Icing on the Cake

Let Them Eat Cake: Marketing Luxury to the Masses—As Well as the Classes draws on author Pamela Danziger’s 20 years of experience studying the luxury market. Danziger has uncovered new trends in luxury, and she offers retailers and other marketers strategies to capture the luxury customer at any point in the pricing spectrum.

Danziger is the president and founder of Unity Marketing, a consulting firm in Stevens, Pa., that closely follows the luxury market. She also has written Why People Buy Things They Don’t Need: Understanding and Predicting Consumer Behavior (Dearborn Trade Publishing, 2004) and is working on a new book on shopping behavior expected to hit the market this fall. Unity Marketing publishes many studies on various segments of the luxury market—including jewelry—and Danziger is a noted speaker and editorial contributor called on by many publications for her expertise in the luxury category. She told JCK how some of the lessons learned in Let Them Eat Cake could be applied to the jewelry sector.

Where does jewelry fit into your definition of luxury in Let Them Eat Cake?

There are certain product categories that really define luxury—high-end autos, fine jewelry, and watches are perfect examples. These kinds of things are the ultimate luxury symbols, because of the lifestyle they represent.

What can your book teach jewelers about the luxury market today?

Today, luxury consumers represent the top 25 percent of U.S. incomes. They aren’t necessarily rich, but they are in the $75,000-and-up income bracket. Within this group are the near affluent, with incomes of $75,000 to $100,000; affluent, with incomes of $100,000 to $150,000; superaffluent, with incomes of $150,000 and up; and rich, with incomes of $250,000 and above.

Luxury is no longer something “out there,” restricted by income levels, personal wealth, or spending budgets. It’s an experience everyone wants and believes they deserve. Just look at how the luxury market has been both traded up from the lower end and marketed down by the higher end in recent years. People don’t need a brand or a marketer to tell them what’s luxury, and they reject many of the old status symbols and ostentations. They are looking for products that deliver luxury experiences. Marketers need to make shopping experiential to successfully sell luxury products like jewelry.

What role does branding play in establishing luxury, and how can jewelers capitalize on it?

To build a luxury brand, marketers need to create advertising that resonates and is relevant to the passions, desires, and fantasies of the consumer. The brand’s ads must tell a story that will be so involving that the consumer becomes part of the story.

The problem with jewelry is that, as a category, it is largely unbranded. And there are serious security issues that make it very difficult to do anything but across-the-counter selling, which takes the product a step removed from the customer.

However, your store is a brand that you can manage. And there are lots of innovative jewelry artists and designers whose product you can build your store brand around. When I visit jewelry stores, I don’t see enough literature that tells the story of the designers represented in the cases, and I don’t see enough of jewelers bringing in those designers to interact with customers personally.

Where does the Internet fit into the luxury picture for jewelers?

A lot of small independent jewelers still haven’t paid attention to the Internet, and that’s a mistake. You don’t have to sell online, but you still need a marketing presence online to tell your story and the key brands you carry. If you don’t have a Web site, you’re losing a lot of potential customers and an important branding opportunity for your store.

In your book, what do you advise retailers about the connection between luxury and customer service?

Service and training are critically important for luxury salespeople, particularly for an item like jewelry. It’s all part of the experience luxury shoppers are willing to pay for. You need to spend time with your customers, tell them about the unique qualities of the diamonds and other products you carry, sell the magic, and romance the customer with the product. Luxury is all about romance, not reality. And once you achieve a certain level of luxury, you want to achieve more. These ideas should be part of the jeweler’s sales presentation.

What is the greatest challenge facing jewelers as luxury marketers?

Luxury is always being reinterpreted downward for the masses. You may think that most of your customers are not buying jewelry at Wal-Mart, for instance, because they have a certain expectation of the luxury experience in terms of quality, price, and customer service. However, Wal-Mart and other marketers are now selling certified diamonds for less than the traditional jeweler. Keep in mind that today’s luxury customer is still cost conscious and very shopping savvy about finding the best deals. They know how to find luxury for less.

The challenge for traditional jewelers is: How do you enhance the value of what you sell and how you sell it, compared to others who are selling just based on price? How do you justify the additional expense of your product? You can’t compete against Wal-Mart on price, but what you can do is strive to be the best jeweler in your area. You need to play up the value and uniqueness of your product, your experience, your level of service. You need to establish a niche for yourself.