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, the 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 big spenders don't go for just anything. They have to feel they are getting their money's worth. So your advertising has to demonstrate that your product justifies its cost. There are three common methods of doing this.
- Focus on the value and high quality of your product. This is often the way to appeal to the Old Money crowd, who are old money because they (and their parents and grandparents) spent their money wisely. They can drop hundreds on a pair of shoes, but they won't unless those shoes are so well made that they can be worn for years and still look like new after a good polish.
- Focus on the class and sophistication of your product. This appeals to both Old and New Money — who wouldn't want to seem sophisticated? — and 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 fit only for the peasantry, but the implication is often there.
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 new money. After all, the more expensive it is, the more valuable it must be, right?
Bear in mind that 'up' is relative to the market. Any field of product, even plastic cars and ink pens, has a 'prestige' level of pricing for those with a decent salary, an interest in quality, and/or a passion for collecting them. It even applies to the world's oldest profession; see High-Class Call Girl for that.
Compare Conspicuous Consumption.
See also Brand Names Are Better.
Compare/Contrast Pandering to the Base.
- The De Beers diamond ads. Made all the more peculiar because it is impossible for a consumer to actually buy De Beers diamonds directly—De Beers owns the mines and distribution network. It's just that they hold such a vast chunk of the diamond market, the company can advertise for diamonds in general and be assured that they receive most of the resultant business.
- Ads for most luxury and high-performance cars, like Cadillac, Lincoln, Lexus, Acura, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz. The really high-end car companies/brands, like Rolls Royce, Porsche, Ferrari, and Bentley, subvert this: their advertising is that they hardly advertise at all.
- 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 used celebrities wearing the coats, while looking their finest.
- 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 "RGB LED" 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?
- As one of the more prominent ads of this type, professional gamers are often asked to play on stage on such peripherals; selling the idea that you could 'play like the pros'.
- Intel's Extreme Edition CPUs have been priced at $999 or more for the opportunity to own the (usually) fastest and most core-packed processors currently on the market that are not among their professional/corporate oriented Xeon server/workstation linenote , and also get access to quad-channel RAM and enough PCIe lanes to run 4 GPUs. At first they were also the only More recently it has been expanded to the -X series, which includes that and several somewhat lower tier options that are still (mostly) above the mainstream choices Intel offers.
- AMD actually beat Intel to the punch with the FX line of Athlon 64 processors, which thanks to more balanced performance and price ($999 vs. $733) was seen as a better deal at the time. After several years of struggling with the Bulldozer line (and a failed attempt with the FX-9xxx line), they returned in 2017 with the 16 core Threadripper, which had the effect of sending Intel into a panic and upping their top Extreme Edition from 10 to 18.
- 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; they also tend to offer a linked set of additional seating comprising the best seats in the stands (e.g. behind home plate in baseball), so if the weather's nice and you want a good view of the game, you can leave the box and sit down in the front to get a closer look. 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'. Given that Stella is actually one of the cheaper brands of lager on sale in England, and is commonly nicknamed "Wife-beater" with all the unsavoury reputation that implies, one can only assume the slogan was retired at the behest of the Advertising Standards Agency.
- 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.
- The Neo Geo was among the most expensive home video game consoles ever released, with a bundle including two controllers and Magician Lord going for $650, and additional games costing $200 each note . Since mainstream appeal was out of the question as a result, SNK upmarketed the console for only the most hardcore of gamers.
- 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.
- The Centurion Card's origin is interesting — back in the 80s and 90s, there were rumors going around that Amex offered a super-exclusive black card to really rich people. It frustrated Amex at first, but then they realized it wasn't such a bad idea — so they actually began offering it in 1999 — the card is made out of anodized titanium.
- 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've been generally more about newish stuff (that's still really expensive). Have been, because they've since filed for bankruptcy and are unlikely to find a rescuer.
- 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.
- Chigusa Nagayo's Marvelous pro wrestling promotion, known for having a much lower budget than its predecessor GAEA, inexplicably has vending machines among the products it sells, when the most expensive thing marketed to its target audience is usually a 60 USD DVD set, and it has a much cheaper rate for its streaming service for its shows than the market standard.
- 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!" A particularly silly case of Up Marketing for sure, because someone with a hankering for the confection can usually find it near the checkout counter at their local gas station or most any store with "Mart" in the name.
- 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.
- Opera is often seen as fare for highbrow snobs and rich people, reflected in marketing that shows gents in tuxes and ladies in evening gowns enjoying a night at the opera. Despite this, opera tickets aren't really much more expensive than comparable tickets for pop or rock concerts. And in many European countries you will actually be able to get opera tickets for less than the price of a similar night out as the government subsidizes "high culture" so that everybody can enjoy it (the same often goes for theater). Regardless, people still go to opera in their finest evening gowns even if the tickets were 15 a pop.
- Pardon me, but do you have any Grey Poupon?
- For many home appliances there is the 10$ variety and the 100$ variety. How do you justify a toaster costing 100$? Well, the 10$ toaster has a few features less, but the 100$ toaster comes in a handful of subdued colors (black, silver and maybe white) and is made with a stainless steel surface instead of something as "common" as plastic.
- This trope is why guitar companies like Fender and Gibson created budget subdivisions of their companies, Squier and Epiphone- the central companies' biggest audiences are Baby Boomers who bought their first guitar years ago with them and have enough income to buy another guitar at a premium, while their budget brands are targeted at students and those with a budget of less than the couple thousand or so many Gibsons and top-of-line Fenders cost.
Film - Live Action
- In The Stuff, some ads for the eponymous product show the ladies wearing fur coats to sell the glamour of it. An ad shown in mid-shoot has the models also Going Fur a Swim as they ate spoonfuls of it.
- In The Widow of Desire Natalie Stuart founds a fur company with her husband, and the main demographic is conservative Old Money career women. The ads are tailored to their tastes, some showing modern women and their ancestors wearing tasteful but luxurious mink coats.
Live Action TV
- Mad Men, being set in an ad agency, has a few examples:
- In Season 1 (1960), Rachel Menken approaches Sterling Cooper basically to advise her on how to up-market her family's somewhat fusty old-school Jewish department store and turn it into someplace WASPs would actually think of shopping at. The changes recommended are drastic, but she goes with it.
- In Season 2 (1962), Sterling Cooper gets Heineken beer as a client. Both Heineken and most of the SC team want to focus on increasing the brand's bar distribution, but Don Draper says the brand should play up the "Imported from Holland" angle to expand grocery-store sales by getting rich housewives to buy it as a trendy alternative to wine. He even concocts a pilot program focused on grocery stores in the "rich belt" of New York's northern suburbs—including where he lives. Sure enough, at a dinner party at his house with his colleagues, Don's wife Betty includes "Heineken beer from Holland" as an alternative to French wine (as part of an "around-the-world"-themed menu). His colleagues laugh (and adopt the strategy). (Betty was none too pleased with being a guinea pig, and Don was Exiled to the Couch for what Betty took as a manipulation.)
- In Season 7B (1970), we get a Call-Back: Topaz Pantyhose is struggling after Hanes' 1969 release of L'eggs, threatening Topaz's traditional drugstore market. The SC&P team is pretty much all agreed that Topaz needs to go upmarket to avoid being trounced by Hanes, and they all look for different ways to prove their case. For his part, Don decides to reach out to Menken's—which had successfully implemented Sterling Cooper's advice ten years earlier—which nobody comments on, since it makes sense in business terms. (Don has ulterior motives for reaching out to Menken's in particular, but nobody but him realizes this).
- Schitt's Creek: David Rose has a talent for this. His first successful job in town is as the brand manager for dumpy local boutique The Blouse Barn, which he transforms into a store so upscale and sophisticated looking that an Australian company that wants to buy the name pays the owner a significant sum of money. Later, he opens his own successful store, Rose Apothecary, where he elegantly rebrands products produced by the rural locals and sells them on consignment.