A good friend of mine is working on a very famous beauty brand that recently has attempted to go from selling exclusively in prestige channels to selling in the mass market. Unfortunately, the entire product line was dropped almost immediately by a major prestige retailer and post launch, is already on promotion in a major mass retailer. Needless to say, the process still presents many risks.
On ther other hand, several premium brands have been successful going into mass: Loeffler Randall, Proenza Schouler, and Vera Wang to name a few. These brands from high-end designers are inspired by, rather than direct copies of, the designer’s original items. In some instances, the design house didn’t actually take the lead in creating the items; instead, they were designed by the retailer itself. The benefit for retailers like Target and Kohl’s is that designer-name products offer more flair and maintain some hints of a designer’s trademark, and therefore stand out from the pack of basic clothes and accessories normally carried.
But not all brands follow the ideal formula, and thus can suffer consequences. Michael Graves, an architect and designer with a line of home goods at Target, has suffered a decline in his premium products, largely because the items offered at Target were too similar, according to some. And shampoo brands notoriously lose their cachet when they move to mass. The disdain from the stylist community is overt.
So, can a brand that has had success in the prestige market really do well by “descending” to the mass consumer market? Yes, if it behaves more like a tease. Give the mass consumer a taste of what the real brand is like but don’t make it exactly like the prestige experience. Success lies in the balance.