"Ambassador, with these Rocher, you're really spoiling us!"
You've created a wonderful product for your company. It's practically top of the line. It's reliable, sturdy, comes with a lot of great features, and everyone loves its design.
However, all this quality comes at a price. Namely... well, price. It costs too much for the mainstream market to afford it. What do you do?
Well, you have two choices. The first choice is to sell the product at a loss, so that the mainstream can afford it. This is only
advisable if it's sold with another product profitable enough to offset that loss, which is the old "Give away the razors to sell the blades" strategy. The second choice is to not bother with the mainstream at all. Instead go for as much of the market that can afford it. This is known as the upmarket
Of course the upmarket doesn't just go for anything. They have to feel they are getting their money's worth. So instead of just a hook for people to remember the product, you need the upmarket to feel your product is worth their money. There are three common methods of doing this.
- Just to focus on how good your product is. This is often going right for the old money crowd, who are old money because their parents and grandparents spent their money wisely. They spend hundreds on a pair of shoes, not because it has a designer label, but because it will last years and years and still be good as new with a nice polish.
- Focus on the sophistication of your product. This also works with old money, because they do have an image of sophistication to uphold. This also works with new money, because they want to look sophisticated too. Hence this is likely the most common form of appealing to the upmarket.
- Claim this product makes one superior for owning it. Mostly works with new money. May or may not directly state that anything less is tripe meant for the Lowest Common Denominator, but the implication is sometimes there in Sub Text.
More shadily, this method of selling may be invoked by an Honest John
-type Con Man
who artificially marks up prices in an attempt to part a fool and his money
This doesn't always go for the upper classes. Anyone with a decent salary and an expensive hobby
can be the upmarket for that hobby.
Compare/Contrast Pandering to the Base
. See also Conspicuous Consumption
, which is what most of these marketers hope you will do. Can overlap with Brand Names Are Better
, when a given brand has the perception of higher class even though the product might be no better than a generic brand.
- The ads for De Beers diamonds.
- Ads for fur coats, or there used to be such ads on TV.
- Ads for some of the more expensive cars (although not likely the really expensive companies, like Rolls Royce, Porsche, Ferrari, and Bentley). Cadillac, on the other hand, does a fair bit of advertising.
- Upmarket car ads usually don't have women in bikinis laying on the cars. They are more likely to have women in their finest evening clothes admire the cars, as in the above pic.
- The "What becomes a legend most?" campaign for Blackglama mink.
- Common for dedicated peripherals. Why play an FPS with a normal keyboard and mouse when you can have a keyboard and mouse spefically designed for FPS? Why play racing games with anything but a steering wheel & pedal peripheral? Why play MMORPGs without that "glow in the dark" keyboard extension featuring all your hotkeys and quickslots? Why play flight simulators in anything less than a full cockpit, complete with stick, throttle, rudder pedals, MFDs, other assorted switches for various subsystems, and maybe even topped off with a motion platform?
- Steel Battalion used a humongous proprietary controller and therefore was out of the price range of most gamers at US$200 MSRP. Needless to say, it was a commercial flop, but remains a Cult Classic.
- High-end displays (TVs/monitors) like the Pioneer Kuro Elite and Mitsubishi LaserVue lines do not come cheap. You're looking at spending at least US$4,000 on the low end for one of those, all in the name of image quality over cheap commodity TN LCDs and aged CRTs.
- Electrostatic headphones and loudspeakers, compared to conventional dynamic driver-based offerings. It doesn't help that they're only produced by a few manufacturers for the most part (Stax for headphones, Acoustat, Quad and Martin Logan for speakers), and the headphones need specialized amplifiers that are just as expensive, unless they come with transformer boxes meant to be used with conventional loudspeaker amplifiers (which do not perform as well as the direct-drive amps). The loudspeakers are also very demanding on amplification, but most of them have built-in transformers, so you can at least use any power amp that can meet their demands. Even vintage equipment will still command a fairly high price.
- The discontinued Sennheiser Orpheus electrostatic headphone system can sell for upwards of US$12,000 when it can be found on sale; only about 300 were produced, making it extremely exclusive.
- The radio commercials on classical music stations are rather different than regular radio commercials, such as having British guys telling you where you can get thirty percent off handwoven Persian rugs.
- Ads in the playbills at orchestra productions, opera, or musical theater. As for the theaters themselves, the best seats in the house can price in the hundreds or thousands of dollars.
- Box Seats (also known as the loge) are intentionally designed to be a status symbol, where the wealthy patron's group can have a commanding view of the stage while being somewhat isolated from the common masses in the regular seats. Naturally, they're almost inevitably the most expensive seats in the house. Some theatres even have royalty boxes for visiting dignitaries.
- In sports, meanwhile, the Luxury Box serves a similar purpose, offering a wide view of the field and protection from the elements as well as VIP treatment for you and your rich friends. Prices for a box for a single event range from US$5,000 up to the millions of dollars depending on the venue and events held there. Most patrons will lease a box for the year, or you can buy one similarly to a condominium.
- Most Bridal Magazines will try to look like this, no matter who is buying it, merely to maintain the appearance of elegance, regardless of whether the dresses in the articles and ads are simple or Fairytale Wedding Dresses.
- Stella Artois invoked this with the slogan 'Reassuringly expensive', although it became known as 'wife-beater' (because the British can't hold their liquor - Only ten pints? Are you some kind of pansy? - and because, despite the up-marketing, it's largely sold to proles).
- Nearly all ads for high-end watches. Does the ad copy call it a "timepiece"? It's this trope. A good ad is the Patek Philippe slogan "You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation." Nothing says upmarketing like arguing that the product is literally more valuable than you, the buyer.
- Tony Robbins, in his recorded spiel on the subject of VALS, describes Merril Lynch's ad campaign going from a herd of bulls, representing their "bullish" position, to a single, very well groomed bull walking through a china shop and not knocking anything over. This implies that their customer is an "Achiever" who is above the rabble.
- Seattle's Bumbershoot festival has become ridiculously expensive in recent years, with single-day tickets being $45 at the gate, and for the gold pass, prepare to shell out $300. Then there's the concessions and other fees inside.
- American Express was able to carve out a niche for itself as the credit card of the (somewhat) upper-crust, in contrast to Visa's and Mastercard's more plebian demographic. Most notably, the Amex Centurion, the application fee is around $5000 and the yearly service charge is $2500.
- Apple takes this approach with their OS X line of laptops and desktops and their iOS line of mobile devices.
- Skymall. If you've flown on an airplane often enough, you've probably seen the magazines somewhere. They're generally more about newish stuff (that's still really expensive).
- As for appealing for hardcore fans, the home video market in Japan, which is largely a form of Conspicuous Consumption. Collectors will brag to each other about how much they've spent in those DVDs and Blu-Rays (among other things—some membership clubs cost tens of thousands of yen per year and consist solely of newsletters; the money spent is seen as an act of dedication to the franchise). This backfired big time for Bandai Visual when the studio tried to use the same strategy for western markets, unaware that such a market in the west is too small to turn a profit with.
- Pinball unintentionally found itself in this market with the demise of arcades in North America. As the machines are big and bulky by necessity, prices are invariably in the 4- to 5-digit range, and this doesn't account for repair costs due to pinball machines' tendency to break down with even moderate use. When the main buyers for these machines dwindled, the main audience shifted to home buyers, who buy them for personal use. The only people who would shell out this much cash for quick amusement and put up with the repair costs, as well as having the floor space at home, are the up-market. It says something when Stern released a cheaper, stripped-down version of its Batman table that cost $800 lessnote and sold it at Costco, and the main reaction from pinball aficionados were cries of Ruined Forever despite the more expensive normal Batman table still available. In other words, the very act of broadening the audience down-market was seen as blasphemous.
- When the iPhone was first released, an enterprising developer offered an app called "I Am Rich." With a eye-popping sticker price of $999.99, the app did literally nothing except display a picture of a glowing red gem and the mantra, "I am rich, I deserv [sic] it." That is, the whole purpose of the app is transparently to demonstrate that you can afford to throw away $1000 like it's nothing. The developer reported that he had many satisfied customers before the app was pulled from the App Store, although several claimed they had clicked the purchase link by mistake. There were similar products available for Android and Windows phone users as well.
- Fererro Rocher chocolates, whose advertisements somewhat iconically portrayed a distinguished butler circulating through a formal embassy party with a silver tray full of the gold-wrapped candies. The commercial voiceover began, "The Ambassador's receptions are noted in society for their host's exquisite taste that captivates his guests," and included a party guest saying, "Ambassador, with these Rocher, you're really spoiling us!"
- Ironically, this ad campaign wound up backfiring a bit in Britain, where the brand started being perceived not as sophisticated and classy but pretentious and elitist. So Rocher changed their marketing to show that their chocolates were the favored candies of the Greek gods. Make of that what you like.
- A variation of this is why business services and other companies that don't actually sell products to the average joe still pay top dollar for ads that run during the Super Bowl. It shows the intended customers that the company is successful enough to, well, pay for Super Bowl ads. This also changes the effect of What Were They Selling Again? because the intention isn't to get consumers to run out and buy it because they saw the ad, but to get businesses to think more highly of it because the ad is there.