Why high-end brands need middle-class values

High-end consumers, middle class values

Affluent consumers drive sales among high-end brands, so you’d better understand their humble, middle-class values.

High-end brands need middle-class valuesA few years ago, I spoke to a group of marketers of high-end brands. After the session, one of the CMOs in the audience told me that the vast majority of his company’s affluent consumers loved his brand so much because they were “raised like those beautiful people in a Ralph Lauren ad.” Unfortunately, he was mistaken, and when his company’s sales tanked, he soon found himself unemployed.

It’s sometimes tempting to imagine the affluent consumers of high-end brands as self-indulgent, privileged, and “to the manor born.” But more often than not, this perception is inaccurate – and can lead to a hopelessly flawed marketing strategy.

Marketers of high-end brands need to understand a few surprising facts about the vast majority of wealthy consumers:

  1. Most wealthy Americans come from humble beginnings, with 36% coming from middle class families, 28% lower middle class, and 25% upper middle class.
  2. More than 90% of wealthy Americans created their own wealth, while fewer than 10% inherited it. Most affluent consumers don’t come from wealth, they create it themselves.
  3. More than three out of four wealthy Americans still describe themselves as middle class at heart. They never set out to be rich; instead, they just pursued their passions and worked hard.

These statistics come from one of the world’s most noted researchers on wealthy Americans, Dr. Jim Taylor. In his book, The New Elite, Jim notes that wealthy Americans grew up valuing “the virtue of work, competitive play, school, respect for adults, modesty, independence, and self-determination.”

Unfortunately, too many high-end marketers don’t understand these critical insights into their prospective customer’s mindset and values system. If that CMO who believed his customer grew up in a Ralph Lauren ad better understood this research, he may very well have been presiding over a high performing brand today.

So how can high-end brands find success with affluent consumers?  By ensuring that your brand’s promise is completely in sync with the middle-class sensibility of your customer.

Chris Ray, CEO/PartnerChris Ray, CEO/Partner

To find more articles like this, check out Upward Home, an online resource for marketers of high-end brands founded by Ramey CEO, Chris Ray.

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