"A brand is born out of understanding what is distinct and original about an organization, service, or product…Understanding of the behavior, tradition, ritual, symbols, heroes, and most importantly, the practices of these areas would lead to a better understanding of the core values and to better communication with the consumers," said Kamal Darouni, author of Marketing and Advertising Communication in the Middle East.
Let’s take the case of the international brand “Louis Vuitton” and its development as a brand in the global scene, plus its penetration into the local market. This French luxury brand company has really focused on developing a brand that each and every woman loves and worships; this has been fulfilled through smart strategies and tactics over the years. The monogram found on every LV product strengthens its brand image and identity; it was initially intended to prevent counterfeiting.
Nowadays, counterfeiting is a major concern worldwide. Luxury brands are not considered 'as luxurious' anymore because of this issue. There is an abundance of fake products made and sold in the global market. The availability of such copycats is not as vast in Western countries compared to Middle Eastern countries since laws and regulations applied in western cultures must be reinforced by the public. Fake goods are illegal to sell or purchase in the United States. For example, Louis Vuitton once filed a lawsuit against Warner Bros. over the use of a Louis Vuitton knockoff bag in “The Hangover: Part II” (Reuters). Taking legal action in the U.S. can be pertinent, but that’s not exactly the case in Lebanon and throughout the Middle East.
Communication and marketing strategies differ in the U.S. compared to the Middle East. Paradoxical issues regarding advertising schemes are highlighted mainly in Western countries where sex sells, as opposed to some Middle Eastern countries where a “woman in an ad” is a considered a sin. In Lebanon, we don’t have this issue; however, there is the problem of counterfeiting in Lebanon and the MENA region. We see plenty of people wearing or buying replicate luxury brands. People are obsessed with brands like Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Chanel… this drives them to buy first or second degree imitations. In a qualitative research study conducted to discover the perception of Lebanese women (aged between 18 to 35), some women described the dilemma of counterfeiting as common since they don’t know the difference between the genuine LV bag and a fake one. Other women said that it is fine to purchase copycat products since they can’t afford to buy the authentic brand.
Lebanese people seem to be unfamiliar with new strategies applied by luxurious brands in throughout world; this may be is due to lack of communication and adaptation to the local market.
The term "luxury democratization" refers to consumers being able to access a piece of luxury while other higher lines remain intact. Big brands started introducing lower lines or line extensions in order to allow thirsty enthusiasts to gain access their brand, without hurting the initial customer, said one fashion marketing expert.
A cultural wall within a certain society, or even a small culture inside this society, will have a huge influence on the target audience’s perception and relationship with a certain brand. Global brands must build local roots just like the roots of the tree; when these roots are well-established and strong, the tree will grow healthy. So if luxury brands are launching lower lines or line extensions in the U.S., in the Middle East, or in any part of the world, they need to communicate with the relevant target audience, taking into consideration culture, values, ethics, social class, and age. By doing so, those in the middle-class category can understand and feel that the authentic brand is talking to them. Hence, those customers will become loyal to such luxury brands instead of being obsessed with the fake ones.
Darouni, K (2006), Marketing and Advertising Communication in the Middle East. Notre Dame University – Louaize.
Kenneally, Tim “Louis Vuitton sues over knockoff bag in Hangover 2”, Reuters, 23 December 2011, Web.
Ghalia Boustani, Fashion Marketing Expert, Personal Interview, July 2013.
This article is also published on blogandbrand.com