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Marketing Luxury Goods Online


Philipp Nikolaus Kluge

The marketing of luxury goods faces a fundamental challenge: balancing sales growth against exclusiveness. In today’s digital world, this trade-off has become even more challenging. A luxury brand’s fragile concept of exclusiveness is seemingly incompatible with the ubiquitous availability provided by the mass medium Internet. The author addresses this trade-off both conceptually and empirically. First, the author conceptually examines the specific marketing-mix for luxury goods in terms of product, price, communications, and distribution management. Second, this marketing-mix is applied to the online environment. Third, the author empirically tests the effects of the online accessibility of luxury goods on consumer perceptions of scarcity and desirability.

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2. The Concept of Luxury


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2.  The Concept of Luxury

The phenomenon of luxury is “particularly slippery to define” (Cornell, 2002, p. 47). Its individual meaning changes from one person to another. Something perceived as extraordinary by one individual might be regarded as ordinary by another (Kapferer & Bastien, 2009b, p. 314). Water, food, and shelter are necessities in developed countries, but luxuries in the wilderness. Owning a car and drinking champagne is ordinary to the high-net-worth individual (HNWI), but luxury for a student. Above all, luxury and necessity both depend on subjective judgement and context.

After numerous attempts to approach the concept of luxury within different disciplines such as history (e.g., Berry, 1994), sociology (e.g., Bourdieu, 1984; Sombart, 1913), economics (e.g., Leibenstein, 1950; Mason, 1998; Veblen, 1960[1899]), and marketing in particular (see Miller & Mills, 2012 for a review) academics have come to agree that the subjectivity and intangibility inherent to luxury defies an objective, universally valid definition of luxury (Christodoulides, Michaelidou, & Ching Hsing Li, 2009, p. 397; Heine, 2012, p. 9; Kapferer, 2014, p. 3; Miller & Mills, 2012, p. 41; Phau & Prendergast, 2000, p. 123; Valtin, 2005, p. 20).

In the absence of a commonly accepted definition, luxury goods can be defined by their constituent characteristics (e.g., Dubois et al., 2001, pp. 8–17; Kisabaka, 2001, p. 75) and the consumer motives for buying them (e.g., Berthon, Pitt, Parent, & Berthon, 2009, p. 49; Vickers & Renand, 2003, pp....

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