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Mass Market Products Going Luxury

Not too long ago, we were in the midst of a “luxury for everyone” moment, leading to the coining of a neologism almost as unwieldy as “phygital”: “masstige,” a portmanteau of “mass market” and “prestige.” In need of new revenue streams, luxury brands like BMW, Gucci, and Tiffany & Co. reached into the middle class in search of new customers. That moment was driven by legacy brands whose old-money consumer base was aging. These companies turned to embrace the more inclusive attitudes of Millennial consumers and sought to reach them with more affordable versions of their products.

But all that began in the twenty-teens—pre-pandemic, which might as well be Precambrian in economic terms. In this post-pandemic economy, we are starting to see the flip side of “masstige”: mass market brands going luxury. Goods and experiences that were once assumed to be open to all, or at least open to families on a middle-class income, are now going upscale. Everything from a weekend on the ski slopes to what ought to be the most populist experience of all, going to the movies, has now become a high-priced luxury experience. The cost of a new car has gone through the roof. Forget taking your kids to a football game. The “starter home” is a thing of the past, with more large, expensive homes on the market than the typical middle-class family can afford.

We are seeing mass market brands like Nike looking to entice Gen Z consumers still living at home with luxury versions of their products. The logic is that these consumers have money to spend since they aren’t spending it on rent and bills. Premium clothing brand Blk Dnm, which sells jeans for about $300, are now looking to make the move to luxury with a pair of jeans ten times that price. If going mass market spells the end of a brand’s aura of exclusivity, will the opposite hold true? Can popular brands shed connotations of ordinariness and attain luxury cachet? Is selling a smaller volume for a higher price the right move? These companies seem to think so.

Competing with “Masstige”

So if you’re already serving those higher income brackets, where else can you go? Maybe you don’t have to go anywhere. For one thing, you’re probably not either a luxury brand looking to go mass market or a mass market brand looking to break into the luxury tier. You’re already established in your niche, and consumers can come to you. While most consumers are looking to cut costs wherever possible, luxury spending remains high.

In an era where everything that was once marketed to the middle-income consumer is going upscale, those already in the luxury sector should play up the exclusive, handmade, limited edition, personalized aspects of their products. The goal is to give customers an experience that these other brands aren’t equipped to give them, whether that’s boutique atmosphere, expert customer service, or high-quality products.

Luxury brands know that going mass market means possibly giving up their elite mystique forever. To mitigate brand dilution, we’re seeing more collaborations between mass market and luxury brands, such as Balenciaga x Adidas or The North Face x Gucci. When done right, the collaboration approach allows a luxury brand to reach a mass audience without losing luxury appeal. The products of these collaborations are often sold as limited-time events. But those already established in the luxury space don’t have to go to these lengths to appeal to FOMO, as many luxury pieces are produced in limited quantities by default. Adding seasonal or one-of-a-kind items to your catalog will go even further in generating FOMO and creating an air of exclusivity.

Get Ahead in Ecommerce

One experience luxury jewelry retailers cannot afford to neglect is the ecommerce experience. While those legacy luxury brands mentioned above have attempted to pivot to a younger consumer base, they have been slow to develop an online presence that would appeal to those younger digital natives. Likewise, mass market brands looking to move up into the premium or luxury categories will have to rebrand their online presence as they try to convince consumers of their new identity. If you already have a connection with luxury consumers, you’re already ahead of the brands coming for a piece of the luxury pie.