What is the 'Code of Luxury'? - Part II: Emotional Component


Luxury brands cannot symbolize anything, but they need to comply with the worldview and taste of the upper class (Kapferer and Bastien, 2009). As their core task is to assist their consumers in showing or even improving their social status, the most essential symbolic feature of luxury brands is prestige. All luxury brands are prestige brands, whereas not all prestige brands such as Apple are luxury brands (as they do not meet the functional criteria explained above).


1. The Big Five of Luxury Brand Personality

As the symbolism of luxury brands refers to a large extent to human personality traits (Vigneron and Johnson 2004, p. 490), the emotional identity component corresponds largely with the concept of brand personality. Several consumer surveys have shown that consumers perceive that luxury brands have five distinct personality dimensions including tradition, elitism, conspicuousness, eccentricity, and sensuality. They rely on the Big Five dimensions of human personality and on the five major dimensions of mass-market brands by Aaker (1997), but refer especially to the luxury segment. They are illustrated in the figure below and summarized here:

  1. Tradition covers the openness and temporal perspective of a brand personality: Does the brand personality live rather in the good old past, in the present or the future?
  2. Elitism refers to the level of snobbishness and status that is displayed by a brand: Is the brand friendly and quite accessible or is it rather proud and reserved? However, the post-modern, democratic orientation is limited insofar that luxury is by definition not accessible by anyone at anytime.
  3. Conspicuousness relates to the level of relevance and conspicuousness of the symbols of wealth: Does the brand rather understate its value or is it demonstrating its wealth and glamour? The symbols of wealth cover a wide range of associations including ostentatious logos and valuable materials like gold and diamonds.
  4. Eccentricity covers the level of non-conformity with general social norms and expectations: Is the brand personality rather conformable or does it break the rules?
  5. Sensuality covers the level of femininity and emotionality that is displayed by a brand. Is the brand personality strong-minded and hard-edged or rather dreamy and emotional?


The Big Five of Luxury Brand Personality

The Big Five of Luxury Brand Personality


For fashion designers who strive to develop a luxury brand, their own creative personality represents the brand personality. However, the concept of brand personality is especially suitable for business people who set-up a luxury brand as it provides them some inspiration and guidance for the development of symbolic meaning. In addition, the concept assists marketers of already existing luxury brands in analyzing and further developing symbolic brand benefits. While the constitutive characteristics of luxury can be considered as the basic means of differentiation, the personality dimensions provide an extended means of differentiation, which helps luxury brands to differentiate themselves from other luxury brands. To make clear who the luxury brand is and what it stands for, it is recommended to describe its personality in detail in a brand handbook. When they imagine that their brand personality would knock at their door, brand managers and better even everyone in the company should have a clear picture of the person in mind who they expect to meet after opening the door.

All marketing measures should be aligned with the brand personality concept. Do the advertising campaigns, stores, and websites look as if they were designed by the same person? The alignment of marketing measures with the brand personality consolidates brand communications and consumer perceptions and thereby also reduces the need for communication and co-ordination. For instance, if marketers need to decide on the design of a new website or even on the colors of new office furniture, they could just ask themselves: Would the brand personality like it that way? Or how does the design need to be changed in order to fit to the style of the brand personality? The Chanel jewelry flagship store at place Vendôme in Paris, for instance, was designed around the question: “In what sort of interior would Mlle. Chanel live today?” So they used portraits of their founder, recreated her living room and some personal objects and as a result, the aura of Coco Chanel is all around in the store (Dion & Arnould, 2011).


2. Overview about the Identity of Luxury Brands

The figure below gives an overview of the identity of luxury brands including the constitutive characteristics of luxury products and brands and the dimensions of luxury brand personality. Both components are closely linked: According to the functional component, luxury products are characterized by a high level of symbolic meaning, which is covered to a great extent by the dimensions of luxury brand personality. When marketers aim to enhance their brand with strong symbolic meaning, they have to ask themselves what they actually want to symbolize – and can then find some answers and guidance by the dimensions of luxury brand personality.


Overview about the Identity of Luxury Brands

Overview about the Identity of Luxury Brands



Source (an excerpt from): Heine, K., Phan, M., Waldschmidt, V. (2014) Identity-based Luxury Brand Management. In: Berghaus, B., Müller-Stewens, G. & Reinecke, S. (2014) The Management of Luxury. Kogan Page: London, pp. 83-98.