I.4.2. Types of Luxury Brands


I.4.2.1. Luxury Brands by Luxury Level

As mentioned before, the degree of luxuriousness is determined by the major luxury dimensions and constitutes one of the major means of differentiation for luxury brands (Esteve and Hieu-Dess 2005). According to this criteria and based on the World Luxury Brand Analysis, it seems reasonable to split luxury brands into the following types:

  • Entry-level luxury brands: As these brands rank just above the premium segment on the lowest luxury level, they are not even generally recognized as members of the luxury segment. Representative brands include Hugo Boss and Mercedes.
  • Medium-level luxury brands: These brands are widely recognized as members of the luxury segment, but are a step behind the forefront of luxury. Examples include Dolce & Gabbana, Escada and Moschino.
  • Top-level luxury brands: These brands are established beyond doubt as leading luxury brands. Examples include Armani, Cartier and Louis Vuitton.
  • Elite-level luxury brands: As niche brands in the top of the top segment, these brands determine the benchmark of the best quality and highest exclusivity within their category. Puiforcat, for instance, is an elite-level luxury brand within the silverware segment (Marguier 2007, p. 42). These brands target the "clientèle de connoisseurs", who do not just posses the necessary financial resources but also a "culture intellectuelle" (Lombard 1989, p. 16).

According to the relativity of luxury, a brand is ranked in comparison to the other luxury brands. The categorization of a luxury brand changes over time. There are brands climbing up the luxury ladder, such as the English fashion brands Asprey and Burberry since they were repositioned some years ago (Phan et al. 2011), high-potential brands, such as the German chocolatier Leysieffer, which might enter the luxury segment in the future, and once-upon-a-time luxury brands, such as Calvin Klein, Jaguar and Pierre Cardin, which ruined their luxury image (Kapferer and Bastien 2009b, p. 312).


I.4.2.2. Luxury Brands by Awareness

Luxury brands can be differentiated by their brand awareness into connoisseur and star brands (see also Nueono and Quelch 1998, p. 63). This differentiation is of high relevance for brand management, as these brand types require partly contradicting marketing strategies (see one of the following chapters). 

  • Connoisseur brands, such as Goyard, a French manufacturer of luggage, are limited awareness brands which often specialize in a niche market. These brands are made by and for connoisseurs, and do not even strive for high awareness beyond their relatively narrow target group of select insiders. Connoisseur brands are often also network brands, which are recommended by word-of-mouth between friends (Belz 1994, p. 647).
  • Star brands, on the other hand, strive for maximum brand awareness well beyond their actual target group. This is in contrast to both connoisseur brands and mass-market brands, which aim at minimizing wastage in their brand communications outside their core target group consumers. Even if star brands are bought only by relatively few people, they preferably should be known by everyone. One of their consumers’ major purchasing motives is to demonstrate their wealth to other people, who often cannot afford these luxury products. Therefore, star brands such as Rolex or Louis Vuitton also have to be known by non-target group consumers in order to fulfill the need of their target group consumers for demonstrative consumption. If people would fail to recognize the brand and thereby the value of a Rolex wristwatch, part of its value would be lost (Kapferer and Bastien 2009b, p. 319).


Types of Luxury Brands by Level of Luxury, Awareness and Business Volume


Types of Luxury Brands by Level of Luxury, Business Volume and Awareness


The figure summarizes the luxury brand types by luxury level, awareness, and business volume. There are some relationships between them: for instance, luxury brands with very high business volumes often cannot reach the top levels of luxury. In addition, there is also a tendency of elite-level brands to be connoisseur brands.