Why are companies like Apple able to charge $500 for electronic devices? How is a company like Louis Vutton able to charge over $1,000 for one bag? Better yet, why do people dream about drinking Starbucks coffee even when it costs a lot more than your average cup of coffee?
The answer is two words Ueber branding.
Ueber brands are able to charge top dollar for their products and command top attention in the minds of their ready-to-buy customers. They are able to hold events that draw in extremely large crowds of people who will camp out the night before just to be the first in line to get the product (which they may have ordered months ago).
You could argue that Apple deserves the attention. It creates incredible products and has excellent marketing. Quality, however, is only part of the answer. There is something about an Apple product, a Starbucks coffee, and a Louis Vutton bag that people can’t get enough of and competitors can’t seem to duplicate.
But how does a brand get there?
Shiny Brands: Understanding the Prestige of a Luxurious Brand
Wolfgang Schaefer and J. P. Kuehlwein break down the answer to the “luxury brand” question in a new book called “Rethinking Prestige Branding: Secrets of the Ueber Brands.” (No, the Ueber is not a misprint.) In particular, the book focuses on prestige, or the power of a brand to gain almost mythical status in the eyes of competitors and customer alike.
Scaefer and Kuehlwein dissect the essential components of prestige to help readers understand how to apply it to their own brand. Brands that embody this kind of prestige are “Ueber” brands. (“Ueber” is a German word for above.)
Ueber brands, the authors claim, speak to a psychological or sociological need in our times. ( It is a need for a purpose in a world that has challenged many of our our traditions and institutions.) In this world, Ueber brands create identifiable communities with highly engaged members who actively identify with and interact with the brand. As a result, everyone involved (customers, employees, competitors, etc.) help to create and fuel something bigger than what the business could ever create by itself.
Common Riches: Quality, Price and Technology Are Changing the Game
Becoming an Ueber brand is not easy in these times, because the idea of a quality product is changing. It is not uncommon to find items that were once considered luxury at stores not considered luxurious — like Target, for example. Luxury brands are also becoming more accessible because of price. Because of this, quality is becoming a far more sought after thing than quantity. Why buy two sets of mass-produced cheap furniture when you can have one elegantly crafted set at a price that you can afford?
Technology is also changing how we view Ueber brands.The exclusivity of prestige is no longer as strong as it once was. In days past, companies shared their prestige through a one-way channel (television, print, etc.). Now, the interaction is two-way.
This presents a challenge, but also an opportunity to companies that want to reach mythical status. On the one hand, creating marketing that doesn’t feel like explicit marketing and strengthens your brand’s positioning is hard. On the other hand, there has never been a greater opportunity to position your brand in front of so many people and achieve massive results.
Is Ueber Branding For You?
In reading “Rethinking Prestige Branding,” one finds that the difference between a luxury brand and a regular brand is perception. Sure, the products are better. (Just compare a piece of Godiva Chocolate to any candy bar in your supermarket.)
What really matters, though, is the perception.
Customers and competitors alike perceive an Ueber brand to be “more than a brand”. This comes from careful attention paid to every aspect of your business: product packaging, mission statements, colors, images, the words you use in marketing, etc. It is much more than just changing your brand’s color because of an A/B test.
Because the intangible is the key, it can be hard for a book to show how to pull off an Ueber brand. “Rethinking Prestige Branding” solves this by presenting a plethora of examples of Ueber brands in a variety of categories and levels. The result is two-fold:
- Inspiration: Readers will probably feel inspired to try their hand at Ueber branding
- Outlier Problem: Inspired by the examples and the book’s one line principles, readers may struggle with the next steps. It’s one thing to show how Apple and Starbucks became Ueber brands. It’s another issue to show, step by step, how your business can do the same. The book had more trouble achieving this second goal.
In either case, the key take-away from “Rethinking Prestige Branding” is the emphasis on the whole brand experience, not just aspects of your brand. If your company or business is looking to “upgrade,” this book should provide the inspiration to get started, whether you sell candy canes, houses, or luxury jet planes.
About the Authors
Wolfgang Schaefer is a senior executive at a premium branding company. J.P. Kuehlwein is a senior executive of a premium hair care and salon brand. Their book, “Rethinking Prestige Branding” will be available May 28, 2015. This article is based on an electronic copy provided for reviewing purposes.