The Luxe Utility Playbook

Consumer brands big and small share one common goal: Design and produce products that customers love.

This aim sounds straightforward enough, but for the many businesses that are focused on making life’s everyday, utility items, having a consumer fall in love with what they’re making is no simple feat. After all, they’re not selling goods that people normally associate with enjoyment, such as Ultra HD TVs or fine jewelry, but rather items that people need to purchase, from thermostats to extension cords. Generally, customers expect an everyday item to perform its intended function, and think very little of it otherwise.

While adding joy and delight to a vacuum cleaner is no easy task, it’s nevertheless possible.

For the makers of life’s everyday products who want their customers to fall in love with what they’re selling, one strategy lies in taking a page from the luxury goods playbook. These companies can build what we like to call a luxe utility product – an everyday item that is emotionally engaging, hedonic and experiential.  Here are few steps to do just that:

Build a product that’s truly superior  

Today’s consumers can see through glitzy advertising campaigns aimed at convincing them that they will fall in love with their next toaster oven or mattress cover. Marketing efforts focused on making an everyday product appear luxurious are only successful when the item actually offers customers additional benefits to the lower-quality alternatives that they’ve been using for years.

If you want people to genuinely enjoy using a utility product, you have to create something that stands out both visually and functionally.

The key to becoming the high quality choice within a traditionally low quality category is incorporating authentic, premium materials into a beautiful design, complete with the artisanal touches that are usually reserved for traditional luxury goods. The product must offer genuine functional benefits, and be immediately distinctive from the market’s clutter.

Offer a small, curated product selection

In today’s e-commerce world where shoppers can buy anything at the tap of a finger, you might be tempted to introduce an endless array of products in an effort to offer as much choice as possible.

If your goal is to build a luxe utility brand, this is a mistake.

Ever since Barry Schwartz published “The Paradox of Choice,” it’s become common knowledge that more choice leaves a consumer either unable to decide on which product to purchase, or in a position where she chooses an item that doesn’t align with her own interests. Eliminating this choice dilemma in an effort to convey exclusivity and specialness has been crucial to the rise of luxe utility companies.

Focus marketing efforts on long-term enjoyment, not price

Luxe utility products will almost always cost more than lower quality alternatives. As a luxe utility company, this is not something you should shy away from. Too often, I see brands in this space try to compete on price, instead of focusing on clearly and convincingly communicating the benefits of their offerings.

Once someone uses your product, she should be immediately convinced of its benefits. Still, in order to get people to a point where they’re willing to consider a higher cost option, you need to make the case for why they will not only enjoy using your product more, but will gain longer term value than anything else on the market. 

Many brands in the luxe utility space, from Le Creuset to Briggs and Riley, communicate long-term enjoyment by offering an unconditional lifetime warranty, essentially guaranteeing that customers will have a great experience using their products for decades, if not for life. They understand the implicit agreement – if customers pay the right price, they will get something that stands the test of time.

Foster a sense of community amongst your customers

As part of your luxe utility marketing efforts, you need to give your customers the ability to find each other, and share stories about why they love using your item.

I know, it can seem like a stretch developing a sense of community for items in product categories that people might view as boring, but we’ve seen countless instances of luxe utility companies doing just that. Take Dyson and Nest, for example. No one ever thought that you would see people raving about vacuum cleaners or smoke detectors, and yet both have created vibrant online communities, across social media platforms and site forums.

Making consumers fall in love with life’s everyday products is certainly a challenging endeavor. But with consumer preference for emotionally engaging products only growing, and many companies already finding success in the luxe utility space, it’s clear that the people who build and market more desirable versions of life’s everyday products will ultimately come out ahead.

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