 1998). and accomplishing self-expression through brand image consumption (e. 2004). 2005). In other words. 2002). Global brands are recognised by larger circles of consumers than other more local brands. Multidimensional constructs of brand luxury With the democratisation of luxury and the growing appreciation of global brands in emerging markets. (1999. in fact. Conspicuous consumption sheds light on some important aspects of luxury branding. status-seeking consumers use luxury brands as a means to achieve a desired impression on others through brand symbolism (O’Cass and Frost. they do not compromise demand. status-seeking consumers are more drawn to global brands. consumer motivation for purchasing luxury brands was often attributed to “conspicuous consumption” (Veblen. As a result. 1988. which Eastman et al. 2002). in particular. 2005). consumer perceptions of luxury brands have become more complex and diverse (Dubois et al. a recognisable style or design. status. 3). 2004). such as the consumption of status symbols. took a firm-centric approach and identified common characteristics shared by luxury brands across different product segments. price premium becomes an essential component of luxury branding that emphasises the exclusivity and rarity of both the brand and the user (Vigneron and Johnson. as “the more a consumer seeks status.. although luxury brands charge premium prices for their offerings. and facilitate interconnections between global consumers through the consumption of the same brands (Holt et al. and the leading luxury brands generally have a worldwide presence (Interbrand. the greater is the respect that can be obtained through its consumption. p. such as why leading luxury brands have a global presence and how luxury brands can maintain price premiums without compromising their target market demand. It was assumed that consumers of luxury products would mostly be status-seeking individuals. 2004). In making purchase decisions involving luxury products. the more conspicuous the brand. Brands create value for a consumer through the potential benefits of attaining the recognition of others. luxury brands communicate the prestige. from the most to the least expensive. As a result. for instance. p. Some researchers have developed multidimensional constructs of brand luxuriousness to address these trends. Consequently. have a higher perceived quality and prestige ascribed to them (Vigneron and Johnson. as consumers acquire exclusivity from the use of items with specific attributes that give a brand a status appeal (O’Cass and Frost.

Keller. Quality is the expectation that luxury brands offer superior quality and performance over non-luxury brands. More recently. In contrast to Nueno and Quelch (1998).g. hedonism. (7) luxury brands must employ a premium pricing strategy with strong quality cues and few discounts and mark downs. and quality) reflect non-personalorientated perceptions and the other two (hedonism and perceived extended-self) reflect personal-orientated perceptions. The first three dimensions (conspicuousness. (5) secondary associations from linked personalities. packaging. (2) luxury branding typically involves the creation of many intangible brand associations and an aspirational image. and so on – can be important drivers of brand equity for luxury brands. a global reputation. symbols. uniqueness. p. Keller (2009) has detailed ten characteristics identifying luxury branding from a firm-centric perspective: Downloaded by AIR UNIVERSITY PAKISTAN At 02:08 01 April 2015 (PT) (1) maintaining a premium image for luxury brands is crucial. an ability to time design shifts when the category is fashion-intensive. uniqueness. French cosmetics. and perceived extended-self. made an attempt to detail the consumer-perceived value of luxury brands. a marketing position that combines emotional appeal with product excellence. This draws on early studies of luxury brands as conspicuous objects. controlling that image is thus a priority. (9) competition for luxury brands must be defined broadly as they often compete with other luxury brands from other categories for discretionary consumer dollars. 2009). and the personality and values of the brand’s creator. 2000. quality.ensure exclusivity and possibly to generate a customer waiting list. Hedonism refers to an ability of luxury items to evoke Luxury branding 89 . They detail five dimensions that consumers may use to differentiate luxury and non-luxury brands: perceived conspicuousness. countries and other entities can be important drivers of brand equity for luxury brands. association with a country of origin that has a strong reputation in the relevant product category (e. (6) luxury brands must carefully control distribution via a selective channel strategy. (8) brand architecture for luxury brands must be managed very carefully. (4) brand elements besides brand names – logos. Uniqueness incorporates the notion that a limited supply of a luxury brand enhances consumer preference for that brand because it is perceived to be more exclusive and valued. and (10) luxury brands must legally protect all trademarks and aggressively combat counterfeits (Keller. 2009. an element of uniqueness to each product. signage. as it is unlikely that a luxury image can be sustained when product quality is inferior. Swiss watches). Many of these firm-centric characteristics of brand luxuriousness have been confirmed by subsequent research (Phau and Prendergast. (3) all aspects of the marketing programme for luxury brands must be aligned to ensure quality products and services and pleasurable purchase and consumption experiences. Perceived conspicuousness refers to the view that consumers purchase luxury items as a means of asserting prestige and status. events. 291). Vigneron and Johnson (2004).

2003. Keller. product quality). researchers have started to emphasise the importance of consumer experiences in luxury branding (e.g.. Luxury brand experiences In some of the most recent approaches to conceptualising luxury brands. Berthon et al. (Vickers and Renald. Fionda and Moore (2009. (2009) argue that the hedonic nature of luxury brands provides consumers with an experience of sensory gratification that is unobtainable from non-luxury brands. experientialism as product features that stimulate sensory pleasure.g. These authors have found that there is a fundamental difference in the mix of these three components for luxury and for non-luxury brands. although an important characteristic of luxury brands for western consumers. they also note that functional. 2005.. (2010) note that luxury brand experiences offer an important way of enhancing the value derived from luxury brands.. 1988.. is not as important for luxury seekers in Asia. Berthon et al. The dimensions of brand luxury identified by Vigneron and Johnson (2004) have also been noted by many other researchers (e. An alternative approach to conceptualising luxury brands is evident in another stream of research (e. Moreover.1 Downloaded by AIR UNIVERSITY PAKISTAN At 02:08 01 April 2015 (PT) 90 emotions such as pleasure and a sense of achievement (Vigneron and Johnson. Gistri et al. (2009) have replicated the original study by Vigneron and Johnson (2004) and found that previously identified dimensions of brand luxury may need to be adjusted depending on the context of their application.. but rather that they exist on a continuum. 2004). Christodoulides et al. and to possess a prestigious name that is affiliated with a high level of social status (symbolic interactional dimension).g. They describe the functional dimension as a set of product features that solve extrinsic consumption needs through physical and service attributes (e. 2009. 2008). Christodoulides et al. (2009) argue that there is no absolute differentiation between luxury and non-luxury brands. Tynan et al.g. Vickers and Renald (2003) propose that luxury and non-luxury brands can be differentiated according to the functional. The models of brand luxury derived by these authors appear to fulfil calls to apply a more integrative perspective to brand definition (Tynan et al. Dubois et al. Atwal and Williams. This dimension of consumer-perceived brand luxuriousness draws on Belk’s concept of “extended-self”. where he suggests that our possessions are “a major contributor to and reflection of our identities” (Belk. Tynan et al. Similarly. they found that the original dimension of uniqueness identified by Vigneron and Johnson (2004). and this was discussed more generally in the branding domain (Buchanan-Oliver et al. (2009) concluded that additional research is needed in the area to explore these cross-cultural differences regarding consumer perceptions of brand luxury. p. Therefore. to include design features that will provide consumers with a sense of pleasure (experiential dimension). 2010).APJML 27. Tynan et al. 2010). (2010) suggest that brand luxury is a consumer-centric concept and its value is co-created between a luxury brand and their consumers. In particular. symbolic. 139). p. Vickers and Renald. 2009). perceived extended-self refers to the view that consumers often integrate the symbolic meaning of luxury brands into their own identities. For instance. In contrast to Vickers and Renald (2003). and experiential dimensions of luxury are contextual and may change over time depending on the individual and on socio-cultural beliefs. consumers expect luxury items to be of better quality than non-luxury products (functional dimension). Finally. 2009). 351) also note that consumer experiences are crucial to . 2003). experiential and symbolic interactional dimensions of a product. In particular. and the “symbolic interactional” dimension as product components that are related to status and affiliation with a desired group.

Tynan et al. Vickers and Renand. and polysemic in nature (Arvidsson. These stories are often complex. 2004. The authors identify four zones of luxury brand experiences that vary in terms of their levels of involvement and intensity: entertainment. with the majority of studies being driven by quantitative analysis (Gistri et al. According to Batey (2008. aesthetic experiences are those where consumers are less actively involved. there are gaps in the existing literature. The entertainment zone includes experiences with low levels of intensity and involvement (e.Downloaded by AIR UNIVERSITY PAKISTAN At 02:08 01 April 2015 (PT) a luxury brand’s marketing communication process. Atwal and Williams. using theoretical dimensions of involvement and intensity. educational experiences are characterised by a high level of involvement. luxury tourism). the literature on luxury brands Luxury branding 91 . Berthon et al. However. with few exceptions (e. but a low level of intensity (e. p. ascribe to brand luxury is particularly important as the marketing of luxury brands is linked to crafting invigorating brand narratives (Beverland. 2009).g. Similarly. p. Kapferer.g. all brands are ultimately clusters of meanings that need to be considered more from the consumer’s perspective than from the marketer’s. multidimensional. Recent studies in branding theory note the importance of brand meanings in exploring and understanding consumer-brand relationships (e. fashion shows). 2006. because “the consumption experience provides an insight into a brand lifestyle by making it reality”. it was not based on empirical findings and leaves a range of questions for further research. themselves. “How a company ‘positions’ a brand is not necessarily how the consumer perceives that brand.g. Vigneron and Johnson.g. Atwal and Williams (2009) argue that these experiential zones reinforce luxury brand image and will become important components of luxury marketing. Brands allow marketers to add meaning to products and services. finally. these experiences and their roles in consumer-brand interactions remain largely unexplored. Phillips and McQuarrie. 2009). provide a typology of consumer experiences associated with luxury brands. 2010). lectures on cruise ships). 2009).g. Uncovering meanings that consumers. 2000). 5). admiring the interior of a designer boutique).. 1995). educational. and intensity as “the perception of the strength of feelings towards the interaction”. aesthetic and escapist. They define involvement as “the level of inter-activity between the supplier and the customer”. the escapist zone involves experiences where consumers are highly involved and the level of intensity is also high (e. these luxury experiences have not been clearly defined and their role in forming consumer perceptions of luxury brands has not been addressed.g. 2006) and sometimes described as “selling dreams” (Dubois and Paternault. Fournier. such as what roles these experiential zones play in defining brand luxury and what importance luxury experiences carry for consumers in their interactions with luxury brands. Some gaps in the existing literature Despite this growing interest in luxury branding. although researchers note that the consumption of luxury brands is characterised by luxury-specific experiences (e. While this study is insightful. 2004) but why these perceptions exist and how they are formed requires further attention. 258).. 2003.g. particularly in the area of the conceptualisation of luxury brands (Kapferer. Atwal and Williams (2009. but the level of intensity is high (e. In another study. Various characteristics and promises that luxury brands offer for their consumers have been noted (e. Berry (2000) defines brand meanings as stories that reflect the consumer’s dominant perceptions of the brand that have emerged as a result of his or her experiences with brands. Berry. 2006.. but it is consumers who ultimately determine what a brand means”.g. However. 1998. 2010).

Thus. This is particularly important when exploring brands that have embraced within their meaning such a central socio-cultural symbol as luxury. the nature of social order”. throughout history the meaning of luxury has been infused with many ideological agendas. luxury items were used as symbols of leading groups and power (Kapferer and Bastien. 2003. Mesopotamians. and the process through which these meanings are emergent in the broader . the notion of luxury embraces all of these previous meanings and has also acquired some new ones. there are also forces that contribute to the emergence of a shared idea of what a contemporary luxury brand should be. we require an understanding of how consumer interpretation of luxury brands is influenced by socio-cultural functions of luxury and phenomenological experiences. Second. and social class. making consumer perceptions increasingly similar (Catry. in addition to branding concepts.APJML 27. They are also socio-cultural. luxury provides an “illuminating entrée into a basic political issue. and external trends suggest that consumer perceptions of luxury brands do not depend only on consumer-brand interactions. luxury was perceived in a pejorative form that signified the corruption of a virtuous manly life. and value (Schroeder. sometimes paradoxical consumer market for luxury brands. social.1 Downloaded by AIR UNIVERSITY PAKISTAN At 02:08 01 April 2015 (PT) 92 provides limited insights into how consumers emically construct meanings associated with luxury brands. the Romans and early Christianity. First. therefore. 2006). namely. whether of Egyptians. the demand for luxury was stimulated by a number of favourable macro-environmental trends. 2009). researchers require an understanding of the culture and ideologies that surround their consumption. Therefore. According to Berry (1994. such as being a symbol of fashion and an affluent lifestyle (Michman and Mazze. 6). The outcome of these trends is a complex. Today. Over the past two decades. 2009). the luxury market had been transformed from a constellation of small. brands do not exist simply as a firm’s value-adding assets which reflect consumer judgements of the company’s product and services. In order to understand the consumption practices of luxury brands fully. These factors are often contradictory and have different impacts on consumers and. equity. On the one hand. one of the major shortcomings of the emerging theory is its predominant focus on either corporate or consumer-based brand equity. Future directions for research Luxury brands are a special form of branding that use the socio-cultural meaning of modern luxury to create an exclusive brand image and appeal. must be taken into account when exploring luxury brand consumption. 2009). 1994). current cultural. and with the works of Adam Smith. Therefore. On the other hand. and political objects that infuse consumption with meaning (Holt et al. to understand brands more fully. cultural differences. As a result. Schroeder. but are also influenced by a number of other factors. the market is culturally and socially diversified and consumers from different cultural and social segments appear to exhibit different perceptions and motivations for purchasing luxury brands. or Amerindians. Moreover. p. Chadha and Husband. ideological. such as strategy. family-owned artisan businesses in Europe into a global consolidated brand-driven economic sector led by the vision of luxury conglomerates. we believe that this post-modern paradox of luxury brand consumption calls for investigation of the meanings which consumers emically ascribe to luxury brands.. In the days of Plato. luxury has become a vindication of commercial society (Berry. Chinese. such as globalisation. In ancient civilisations. However. the market for luxury brands has experienced rapid growth brought about by two major factors. 2004. 2006).

researchers tended to impose predetermined assumptions about luxury brands prior to producing their findings. Schroeder. successful brand management becomes “a matter of finding the brand’s true and timeless essence and carrying out brand-building Luxury branding 93 . Luxury brand value-in-use There is strong evidence to suggest that the multiple ways in which brands are used can help us to understand the roles played by these brands in consumer lives and. such a perspective could be very useful in understanding how consumers individualise their perceptions of brand luxury. Roper et al. Fournier. Examining the dimensions of luxury brand value-in-use may offer novel insights about the purposive meanings that consumers construct about luxury brands. Luxury brand culture The luxury brand literature is underpinned largely by the traditional managerialist perspective. Although some previous studies endeavoured to identify the motives for purchasing luxury brands (e. consequently. to understand the meanings that consumers ascribe to them (e. instead of being found in the preceding motivations for acquiring of an offering. (2013) suggest an alternative “interpretivist” perspective. there is a need to develop an alternative focus by viewing luxury brands as first and foremost brands. Specifically.g. by exploring what consumers actually do with these brands rather than investigating the elements comprising these brands per se.. In particular. Similarly. Moreover. Tsai. while many scholars draw on managerial practice to discuss luxury brands as a phenomenon in its own right (e. recognising the phenomenological nature of brand value that is determined by consumer experiences.e.g. Accordingly.Downloaded by AIR UNIVERSITY PAKISTAN At 02:08 01 April 2015 (PT) context of contemporary consumer culture. rather than deriving their insights from the actual consumer interpretations of luxury brand experiences (Roper et al. rather than being embedded at the time of exchange (e. Within this view. the concept of value-in-use has emerged within the marketing literature. purchase) (Ballantyne and Varey. and brands – as the bundles of consumer co-authored meanings (McCracken. and/or how the roles played by luxury brands are changing in the daily life of contemporary consumers. 2005. a brand) is phenomenologically determined at the time of its use. below we offer two additional future research directions in exploring brand luxury that take these meaning-making perspectives into account. utilise an offering). This means that the relevance of luxury brand uses for consumer perceptions of these brands has not been explored from the consumer-centric perspective.g. 2005). This call for a consumer-centric approach is echoed in some of the more recent studies on luxury brands. which repositions the focus of research from what luxury values are towards understating how luxury value is constructed and internalised by consumers. which often occurs during the post-purchase experiences. which shifts attention away from brands and towards consumers in exploring how consumers co-author luxury brand meanings. We concur with this emerging consumer-centric paradigm. (2010) argue that consumers actively co-create the value of luxury brands. 2013). 2009). 2006). which suggests that the meaning ascribed to a brand should be understood as “effects” of brand identity. Kapferer and Bastien. 2001). 2009). However. representing the unique associations created by brand managers (Keller. Tynan et al. In particular. they were largely driven by quantitative frameworks. Therefore. which posits that the value of an offering (e.g. the focus of value-in-use is to understand how consumers enact value propositions (i. 1998).g.

Journal of Consumer Research. London. 523) recognise that “brand meaning is polysemic in nature and not inherent in the brand itself. brand meaning formation should be considered as “a dynamic process to which brand managers and consumers […] contribute” (da Silveira et al. D. 2013. Vol. pp. pp. 6 No. 2006. M. A.g. (2006). cultural mythology and beliefs). Louis Vuitton bags. . 3. Atwal. (1988). and cultural influences. Marketing Theory. these meanings “implicitly convey their own culture and way of life: hence Saint Laurent is not Chanel. Batey. but depends upon the larger socio-cultural context within which the brand is consumed”. and towards phenomenological experiences and socio-cultural influences. 253).APJML 27. (2010.W. 33). social. According to Kapferer (1997.. R. Conclusion Luxury brands convey unique sociocultural and individual meanings to their consumers. Brand Meaning. In particular. Routledge. and external trends that have shaped luxury brand meanings. G. Some of the most prominent examples of this phenomenon would be Rolex watches. Contrary to this firm-centric view. Belk. the brand culture approach (Bengtsson and Ostberg. Overall. A. 335-348. when consumers talk about the affluent lifestyle. it suggests that rather than considering brand meaning as an internal construct that originates unilaterally within the company. 338-346. 15 No. References Arvidsson. In particular. “Luxury brand marketing – the experience is everything!”. Schroeder. Vol.g. and jewellery by Tiffany. and Williams.1 Downloaded by AIR UNIVERSITY PAKISTAN At 02:08 01 April 2015 (PT) 94 activities that will translate the identity into a corresponding brand image” (Bengtsson and Ostberg. and are influenced by the broader context of socio-cultural meanings (e. p. 16 No. in our pursuit understanding what brand luxury conveys in the broader context of post-modern consumer culture. p.. they often talk about particular brands that connote luxury in their respective product categories. globalisation vs localisation) that permeate the global luxury brand industry. in light of luxury brands being influenced by the conflicting cultural trends (e. Brands: Meaning and Value in Media Culture. communicating and knowing”. 139-168. Journal of Brand Management. while some characteristics of brand luxury could be preserved over time and constructed by firms. They offer more than mere objects: they provide reference of good taste”. Exploring such dynamic processes underpinning the perceptions of brand luxury becomes particularly important today. R. 2009) posits that the meanings that consumers ascribe to brands are highly contextual and constructed by the joint activities of marketers. (2008). Vol. Over the years. “Possessions and the extended self”. “Creating value-in-use through marketing interaction: the exchange logic of relating. Ballantyne. (2009). 2006. 2. (2006). this paradigm calls for a shift in the focus from the characteristics of luxury brands per se.J. Routledge. 5. 2013). The cultural branding perspective may offer important implications for understanding brand luxury in a contemporary global marketplace. consumers. p. As a result. 85). calling researchers and practitioners to consider the consumer-centric paradigm of luxury branding (Roper et al. p. Bengtsson et al. London. we have witnessed a number of cultural. pp. other dimensions are co-created with consumers. and Varey. This implies that.

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com/licensing/reprints. and playful consumption in digital media. Dr Yuri Seo is the corresponding author and can be contacted at: yuri. His recent research appeared in Journal of Consumer Culture.htm Or contact us for further details: permissions@emeraldinsight.APJML 27. particularly that occurring at the intersection of the digital and physical worlds. and European Management Journal among others. please visit our website: www.com .1 Downloaded by AIR UNIVERSITY PAKISTAN At 02:08 01 April 2015 (PT) 98 About the authors Dr Yuri Seo is the Postgraduate Director and a Senior Lecturer in the School of Marketing and International Business at the Victoria University of Wellington. Journal of Marketing Management. Marketing Theory.emeraldgrouppublishing.nz Margo Buchanan-Oliver is a Professor in the Department of Marketing and the Co-Director of the Centre of Digital Enterprise [CODE] at the University of Auckland Business School.seo@vuw.ac. cultural branding of luxury brands. His research interests include consumer culture. For instructions on how to order reprints of this article. Her research concerns interdisciplinary consumption discourse and practice.