One of the most fascinating trends at present is the growth of the luxury approach to the marketing of non-luxury brands. From bottled water and tissues to household air-fresheners and potato chips, manufacturers of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs) are turning to top designers to help them present what really rather mundane products in the style of high-end luxury goods.
There are a number of potential explanations for this growing trend. One school of thought in the marketing literature links this to changing discourses around luxury and how affluent middle-class consumers are constantly seeking new ways to express their current/aspirational identities. I think this is part of the explanation, certainly, but it’s more complex than that. We shouldn’t ignore, for instance, the fact that times are tough for many families and it is perfectly normal under such circumstances for us to seek that semblance of luxury from more everyday aspects of our lives.
There are also the cost dimensions of this to consider, too. Yes, Kleenex tissues are celebrating their 90th anniversary with packaging designed by Isaac Mizrahi, but many of the current batch of would-be iconic designs are the result of crowd-sourcing, manufacturers engaging with consumers directly to solicit their design concepts via either common social networking platforms such as Twitter or, increasingly, through dedicated portals such as Talenthouse. “Democratisation of design”? Partly perhaps… but basic consumer research and economic drivers are still playing a massive role here, too!