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Five Ways Successful Brands Unsell to and Instead Woo Customers

by Wolfgang Schaefer, JP Kuehlwein  |  
December 2, 2015

Have a brand and want to charge a premium? Then you better stop selling to your key audiences and start to woo them instead.

Marketing for premium-priced brands is evolving. The digital revolution, more informed and demanding consumers, and oversaturated markets have led to new demands if one is to create and sustain a premium-priced brand.

The digital revolution also has given rise to a new crop of iconic brands desired for reasons beyond utility, price, or worth. If some of the following brands "speak" to you—Apple, Dyson or Mini, Nespresso, Patagonia—they likely say more than "I am a smartphone (or sweater, cup of coffee, or car) to you. We call these brands "ueber-brands" in our book Rethinking Prestige Branding or at least brands that aspire to go "ueber" (which is German for going "beyond").

In a review of over 100 premium-priced brands across the most diverse categories, we found such brands to share some core principles in their approach to branding, one of them being to "seduce, rather than sell."

In the following we are looking at five ways in which successful Ueber-Brands "un-sell and seduce."

1. The right mix of pride and provocation

There's an old saying in the prestige industry: "With every millimeter the mouth opens (towards a smile), the price point goes down a notch." Prestige brands aren't there to endear us, they must impress us. They will not be bossed around by anybody—including their consumers. (Yes, "consumer is not the boss" in that case.) Traditionally, this has often been done through an unapologetic display of confidence or even arrogance.

Provocation has been another tool of the trade, particularly in the premium fashion industry, but is also increasingly exposed as a cheap trick. Today, Ueber-Brands follow a more calibrated approach, mixing pride with provocation by blending both in ever new and intriguing ways.

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Wolfgang Schaefer is chief strategic officer at SelectNY, a leading premium brand-building network. He is also co-author of Rethinking Prestige Branding.

LinkedIn: Wolfgang Schaefer



JP Kuehlwein is executive vice-president at Frédéric Fekkai, a New York-based prestige salon operator and hair care brand, and an Outside Director of Smith & Norbu, a luxury optical frame maker in Hong Kong. He is also co-author of Rethinking Prestige Branding.

LinkedIn: JP Keuhlwein 

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