Luxurious insights

Luxurious insights

In early luxury market, India, it's all about showing off brands.

Given the unstoppable economic force over the past years, Asia was once seen as a foolproof bright spot for global luxury manufacturers where many Western brands have entered the market with great hopes to thrive and prosper.

While some uncontrollable external factors have dampened the demand for luxury goods in this region, other major factors stem internally from the brand owners and can be readjusted to elevate their sale performances.

Experts suggest that the key success for luxury brands in Asia is to recognise this region as a heterogeneous market and adopt flexible strategic orientation that consider how consumers perceive luxury consumption differently in each country.

"The core elements of brand image and reputation management should remain consistent across the countries. However, the country-level branding strategy should be adapted to reflect, strengthen and benefit from the value perceptions of luxury consumption in each country," said Jaywant Singh, associate professor of marketing in the department of strategy, marketing and innovation at Kingston University, Britain.

Luxury brands have largely treated their Asian consumer similar to the Western counterpart and fail to realise that consumer value luxury consumption differently from country to country, he said.

"These country-level differences have so far been overlooked by global luxury brands entering Asian market," said Mr Singh, adding that these brands can achieve long-term survival and profitability by understanding that the drivers of luxury consumption are different.

Consumption of luxury goods in Asian countries are often dictated by cultural influences and the stage of economic development being experienced by that country, according to Madhumita Banerjee, assistant professor of marketing at the American University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates (UAE).

"Japan and Hong Kong are mature luxury markets, where the consumers have become increasingly sophisticated and buy luxury goods for individual statement and self-enhancement motives," said Ms Banerjee, who is also a fellow at the Institute on Asian Consumer Insight, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

These sophisticated consumers prefer brands that are more understated to those with loud designs and big logos. Consumers also look for products that give them personal identities that can help convey an impression of highly developed taste, she said.

In Korea, due to the long economic stability and growth, Korean consumers depend on luxury goods that help them improve their appearances. The male segment has also emerged as a new group of high-spenders on luxury consumption.

On the other hands, for market that is still in its nascent stage, brand owners should not take it for granted that consumers understand their brand values and the culture of luxury consumption.

In India, for example, consumers are buoyed by their new wealth and are prone to consume luxury goods to show off their success to the society and ostentatiously display their wealth through the use of expensive brands with big logos and brand names.

"The most important thing in any early luxury market is to show off and say 'I'm better than you' in some form," according to Santosh Desai, a Delhi-based brand consultant and chief executive officer of Futurebrands India Ltd.

"As everybody starts to have access to the symbol of success, people want to move higher and have the distance between themselves and everybody else. That's the basic motivation," he said.

Mr Desai added that brands that come to India need to be realistic and understand that luxury market is still in its very early stages and they need to build the market rather than harvest from the existence.

"Brands may have some quick returns, but the next stage will be much more difficult as they need to help create the culture of luxury within the country," he said.

In India, most people are consuming luxury brands but do not have the luxury culture, according to Mr Desai. Brands require one to buy into a certain kind of view of the world and these brand currencies are not yet well developed.

Brands do not know how to propose their value to the consumers and people are not buying it from the idea of brands. They are buying it to the idea of luxury in the generic sense," he added.

Paurav Shukla, professor of luxury brand marketing at the Glasgow Caledonian University, Britain, agreed saying that in India, luxury purchases dictated by the need for societal approval are more pronounced.

The key for luxury brands to thrive in India is to focus more on suggesting how brands could add into social status of the consumers.

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