To shout or to whisper? Dissecting quiet and loud luxury

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Believe less is more? Then consider yourself a fan of quiet luxury. Love the look of logo-centric brands? Then you’re likely a fan of loud luxury.

Whether you love quiet or loud luxury, it speaks volumes as to your social aspirations and is a key profiling trick that luxury brand marketers use to tap into their target audience.

But what exactly do the phrases loud luxury and quiet luxury mean? And how do you leverage this in your digital marketing strategy? Here we dissect the differences between the two types of luxury and explore why understanding the two is key to effectively marketing a luxury brand and its products, in order to resonate with the world’s wealthiest consumers.

Quiet versus loud luxury

Loud luxury features products with highly visible brand markings that enable people to easily distinguish the brand. Think Louis Vuitton’s instantly recognisable monogram print, which can be found emblazoned across an extensive array of the fashion house’s bags, clothing and accessories, or Gucci’s iconic “double G” logo that is featured across a selection of the brand’s collections.

Social status associated with a brand is an important factor in conspicuous consumption. According to a research article by professors Glyn Atwal and Alistair Williams luxury clientele use these high-end products to make statements about themselves, to create identities and to develop a sense of belonging, whether they are consciously aware of it or not. The teenage son of the CEO of an international investment bank may want to buy a Supreme x Louis Vuitton hoodie as it is considered to be one of the coolest things within his group of friends. By buying and wearing loud luxury items he feels like he fits in with his exclusive crowd; he likes people to know he has the money to buy anything from the hottest new collection.

On the flip side, quiet luxury brands offer products with subtle or no markings. Quiet luxury is not centred around the logo, or showing off wealth and status. Instead, it’s all about the beauty, quality, and craftsmanship of the product. Think Hermès, a luxury French brand synonymous with understated opulence where products run into the thousands, but only those with a trained eye will recognise the brand’s prestigious items. For quiet luxurians, it’s all about spending large sums of money to look anonymously chic.

Luxury consumption: the personas

Different marketing tactics will apply if you want to appeal to loud luxury or quiet luxury consumers, which is why it’s important that marketers understand specifically who they are targeting. There are four personas that typically drive consumer habits, depending on their wealth and need for status. These are Patricians, Parvenus, Proletarians, and Poseurs.

Patricians, for example, will almost certainly purchase quiet luxury items as they don’t feel the need to buy loud luxury items that signal to others that they have wealth, although other Patricians will recognise their wealth. They would purchase brands like Brioni which eschews visible logos and focuses on creating pieces of exquisite quality, craftsmanship and beauty. Whereas Parvenus want to signal to others that they have money, so will consume loud luxury goods. An example of a brand they would likely purchase is Fendi, although the house produces both quiet and loud luxury items, the majority of their clothing and accessories feature their iconic double F logo.

Luxury clientele’s social needs impact their use of luxury brands as an extension of their social identity or social traits.

According to a research article published in the Journal of Business Research by Hannele Kauppinen-Räisänen, Peter Björk, Alexandra Lönnströmc, and Marie-Nathalie Jauffret, there are luxury consumers who would want to purchase the same luxury products that their peers own, to fit in with social norms. Rather than being unique and purchasing something different, they feel a need to conform to trends and so purchase loud luxury items which are easily recognisable and associate them with the rest of their crowd.

Bridging both markets

Interestingly, many luxury brands tap into both markets but will charge more for quiet luxury goods. The luxury car brand Mercedes, for example, places larger emblems on its lower priced cars. Luxury fashion houses such as Gucci and Louis Vuitton charge more for quieter handbags, ones without a logo or any obvious branding. Their logo emblazoned versions tend to be considered entry level, suggesting that people who are buying the lower-priced luxury goods are doing so to signal their status.

Patricians are more attuned to the distinguishing traits of luxury goods and therefore can recognise products without the need for conspicuous brand displays. To appeal to this ultra-wealthy persona, luxury brands need to further develop the subtle cues that identify their products as their own even in the absence of an explicit logo or brand name, known as House Codes.

These House Codes are central to their identity and are repeatedly used throughout everything they do, from marketing to the pieces they create. These codes are what the Patricians easily recognise as they have been surrounded by the world of luxury for their entire lives and understand the subtle complexities.

For example, Louis Vuitton’s bags with leather reinforced corners and removable key bell are instantly recognisable, even without logos. The same goes for Chanel’s iconic bags which feature a Turnlock, interlaced chains, and quilted stitching. The fashion house’s tweed fabric is another signature House Code. Originally developed by Coco Chanel, tweed is used across a range of their products with new iterations every season, but it remains a constant and everlasting code of the fashion house.

The return of logomania

Loud luxury brands and goods tend to be favoured by the nouveau riche, along with newer emerging luxury consumer groups such as the HENRYs (High Earners Not Rich Yet). These people have enjoyed an upward shift in socioeconomic status during their lifetime and therefore wish to show it off.

For example, Billie Eilish is an 18-year-old American singer-songwriter who has skyrocketed to fame worldwide in the past two years. Her accolades keep coming, from five Grammys to being chosen as the artist to record the newest James Bond movie’s theme tune. She had a regular, middle-class lifestyle growing up and now she is one of the most in-demand musicians in the world. Her loud luxury fashion choices consistently involve logo-centric products.

Those who come from old wealth or family money tend to favour quiet luxury brands, as they don’t desire the same level of social acceptance.

Rosie Huntington-Whitley, for example, is a British model and businesswoman who exemplifies quiet luxury, as she is rarely seen with a logoed piece of clothing or accessory and almost exclusively wears brands like Bottega Veneta and The Row.

However, the rules aren’t strict here and the two are interchangeable. According to a 2019 research article by Sara Nguyen, thanks to the return of Logomania – the fashion trend of logos being splashed across clothes and accessories – patricians will dabble in loud luxury simply to make a bold fashion statement.

Dior’s logoed saddle bags are a case in point. The bags have been a huge hit since Dior re-launched them in its 2018/2019 Fall Collection, with more than 181,588 posts using #diorsaddlebag and more than 95,031 posts using #diorsaddle on Instagram, as of publication.

Chloe is another luxury fashion house that is embracing the Logomania trend. Ordinarily a quiet luxury brand, Chloe now has created more pieces of logo-centred apparel, including the in-demand logo-print canvas slides.

The growing trend for quiet luxury

While loud luxury goods still remain popular, quiet luxury goods are seeing a steady rise as the world’s wealthiest look to become more inconspicuous and show their wealth and status in more subtle ways.

This shift to quiet luxury among the world’s wealthiest is being seen predominantly in established luxury markets, such as Italy and the United States.

The American fashion brand The Row, for example, is an extremely successful quiet luxury brand, offering high-end goods that exude understated chic. The brand gives little away; even its Instagram account is devoid of its products, instead focusing on aspirational artistic images, creating a sense of mystique - and exclusivity – around the brand.

Bottega Veneta, a luxury Italian fashion house, is another extreme example of a luxury brand that has gone to great lengths to be seen as quiet luxury, with its brand logo appearing only on the inside of accessories and apparel, hidden entirely from view.

On their Instagram profile, they release a series of 12 posts which are shot by a frequently changing individual photographer. The varying photographers provide different interpretations of the brand, and serve as a way to elevate the brand into more of an artistic viewpoint even though the products are being featured. The images feature models, bags, jewellery, clothes and other Bottega Veneta items but do not feature any logos. Treating their feed as a kind of art gallery or photography exhibition reinforces their positioning as a quiet luxury brand.

Understanding the nuances between purchasers of loud or quiet luxury, and the reasons why they opt for either, is crucial for luxury brand marketers if they wish to reach their target audience. Be it loud or quiet luxury, marketing strategies need to be carefully tailored to ensure they deliver results and effectively resonate with those who seek out the world’s most luxurious goods.

Rumble Romagnoli, director and CEO at Relevance.

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