Masstige is a portmanteau of the words “mass” and “prestige”. The term was made popular by Michael Silverstein and Neil Fiske in their 2008 book Trading Up and in a Harvard Business Review article entitled Luxury for the Masses. Masstige brands are mass-produced goods that are marketed as prestigious or luxurious to an aspirational audience.
Understanding masstige brands
Masstige brands rose to prominence during the 1980s and 1990s as economic growth lead to increasing disposable incomes, lower unemployment rates, and a growing wealthy class in emerging countries. Once the domain of a small, elite group of wealthy consumers, the so-called “democratisation of luxury” has today made luxury products accessible to a larger population.
This new class of luxury goods is less expensive than traditional luxury goods while still retaining aspects of a brand’s original prestige and value. With that in mind, there are two key components of a masstige brand:
- They must be considered luxury or premium products, and
- They must have price points that fill the gap between mid-market and super-premium.
The consumers for whom luxury has been made more accessible come from the middle and upper-middle classes who purchase luxury goods as a form of self-reward and indulgence. This contrasts with luxury purchases made by the rich, which are mostly driven by status.
This emerging class of luxury product evangelists is perhaps best described by James Twitchell in his 2002 book Living It Up: Our Love Affair with Luxury. Twitchell noted that “These new customers for luxury are younger than clients of the old luxe used to be, they are far more numerous, they make their money far sooner, and they are more flexible in financing and fickle in choice. They do not stay put. They now have money to burn.”
Masstige brand categories
Before we list some masstige brand categories, it is important to note that not every category is appropriate for the masstige approach. Masstige brands must complement existing product lines and enrich the brand experience without creating overlap or conflict.
With that said, most masstige brands encompass the following categories:
Designer fashion brands such as Dolce & Gabbana and Prada also sell sunglasses and other eyewear to broaden their respective target audiences. Porsche is another premium brand that has entered this space.
Despite earning a reputation as a luxury sedan manufacturer, BMW now sells a watered-down version of the luxury sedan known as the 1 Series. Brand prestige is maintained to some extent since the vehicle still wears the BMW badge. Ferrari also sells branded merchandise including hats, clothing, and even computers without that merchandise competing with the brand’s core identity that is rooted in sports cars.
Women love masstige beauty brands because they offer comparable quality and trendiness to luxury brands but for a fraction of the cost. Indeed, the affordable price point combined with the aura of luxuriousness allows women to feel like they’ve treated themselves without breaking the bank.
Companies such as Zara exemplify the idea of selling taste and style to the masses. The fashion retailer imitates the clothing and store design of luxury brands and also takes inspiration from their advertising strategies. Armani Haute Couture jeans sell for $900, but the company also sells a $100 pair to appeal to brand-conscious wearers.
American home furnishing chain Pottery Barn sells homewares that are considered premium. However, these products are widely available and are sold at price points more affordable than more exclusive brands.
- Masstige brands are mass-produced goods that are marketed as prestigious or luxurious to an aspirational audience.
- Masstige brands are purchased by middle and upper-middle-class consumers as a form of self-reward or indulgence. Traditional luxury brands, on the other hand, were once the domain of the rich who purchased them as a status symbol.
- Masstige brands must complement existing product lines and not dilute or conflict with brand identity. These brands are most prevalent in eyewear, automobiles, beauty products, fashion, and homewares.
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