Most people when they hear the words “premium brand” imagine a luxury brand: Cartier, Tiffany, designer clothes, vintage champagne, 95% fair trade cocoa chocolate with edible 24-karat gold flakes.
As soon as they think that, their mind goes to the thought: “I couldn’t do that.”
You may be feeling this way about the word “premium”, too.
You may be thinking:
- But I want my stuff to be affordable!
- I don’t want to be perceived as elitist and greedy.
- I hate that black-and-gold aesthetic.
But in truth, you may already be using premium products and services yourself, without even knowing it.
Do you regularly buy a certain food item because it’s free-range, or fair trade, or produced in your country, or it’s what your mom used, or the packaging delights you?
Do you go to the same hair dresser, or massage therapist, or car wash, even though there may be cheaper and more convenient options available, because they just do the things the way you like, and you’d hate if they closed their business?
It may be difficult to point to what about their service you adore so much. Maybe it’s the interior design of the place, or they have your favorite magazine in the waiting room, or the people who work there are super nice and helpful and look like they really love their job.
Even if their services cost less than $100 dollars, even if the product you buy is only a few dollars more expensive than the others, the brands you’re buying still count as premium.
Premium is not about luxury – it’s about creating more value.
Luxury brands are those that only people with more money than they know what to do with can afford, and it’s irresponsible and silly to take on a loan or use credit cards to finance a luxury product or experience. Luxury is about the message “only rare people can have this”.
Some luxury brands aren’t even that different from regular brands, but it’s the price and the shiny wrapper that makes them such.
Luxury is a subjective experience – different people perceive different things as a luxury (I see fancy sketchbooks as a luxury. I’m weird.)
Also, what some people see as a luxury, others may see as a necessity – take any of the self-care practices like private yoga classes, massage and spa treatments that may be very needed by someone who works hard and endures a lot of stress (*cough* creative business owners *cough*).
Premium brands have that status because they offer more value than the other brands.
Value can sometimes be very hard-numbers practical (like money earned or time saved), or it can be more intangible (feeling more confident, having a peace of mind, knowing the business honors your personal values).
The main way through which premium brands stand out is through their unique value proposition. Simply put, a unique value proposition describes how your business differs from every other business in the same market. Having a strong UVP gives you a great advantage over the others who need to compete on price.
The price doesn’t really matter – however, there is a minimum price below which the premium brand isn’t able to go without cutting corners, and that’s something a premium brand can never do. If they start cutting corners, they’ll lose their premium status and it’s back to fighting with commodity brands for market share.
Being a premium brand is not about luxury – it’s about creating more value.
You can still sell affordable products and services as a premium brand
You can have a “budget” line of products that enables customers who aren’t normally able to afford your prices to own something you’ve made. A cheap pair of earrings from a limited edition (in contrast to 100% unique jewelry you normally sell), or a book or an audio program compared to your high-touch services.
Just realize that it’s not going to be a money-making item for you.
Cheap items require that you sell many more of them in order to turn a decent profit, and even if you try very hard, it’s still easier to sell a $3000 service to one person than it is to sell a $15 book or earrings to 200 people.
You can’t afford to be cheap and base your entire business model on low profit items.
It’s exhausting for a small business owner to be constantly making and selling dozens or hundreds of items per month to make ends meet. If you’re constantly in the rat race, there’s no free time to think creatively and to innovate. You deserve that time for yourself, and it’s not wrong to raise your prices so you can catch a breath, or even – gasp! – go on a vacation.
See the cheap products for what they are – an entry point for a person who may still not be entirely sold on your more expensive offers. The job of the cheap items is to bring them closer to buying that higher ticket offer that keeps your business profitable, and your children (or pets) fed.
Do not spend more than 20% of your billable hours on producing cheap items. Put in the majority of your effort into creating, marketing and selling the items that make you more money in a single sale.
Be careful not to position your cheap offers in a way that undermines your high value offers, especially if it’s a similar product.
For consulting and books the difference is pretty obvious – one of them gives direct access to the expert, and the other doesn’t.
But differentiating jewelry may be more tricky. Be clear why the other one is more expensive (it uses sterling silver and rare gemstones, it’s one of a kind, etc.). Give people a reason to still want the other product, and then settle for a lower priced item for now. They’ll get those $15 earrings now because it’s a no-brainer, but then they’ll put your $200 necklace on their holiday wish list.
Premium brands are not just for rich people
In some cases, they may be an investment that enables someone to earn more by increasing their sales, making their process more efficient, lowering their costs… So it’s not just something someone who has a pile of money coming in every day will buy, but also people who aspire to become those people, and know that a smart investment will bring them closer.
And what if your service isn’t about making people money?
There are other things people value very highly:
To someone on a special diet, those no-milk-no-added-sugar cocoa muffins might really make their day (it’s super frustrating when you can’t have a treat everyone around you is enjoying).
A person trying to find the perfect gift for their very picky sister might find your jewelry line a godsend.
Someone who wants to feel understood and surrounded by people who share their values (and their struggles), might see your online community or a workshop as exactly what they’ve been looking for.
Premium brands are not just for rich people.
The value of a service is not just about your craft
People don’t wake up wanting to buy a necklace, group experience, or a website. They may not see how it’s relevant to them until you explain it.
Do a better job of explaining the real value of your work, and you’ll be on your way to becoming a sought after expert.
Premium brands know how to do this, and that’s why people love them so much they’re willing to pay twice more, or even 10 times more than what the next person is charging.
Don’t get distracted by the gold flakes and cursive letters – you can absolutely create a premium brand that speaks to your right people, no matter what their current purchasing power is.
If you can stand 100% behind the value your offer, you deserve to own the premium brand status.
The next step is to communicate your value to your clients, and premium visual branding helps you do just that. If you’d like to chat about how to make your brand look the part, check out my brand design services and contact me so we can chat about your unique needs.
About Nela Dunato
Artist, brand designer, teacher, and writer. Author of the book “The Human Centered Brand”. Owner of a boutique branding & design consultancy that helps experienced service-based businesses impress their dream clients.
On this blog I write about art, design, creativity, business, productivity and marketing, and share my creative process and tips. Read more about me...
Some blog articles contain affiliate links to products on Amazon. I’ll get paid a few cents if you buy something using my link, and there’s no extra charge to you.