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Everything I’ve learned about luxury branding and how to launch your own

What makes Starbucks and Apple so successful? Are their products higher quality than their competitors? Less expensive? Neither. Many would even argue that their competitors are superior in multiple ways.

So why do these luxury brands thrive? Exclusivity.

luxury branding - girl drinking Starbucks

They make their consumers feel like they’re part of a club – a club that only people like them belong to.

Both Starbucks and Apple have done this to such a degree that they’ve transformed their industries. Just look at the way people talk about these industries and their favorite brands within them. Stating your coffeehouse or operating system preference has much more in common with a religious debate than a consumer preference. Just look at the holy war between iOS and Android, or Starbucks and, well, any other coffeehouse. Both choices, for many, say more about how you see yourself as a person than about the quality of either product.

For many brands offering luxury products, exclusivity is the obvious choice in branding. However, it’s not an easy thing to accomplish. It takes more than simply announcing that you have a high quality product in limited supply – you have to make consumers care about it.

SELECT, a community for social elites and up-and-comers that works through credit cards and offers members-only perks and privileges, has mastered the art of exclusivity marketing.

I spoke with their team about their strategies that worked, and what entrepreneurs can learn from them.

Here’s how this top luxury brand did it, and how you can too:

luxury branding - handbag store window

Be clear about the perks, but limit the supply.

A big part of becoming a true luxury brand is convincing consumers that there is no equivalent alternative to your product. SELECT does this well, by creating direct and often exclusive relationships with premier brands and venues across dining, travel, nightlife, retail and entertainment, allowing them to confidently promote their benefit offering as the best out there and display the benefits to prospective members to back it up. This also provides them with numerous options for content to promote their offering.

The same is true for their events. By leveraging the vast network of premier venues at their disposal, SELECT is able to host memorable experiences only available to members and provide access to things like Art Basel and WMC that no other brand can.

No matter what your brand does, make sure that you’re very clear on the benefits – make them easy to find, compelling and adorned with great images. This is the place to really go all out on your content marketing.

Publicize celebrity members and customers.

A photo posted by SELECT (@meetselect) on

There’s a reason that celebrity endorsements are coveted by brands in every industry. Celebrities are seen as embodiments of life goals to many, and we aspire to be more like them. Why else would we care if we smelled like a Kardashian? Have most of us even been close enough to one to smell them? Nope.

If you’re a luxury brand, a celebrity endorsement can do wonders for your exclusivity – everyone wants to have something in common with their idol. Be careful about who you pick, as many celebrities have taken stances on social or political issues. Once you can publicly state that a celebrity is on your roster as a customer, you’ll gain a significant percentage of their following.

Lastly, remember that you don’t need to limit yourself to the traditional actors, models and sports stars – there’s a whole world of online celebrities with very specific followings that are ready to be tapped into.

Have a great origin story and mission statement.

SELECT was started by a (former) club promoter and serial entrepreneur Carlo Cisco. Carlo found that by combining his experience in throwing large-scale private events and building business relationships he was able to deliver on the company’s mission to connect the most influential, innovative and interesting members with each other and special VIP-level access wherever they go. Everyone who visits their site knows these two things instantly.

Apple started in a garage, with a dream of making a computer that anyone could use, and that was beautiful and elegant.

Starbucks started in Pike Place in Seattle. It’s mission is to bring the romantic coffee house experience of Europe to America.

A mission statement is so much more than just a tagline – it’s a reason for people to believe in your brand. As Simon Sinek so famously explained in 2009, “it’s not what you do, it’s why you do it.” By providing a why, those who care about the same thing will want to help you and participate – which they can do, in this case, by buying your product or service.

The synopsis of these three points is that, to create a successfully luxury brand, you need to craft a compelling story around your brand. Explain your mission, and present it as something that only some are qualified to assist with, and present being a customer as an opportunity to the public, not a favor.