Sunday , February 25 2024
Understanding the psychology of the elite and what motivates them to buy.

Targeted Marketing: Appealing to the Elite (Part 3 of 3)

Continued from Part 2.

For example, a company sells ultra-exclusive cell phones. The company has targeted the ultra-rich as its desired customer. To utilize Tony Hawk, the world-famous skater, as the company’s marketing face would be a gross error. Why? Simply because very few ultra-rich customers would recognize Tony Hawk. There is no recognition factor. Thus there is no positioning of the product, no emotional connection. The ultra-rich do not “want to have it.”

A number of different marketing techniques are available when celebrities are used. The most obvious method is advertisements on television or in upscale fashion magazines such as Vogue, W, or Very. This type of marketing depends on the connection between the celebrity and the luxury product. Examples of this method were mentioned above, and included Madonna, and Demi Moore.

Another wildly beneficial method is the placement of luxury products or brands in movies, television shows, and even books. A few recent examples include BMW cars in the James Bond movies, Audi high-performance luxury cars in Transporter 2, and the movie Sex and the City, which featured Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik. Two examples of books that did the same thing were Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, which made public Hush Puppy shoes, and William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition, in which Tommy Hilfiger played a prominent role.

A third method is where celebrities appear in photographs in which they are using a luxury product in their daily lives. Many examples of this type of marketing can be seen online, usually at websites such as Perez Hilton or Popmatters. In a similar manner, direct reference to luxury products occurs in the lyrics of music—for example, Beyonce singing about her shoes, which are by Jimmy Choo, or Fergie extolling the merits of Taco Bell, which, of course, is not a luxury product. But it is interesting that even Taco Bell has tied itself to celebrities, even if inadvertently.

As previously mentioned in the Tony Hawk example, choosing the right celebrity to market a luxury product is an important consideration. Brandchannel offers a few guidelines in the selection process. For one, the celebrity must be believable. Believability means talent and visibility, both of which are necessary to the concept of product positioning.

Second, the celebrity must have universal appeal. In simple terms, they must be likable. Amiability implies an immediate emotional connection, whereas the opposite will occur if they are not likeable. However, the personality of the luxury product should harmonize with the personality of the celebrity. For example, Johnny Depp in an Armani suit might be a mistake. Chanel made a wise choice with Nicole Kidman to market their No. 5 essence, not only because both have sophisticated personalities, but also because both are strong brands. They complement each other. The glamour of Chanel No. 5 is not crushed by the charisma of Ms. Kidman. This harmony of product and celebrity allows for a full emotional impact.

As already pointed out, the concept of positioning, which is the emotional appeal to affluent customers that makes them “want to have” the product, is of primary importance when using celebrity-based marketing. The Davie-Brown Index, which was developed by Davie-Brown Entertainment and I-think Inc., identifies eight different aspects to the emotional appeal qualities of celebrities. They are as follows:

1. Appeal
2. Notice
3. Trend setting
4. Influence
5. Trust
6. Endorsement
7. Aspiration
8. Awareness


If all eight factors are present, there is strong a probability that affluent customers will identify emotionally with the product. In fact, it would seem advisable to use the eight factors in marketing any luxury product, with or without a celebrity. If managed effectively, this type of marketing should deliver increased recognition and exclusivity, which ultimately will appeal to the affluent psychology of elitism.

Competition is part of the psychology of elitism. This translates to affluent customers wanting to purchase a luxury product or service that provides them with a more meaningful experience than those of their wealthy friends and neighbors. To provide this experience it is necessary to comprehend what is meant by “meaningful experience.” Once that is understood, then the idea can be applied to marketing.

People use meaningful experiences to make sense of physical existence. According to neuroscientists, the human brain, with its attendant emotions, constantly tries to give meaning to everything that happens in a person’s life. The way people give meaning to their lives is through stories and pictures in their minds. It is like making a movie in one’s head. These movies provide a framework and context for each person’s life. That means that each person’s reality is a little bit different from everyone else’s reality. Each person’s reality motivates what they want. Which means “meaningful experiences” enhance people’s stories, and make their lives more worthwhile. Each person, in their reality, wants to feel worthwhile.

To apply this concept to the lives of affluent customers: they make buying decisions to enrich their stories or movies. To put it another way, they want to buy experiences that will make their stories or movies better.

For example, an ultra-rich man, who wants to add meaning to his life and make his movie better, buys a Lamborghini because he believes it delivers a meaningful experience. It provides him with recognition among his peers. This makes him feel better about himself, which means his story just got a little better.

The application to marketing luxury goods and services is obvious. By understanding what a “meaningful experience” is to various affluent customers, a company may induce in its buyers a feeling of “want to have it.” The marketing campaign can be designed to provide a “meaningful experience” to the targeted group, because the product enhances their physical existence, their story.

About Randall Radic

Left Coast author and writer. Author of numerous true crime books written under the pen-name of John Lee Brook. Former music contributor at Huff Post.

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