Selling Status, With (or Without) Luxury

February 25, 2020

Selling Status, With (or Without) Luxury

We all tell ourselves stories. Stories about where we come from – our past wins to revel in or mistakes to regret. Stories about where we are now, and why we should feel content or, all too often, dissatisfied. And we tell ourselves stories about where we’re going, and how we plan to get there.

In part, these are stories of status. Our perceived status. They are a constant measure of the bridge from where we see ourselves, to where we think we belong. What we’re left with, is a unified story about who we think we are.

And while we’re not in a hurry to admit it – or perhaps notice it – the story about who we are drives much of our buying behavior.

When we consider a purchase, we stop and ask ourselves, "Do people like me buy things like this? Would the person I want to become buy something like this?"

A New Breed of Status

Somewhat against intuition, status is not always fixed to price. We know there’s a status gain in traditional luxury – a Rolls-Royce is still a Rolls-Royce. But today, status has pulled out to a wider focus.

The inclusion with an in-group and the chance to make a statement bring out a new breed of status. It’s a shift from showcasing our buying power to showcasing our unique selves, or expressing our ability to seek and find interesting brands. That experience has become a luxury of its own.

We see this in the brands with their heart on the sleeve, assured in who they are and who they are for. Not the most expensive – the most emotionally rewarding.

These are the brands that recognize they are not selling a product, or a place to live, they are selling status. A change in status. They are selling us an alignment with the products we buy and the people we think we are.

For anyone in business – particularly early-stage business – the starting point is to simply build awareness of this concept. It's from there you can make the right decisions to meaningfully implement it in your industry.

Below, we will do just that, while briefing mapping this idea onto home building and community development, specifically. But before we do, let's first run through an example of a company selling exactly what we're talking about: a status gain at a non-premium price.

Bangs Shoes – $65

selling status milesbrand branding and marketing bangs shoes

This is a shoe company called Bangs. They claim to believe in everyday adventure – and their content, strategy, and messaging scream that clearly, they do.

Wrapped in a somewhat clunky name that’s simultaneously perfect, Bangs has captured the hearts of their audience with scientific precision.

Their content and designs are so well-executed, and their stories so well-told, you get the feeling the minds behind it are genuinely conducting the brand from a place of passion, and not strategy documents and focus groups.

selling status milesbrand branding and marketing bangs shoes On Instagram alone, Bangs has an organic audience of almost a quarter million people, with engagement rates often as high as 3%.

But however the method, the result is a company who knows exactly who they are for: young, adventurous people who take a sense of pride in deviating slightly outside the norm.

This audience, while searching for unique ways to express themselves, stays on high alert for opportunities to do just that. When they see it, they know, And when they go in, they go all in.

To their credit, this audience isn’t searching for the status in Gucci slides and Louis boots. What they’re after is the status in showing they know who they are, and that they know how to convey it. Bangs checks both boxes.

An Invitation to a Club

And perhaps just as powerful, the other benefit on the table: belonging to a tribe of kindred spirits. Below the surface, Bangs’ unwritten, core offer is really an invitation to a club. And a not-so-exclusive one, because admission here comes at about the cost of a pair of Converse.

In the end, these are affordable shoes that are so much more than affordable shoes.

Take a quick look at their Instagram or website to see just how well it's being done.

Some key takeaways:

  • They know who they are
  • And what they are really selling
  • They know who they are for, and who they are not for
  • They brand precisely and consistently for that audience

Selling Status In Real Estate

We encourage you to keep an eye out for this type of execution as you go about your life. The fact is, few industries are ruled out. The $12 bottle of wine that people can't stop telling their friends about? The free software with a cult following of tech-savvy developers? The coffee shops and apartment buildings that exude prestige at a competitive price?

In every case, there is an interesting combination of branding factors leading to that end.

But our question is: How can we make the jump from shoes for the free-spirited to homes and communities for a broader audience?

The answer is in branding, positioning, and coming to the market with empathy.

Now, for those of us that are intentionally building a luxury real estate product, the status you offer is in the luxury itself. Your only job is to make it look and feel the part, and fortunately, you have the price points and budgets to justify that.

But for everyone else, we're looking to follow the lead of brands that have earned a dedicated and scalable following without big costs and bigger prices.

Make Calculated Choices

As you're likely aware, building or refreshing a brand involves making a series of decisions. That's inevitable. But getting to this new breed of status is about making calculated decisions, not just expensive ones. It's about making empathic decisions, not personal ones.

Take logo design, for instance. This is a big project, fairly early on, that comes packed with as much decision fatigue and second-guessing as naming the business in the first place. But because you need a logo, you're going to have one made. And you're likely going to outsource it.

Of course, some options are more expensive than others. And while there will always be some positive correlation between price and quality, you don't just need a high quality logo. You need the right logo – for who you are, for what you're emotionally selling, and for who you're selling to.

Understanding each of those requires thought and introspection long before execution. They are the foundation of a brand, on which everything else is later constructed. Who you are and who you're for becomes the guiding light in every decision that comes thereafter, well beyond the logo design.

The fact is, you're having a logo made anyway. You're choosing a brand look and feel anyway. You're creating a website, telling a story, and marketing anyway. So why not get it right?

Brands that maximize status enter each of those discussions with a solid understanding of their brand and their audience. Then they make the call – the right call. Our goal, is to reference that model.

But no matter who you partner with, or how much you spend, your brand will benefit from calculated decisions over unbacked decisions. If you want to be selling status – without luxury – your audience needs somewhere to belong. They need something to feel proud of. They want to be heard, and then, understood.

The path forward is to listen, then brand accordingly.

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