The Brands the Wealthy Buy

The wealthiest consumers are some of the most valuable clients a luxury brand can acquire. Aside from their reassuringly deep pockets, they often exhibit greater loyalty in their brand patronage, particularly where overall brand experience and service levels exceed their expectations – once they are happy with a brand, they have no reason to leave.

During periods of financial uncertainty, it is always the wealthy that luxury brands turn to. Relatively unaffected by day-to-day cost of living concerns, they have little need to budget.

However, wealthy individuals can behave differently to ordinary consumers in the way they buy luxury brands. They aren’t as attracted to the same cues as the mass-affluent who constitute the bulk of luxury consumption.

Brands of elegance

Wealthy consumers like luxury, but they often feel a need to differentiate themselves from others. Though the newly wealthy may buy luxury to convey their status, this isn’t always about brand-show and logos. Amongst the right people, the quality and elegance of what they buy will always show. Unbranded, handmade garments in the right materials can convey as much as monogrammed luggage, and they also have a benefit of providing a more elegant interpretation of luxury, rather than a brash one.

An example of one of these ‘brands of elegance’ is the luxury apparel and accessories brand Loro Piana which offers a level of material and finish rarely seen in off the rack clothing, with some of the most rarefied fabrics and materials in contemporary clothing such as virgin wool and vicuña.

It’s not a trend or fashion brand, but wealthy consumers don’t need logos on every item, or have the latest ‘it’ product. Brands like this mean something because it is a cosy, comforting brand that they associate with soothing them on long flights in first class, at informal family dinners, or warming them during time spent outside with children or grandchildren. They know it is expensive – and they feel its cost – but the refinement and subtlety of the brand is worth the investment.

Innovative brands

Luxury brands that stand still are rarely appealing to highly successful, wealthy consumers. Laurel-resting or staid traditionalism comes across as laziness or fear. They love to seek and find brands with creativity and innovation at their core. They do not need to be loved or celebrated brands, but their inventiveness needs to be real.

The wealthy seek such brands as part of their own need to experiment and evolve, to move beyond the ordinary and to keep them focused on the future. Innovation is about more than mere novelty, although that does have an appeal of its own. They are most excited by things that noticeably improve the way they live.

Being wealthy, they are comfortable with and even relish brands which may be seen as experimental, one which may be doing new, ground-breaking things, presenting an unknown, perhaps even dangerous image. For ordinary consumers, the unproven is rarely worth the investment risk, but wealthy individuals can afford to bear the downside. 

Tesla is a great example of this type of brand, as it is one which the very wealthy were drawn to quickly. As a little-known brand of questionable construction quality, lacking established engineering, it nevertheless offered something innovative, different and an evolution in the way they lived.

Brands of renown

It’s often believed that the truly wealthy reject brands of too great a fame, and that they always seek out the more discreet alternative.  Whilst this has some truth, there are some brands of great renown that they turn to.

Renowned brands tend not to be brands with which every level of consumer is familiar, but ones which are known and appreciated within limited, elite circles. There are always times when these wealthy individuals seek expertise for the assurance of a superior experience. This is when they reach for brands of great renown, that are widely respected and which signal a level of sophistication, particularly when these are to be shared with, or gifted to, others.

Krug is a great example of this type of brand, as it is quieter than many other high-end, renowned names in Champagne but extremely well-respected in connoisseur circles, and one which consciously avoids the brash nightclub associations of many of its competitors, signaling a focus on the product, one which is widely known for its excellence.

Inaccessible brands

Conscious of their status and ability to purchase items of fundamental value, wealthy individuals don’t really covet brands which are widely available, or which only convey a sense of exclusivity through marketing and branding. Instead, they make a hobby of pursuing authentic rarity, and become excited by the challenge of purchasing something not everyone, including many in their fortunate position, will have access to.

Naturally therefore, the rarest, least accessible brands become highly interesting to them from a point of view of exclusivity. They covet brands and products which are not widely available, but also those which are far out of reach. In truth, from a cost perspective, many luxury brands may qualify to some degree, but it is particularly brands which have high price entry points, small-scale production relative to their overall demand and extremely limited availability or waiting lists.  

A great example of this is Patek Philippe, which is notorious for its long waiting lists and private inner world of existing owners who are invited to exclusive launches and enjoy a cosy familiarity with the watchmaker.

Winston Chesterfield is the Founder & Director of Barton

About Barton

Barton is a strategic insight consultancy, established to serve businesses in the luxury and prestige sectors, combining evidence and guidance to help these organizations and brands thrive.