Each year in Cannes, leaders from the advertising industry gather to award each other and discuss how the role of advertising continues to evolve. Truthfully, there is not a lot of room in global advertising for luxury, except with the biggest players, as compared to the big consumers products companies, ad budgets of luxury marketers pale in comparison. To put things in perspective, Proctor & Gamble spends about $10 billion a year in advertising, about the same amount of total revenues for all Richemont brands combined.
Many smaller luxury brands are often surprised at how expensive it is marketing in countries such as the United States. Often times, I hear from marketers who have spent $500,000 or even $5 million, and wonder why they haven’t moved the needle in brand awareness. Online travel agencies Priceline and Expedia spend $750 million a year just in television advertising.
My first point is that most consumers of luxury marketing can’t afford to buy luxury in any meaningful way, and certainly not with frequency, so if one’s core business is selling products priced in the high-thousands and tens of thousands of dollars, often the media they choose only contains a small percentage of financially qualified consumers to begin with. After that, they are then battling against brands with bigger budgets, and the fact that what they are selling probably only appeals to a slice of the Ultra High Net Worth (UHNW) market.
Earlier this month, Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer for P&G, described his company’s previous spending this way: “Maybe if our ads can’t get enough love or attention, we can get louder or more complex,” he says. “We were adding to the noise.”
Instead of just churning out new executions of the same thing, he said, “We are stepping up our game to give consumers experiences they deserve.”
What does this mean?
According to the report in MediaPost, “P&G is elevating the craft of its campaigns across its portfolio of brands by conveying emotional moments. This skill requires technique, imagination, craftsmanship, and verbal poetry, he says. The results are already proving successful. Pantene’s Super Bowl ad was touted for its authentic humanity after showing NFL athletes braiding their daughters’ hair.
“Now, instead of merely promoting clean clothes, Tide commiserates with those facing the cleanliness challenges of “Sandwich Generation” families. Ariel took on generational bias with the “Is laundry only a mother’s job” campaign. The result has made Ariel the fastest-growing laundry detergent brand in India, per Pritchard.
“Upscale skincare brand SK-II called out China’s dismissal of so-called “sheng nu,” or “leftover” unmarried women. After P&G learned that 94% of boys now get shaving advice from the Internet instead of from their dads, the shaving brand introduced ads connecting to this shift.”
Pritchard noted, “Everything we are doing is to get people turned to our brands and to buy our brands.”
Recently, I attended a presentation by a senior executive at one of the biggest luxury jewelry brands for CEO members of The Luxury Marketing Council. As he walked the group through the history and stories about many of the products his company makes and sells, it was truly fascinating and engaging. This company, by the way, is very successful by every measure, however, the thing that was striking to me is that its advertising, at least what I have noticed, tells so little of these engaging stories, although they are well represented on its website.
I sometimes hear that the Super Rich are looking for a deal, and don’t dispute that. I also often hear that “the media I’ve tried didn’t produce the results I wanted.” Yet, ‘luxury media’ is still filled with page after page of product-centric ads and editorials that are basically a a catalogue of looks. Connecting emotionally with potential customers takes both the right media and the right mix of messages. I think the P&G examples show that with smaller budgets, luxury marketers have a big opportunity if they can provide truly targeted and qualified audience with messages that help the consumer see what they do that’s distinctive and attractive. When this happens, price is less of an issue, and sales have a better chance of happening.