Can Luxury be Cheap?

As marketing tells us, a certain way to have customers covet a product is to make it a luxury –that is, to make it expensive. Things that are rare, difficult to acquire, so it goes, are supposed to be attractive to a consumer precisely because they are rare, difficult to acquire, and expensive.

Yet perhaps due to the Great Recession, or simply because a budding marketing genius noticed that there are more people on a budget than those without, the new holy grail in marketing is to create luxurious products that are, well, perhaps not cheap, but affordable.

Mercedes Benz, for example, is marketing their $30K CLA model. Apple is marketing the iPhone 5c. GAP and LL Bean also want to bring the aspirational customer on-board. Not everybody who buys at Whole Foods is a millionaire.
The point is that luxury is defined by the culture, by a critical mass of customers nodding and blessing a product as luxurious. It might or might not be expensive, but something is clear: the product needs to be impeccably designed.

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