13 April 2023

Copywriting for Luxury Brands: Best Practice and Examples from the Global Luxury Market

Learn techniques on copywriting for luxury brands including Wolf, Patek Philippe, Rimowa, Tag Heuer, Swarovski, Omega and Hilton Hotels.
Copywriting for luxury brands – Hermes store

Whether you’re copywriting for luxury brands or looking to reach higher-end clientele, the way your brand positions itself is crucial to consumer confidence and of course – their spend.

You’ll find yourself in a delicate balancing act between elevating your brand’s status and appearing relatable. Yes, your offer is premium and your target audience has higher than average disposable income. But – they’re still people who need to be educated, inspired and persuaded to choose your brand over your competitors’.

So, how do you offer luxury copywriting without appearing pretentious, stuffy and same-old? Like with any copywriting project, the best place to start is with references. In this blog, I’ll break down the tried and tested methods from some of the world’s greatest high-end brands. I'll also cover how luxury brands have shifted their messaging to appeal to younger millennial and Gen-Z audiences.

How do you define a luxury brand?

Generally speaking, luxury brands target affluent buyers with large amounts of disposable income. But in a sea of brands adopting the ‘luxury’ label, how do we assess what true luxury looks like? 

I suggest looking to HSBC managing director Erwan Rambourg’s brand pyramid from his book The Bling Dynasty: Why the Reign of Chinese Luxury Shoppers Has Only Just Begun. You can see how brands vary in price and accessibility, starting from everyday luxuries like Starbucks through to ultra high-end like Leviev and Graff. As we move into higher end markets, there are fewer sales but at a higher price point.

Understanding your high-end clientele

Buyers of luxury brands are typically high-net-worth individuals with significant disposable income. They are less price conscious and lean more towards brands promising premium quality and a sense of exclusiveness. To the buyer and those ‘in the know’ about the luxury brand, the item purchased is an outward reflection of their importance, prestige and power.

When some consumers enter the world of luxury for the first time, they want everyone around them to be aware of this, flaunting brand names (for want of a better term) to 'flex' their money. The keyword here is money, rather than wealth. I was recently made aware of the term 'money talks, wealth whispers'.

While affluent buyers do tend to have more disposable cash, those who are well-accustomed to the luxury world don't feel the need to flaunt it. They'll subtly show signs of wealth, perhaps with a luxury watch, pen or bag, whereas shouting the loudest via brand names or money isn't their priority. I thought I'd explain this before looking at how luxury brands write, as the focus is very rarely on money.

Luxury copywriting examples 

Wolf and Patek Philippe – Look to the future 

Wolf draws on over 185 years of family tradition to design and handcraft watch winders, watch boxes, and jewellery cases.

The brand’s main strapline is ‘Protect your legacy’. This goes beyond the product and focuses on what it makes possible for future generations. If the customer is the guardian of their legacy, then Wolf’s products are the tools they need to protect it. 

Wolf’s aspirational three-word strapline carries a sense of confidence and authority – building trust with the reader. It also cleverly highlights the lifetime value of the brand. It speaks to the owner of the watch or the jewellery wearer, while speaking of their relatives who will one day own their prized possessions. 

Similarly, luxury watch manufacturer Patek Philippe introduced this line in 1996: “You never really own a Patek Philippe. You simply look after it for the next generation.” Here, the focus is on the long-term emotional value the wearer will have from the brand, rather than the immediate problem that the watch solves. 

Learning: Luxury items are passed down the generations. You can elevate the status of the owner by highlighting the importance of protecting the item for the next generation.

Rimowa – Turn a disadvantage into a selling point

Owned by Louis Vuitton, Rimowa sells high-quality luggage, suitcases and bags. Made from aluminium and polycarbonate, Rimowa cases are known for their robustness, with corrosion resistant qualities and an additional anodization layering procedure.

The downside? An aluminium suitcase is going to get scratched. There’s no getting around it. Or is there? Rimowa describes its suitcases on its website as ‘a work in progress’. But these are the lines I love:

“Hallmarked with the inevitable dents and scratches of time, every RIMOWA is a vehicle for storytelling. As individual as a fingerprint, each record on its surface is a memory, a story, and a physical representation of its owner’s character.”

Suddenly, scratches on a suitcase become less of an inconvenience and more of a desirable quality. They’re the modern day keepsake representative of everywhere you've travelled. They’re, dare I say it, cool. The definition of 'if you know, you know'.

I was lucky to have a copywriter’s field day and see how Rimowa sells this in when speaking with a sales assistant in Paris' Galeries Lafayette department store a couple of months ago. He was clear that every scratch is unique to the owner and becomes a symbol of your trip – a bit like stamps on your passport or stickers on a suitcase. Plenty of scratches on your Rimowa case means you’re well travelled. They're all part of the ‘look’ and there's nothing undesirable about them.

Learning: When copywriting for luxury brands, you can spin the story to reframe what could be a disadvantage or pain point as an advantage or proof point. Like Rimowa, ask yourself, what is the bigger story that my product or service feeds into? How can I deliver constant benefit to my audience?

Tag Heuer – Create a like-minded community to highlight your values

Back to the world of watches – or ‘timepieces’ as they’re referred to in the luxury market – and now we’re looking at Tag Heuer, whose 1990s strapline ‘Don’t crack under pressure’ is still used today. 

This manifesto has become synonymous with Tag’s values of precision, determination and mental strength. These are epitomised by the brand’s sponsorship of major world sporting events, with its timepieces being used to achieve accuracy to 5/10,000ths of a second.

Over the years, Tag’s ads have featured sporting legends such as Cristianado Ronaldo and Maria Sharapova, with sub-copy such as ‘trailblazers beyond limits’ and ‘he has defined himself beyond standards’. All ads end with the line about how the stars have ‘never cracked under pressure’. The main message I take from this is that by wearing a Tag watch, audiences can liken themselves and their heroes and embody the same, inspirational qualities as them.

In 2018, the brand revealed a new interpretation of ‘Don’t Crack Under Pressure’ to entice younger audiences. Tag’s intense campaign featured model and actress Cara Delvigne, who posed with her back against a growling lion. Shot in South Africa without any special effects, Tag positioned its wearer as powerful, risk-taking and commanding of respect.

Learning: Rather than focusing on your luxury product, what are the characteristics or qualities that your audience shares? Whether your consumers are celebrities, frequent luxury shoppers or newcomers to all things high-end, you can unite your audience to guide your brand’s narrative for years to come.

Swarovski and Omega – Speak to self expression to convey a range of products

As touched on above, luxury marketing needs to appeal to millennials and Gen-Z audiences if it’s to remain relevant and sought after. These younger audiences are highly influential and can easily cancel a brand as they can help it go viral, or at the very least create enough FOMO (fear-of-missing-out) that translates to tangible growth.

So, how does a luxury fashion brand like Swarovski encourage consumers to wear crystal jewellery in their everyday life? With the help of new-generation icons and bold, colourful creative. For UK markets, Swarovski released a campaign with leading actress and star of Netflix’s Sex Education, Aimee Lou Wood. The short film, titled 'Note to Self', harnesses the real-life insight of the joy people have from cancelled plans, showing Aimee talking to the camera and having fun styling her Swarovski jewellery with various colour-coordinated outfits.

In a similar move, international supermodel Bella Hadid starred in Swarovski’s 2022 campaign, ‘Reveal your facets’. Colourful and bold, the campaign is an ode expressing your multi-faceted personality, accessorised through the brand’s latest jewellery creations in fresh combinations. It uses one of a new age of icons and influencers to position crystals as a part of our everyday wardrobe. 

Looking back to luxury watchmakers, Omega’s ‘Every Shade of You’ campaign is of a similar calibre to Swarovski’s. Fronted by Zhou Dongyu, Eddie Redmayne and Zoë Kravitz, the brand is promoting its Aqua Terra Shades collection of watches through the messages of 1. expressing your unique personality with colour and 2. making a luxury lifestyle your everyday norm.

Learning: To bring luxurious fashion and accessories into the consumer’s everyday, brands are linking them with the consumer’s personality. But rather than suggest there is one product linked to a person’s personality, they suggest the consumer needs a whole wardrobe of products to reflect their multi-dimensional personality. While this is proving a popular marketing concept among brands, we must question its originality. If every brand is talking about being multifaceted, then are any of them multifaceted at all?

Hilton – Harness real human insights for relatable marketing

Hilton is a global brand of full-service luxury hotels. When you think of advertising for luxury hotels, you’re probably met with images of golden sands, crystal clear seas and awe-inspiring destinations. They’re lovely – but they’re overdone.

Enter Hilton Hotels, who launched their new advertising campaign ‘For the stay’ with the tagline, ‘It matters where you stay’. Working with agency TBWA, the campaign was born from the insight that the hospitality industry has become almost entirely focused on the destination, not the stay itself. Their research found that ‘the stay’ can make or break a trip, so they chose to refocus on what it means to have the perfect stay in a hotel.

Hilton’s ‘It matters where you stay’ advertising creative is funny, which alone is a relief in what can sometimes be a dull and stuffy luxury market. The brand’s ads poke fun at relatable, dire situations guests face when they stay in a sub-par hotel. The solution? To stay at a Hilton hotel, which promises everything from amazing service and pet-friendly travel to the option to skip the front desk and personalise your stay, and more.

Hilton’s line ‘It matters where you stay’ line just works because it is rooted in a universal truth. Post-pandemic, consumers care more about where they say and have a renewed sense of when somewhere or something feels like home. It’s another example of the classic copywriting rule, show don’t tell, as the quality of Hilton's hotels speak for themselves.

Evidence of the brand’s resurgence comes in its viral 10-minute TikTok video for the campaign. It hooked viewers by appearing as separate videos in different styles with different creators, mimicking the experience of scrolling for 10 minutes on the app. One thing’s for sure, if the hotel chain is looking to build a relationship with Gen-Z and millennials, it’s going about it the right way.

Learning: Whether your brand is premium or not, the best place to start with any creative campaign, strapline or form of copywriting for luxury brands is with strong insights. If you can anchor your messaging in a truth, you can build relatable, meaningful content around it.

Learnings to remember about copywriting for luxury brands and goods

  • Before you embark on high-net-worth copywriting, use frameworks such as Erwan Rambourg’s brand pyramid to decide where your brand sits within the wider luxury space. The language you’d use for ‘accessible core’ like Gucci, Prada and Louis Vuitton would be entirely different to ‘superpremium’ brands such as Van Cleef & Arpels and Patek Philippe.
  • Think less about the product in hand and more about what it represents to the consumer, both now and in years to come. Can you speak of the consumer’s future generations, suggesting that the product will be a family heirloom? 
  • Consider how you can extend high-value messaging throughout every part of the consumer’s brand experience. Rimowa brilliantly uses suitcase scratches as a vehicle for storytelling, creating a sense of excitement around making the product truly unique to you (or in certain terms 
  • Your brand's values are more than words listed in a corporate document. Look to brands such as Omega and see how you can unite your consumers with a resounding sentiment or message. What do you want your audience to associate with you, apart from the fact that you’re a luxury brand?
  • Help consumers build a likeness to you by showing how your brand is intrinsically linked to their unique personality. But keep in mind that this is what so many other luxury brands are currently doing, with communications that all seem to say the same thing: express the different parts of your personality with our complete range of products. If this is the route you want to go down, I’d encourage you to consider – how can we show, rather than tell, about self expression in our copy and creative?
  • If you’re wondering what to say about your brand, or what your consumers want, find real-life insights to base your messaging around. Affluent buyers are humans too – and they need to be able to build an emotional connection to a brand before they can become an advocate for it.

Are you a luxury brand looking to communicate better with your target audience? Or are you new to the high-end market and in need of premium copywriting ahead of your product launch? Get in touch and let's have a chat. Or if you enjoyed this blog and want to talk more about luxury brand messaging, you can also find me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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