Marketing seems always to be characterized by conflicting ideals and best practices when it comes to affluent customers: Focus on value, but build a distinctive brand. Appeal to a wide base, but don’t make the product so widely available. The list of conflicts goes on and on when it comes to marketing a product to those with higher incomes, but there are some basic rules that can overcome these contrasts and help any fledgling company make inroads into higher-income buying groups in any industry. These basic principles will shape a marketing effort, define a product, and appeal directly to the sensibilities of high-income buyers in developed markets.
First, It’s Important to Understand Who the Target Customer Is
The affluent customer is unlike those who earn the median American wage or slightly above it. These customers have a distinctive sense of style and taste, and they feel that their hard work and greater ability to spend means that they should enjoy exclusive brands. Those brands should function not only as a great value and an excellent product, but also as a symbol of success and as a distinctive marker of affluent class itself. Brands that succeed in this space paint themselves as something “more” than the conventional players in the marketplace. They show that they’re distinct, aware of trends, and ready to participate in a game of social stratification. With this in mind, there are a few things that must be conveyed in a marketing campaign that targets affluence.
1. Focus Not on Price, But on Quality
Affluent customers are not very interested in the price of a product, and a marketing campaign that seeks to influence these buyers based on words like “affordable” or “value” is not likely to resonate very far or wide. Instead, higher-income buyers want to hear about quality and design. They want to engage with a marketing campaign that sells them on premium materials, better and more refined experiences, and an attractive product that will showcase their status. Focus on quality, not price, and it will be easier to grab these customers’ attention.
2. Focus on Creating a Viral Marketing Campaign
Customers who make well above the average American wage are simply more skeptical of mass-marketed products and concerted advertising efforts. At the same time, they’re more likely than other groups to purchase a product if they’ve heard about it from a friend. This word-of-mouth recommendation doesn’t have to occur in the traditional form, however.
Companies can target their products to affluent customers using social media campaigns that reach this demographic based on their common interests, zip codes, and careers. They can focus on creating a viral campaign worth sharing, as the act of sharing on social media now serves as a de facto word-of-mouth recommendation in virtually all demographic groups. Direct marketing campaigns, including traditional mailing campaigns or direct email, may also prove more effective with this demographic than with all groups combined.
3. Brand and Reputation Matter to These Customers
It’s already been discussed that higher-income customers value quality and word-of-mouth recommendation, but there are perhaps two things that are even more important: Brand status and the reputation of a given product. Consider companies like Apple, BMW, and Pottery Barn: All three emphasize not just the quality of their products, but the way that these products fit into the affluent customer’s lifestyle. They position themselves as companies that specifically target high-ticket buyers and understand their needs, and their products are similarly positioned as among the most reliable, cutting-edge, or stylish, in their respective industries. This is the recipe for success for any smaller business looking to gain a foothold with affluent buyers. Position the brand as discerning, elegant, luxurious, and reserved. Showcase the product as better than the one offered by down-market competitors. Affluent buyers will almost always respond favorably.
4. Center on the Broader Theme of Success
Affluent customers have typically achieved a high degree of success in their own pursuits, whether it is their education, occupation, family life, or another area. They’re proud of their successes, and they want to give their business to a product that believes in the prestige and power of success as a value. They want to do business with a company that is already successful, has been shown to have staying power, and understands their unique needs. Marketing materials, as a result, should focus on the company’s triumphs in creating a product: How was the product successfully designed? How will it be successfully adopted? How will affluent buyers be more successful with the product? These things matter, and they can help higher-income buyers making a purchasing decision more easily.
Reaching Out to This Demographic Requires a Unique Marketing Approach
Affluent buyers require an entirely different approach to marketing than the broader population does. Instead of focusing on broad statements and sentiments that capture the mood of all buyers, marketers need to think smaller. There are only a few thousand millionaires, and a few hundred billionaires, in this country of over 300 million. This group requires a tailored approach, an appeal to their unique sensibilities, and a comparison of quality instead of a comparison of price. With these efforts, marketing success in higher-income groups can be had even by the smallest of companies.