News & Views

Opinion / The rise of premiumisation

by Kristina Dimitrova

A few weeks ago I attended a talk hosted by Pearlfisher on the rise of premiumisation. Sophie Maxwell, Pearlfisher’s Futures Director, discussed how this mingling of luxury and mass market strategies opens up opportunities for people to experience the previously exclusive world of luxury.

Premiumisation refers to bridging the gap between the desirability of the luxury world and the function and necessity of mass market products. Essentially, it is about establishing quality and specialness around a brand based on understanding the context, culture and competition in a specific territory and for a specific audience. And while luxury is not concerned with practical solutions but with the extraordinary and non-essential, premiumisation is that perfect blend between the ultimate and the everyday.

For brands the challenge in taking a share of the premiumisation market is how to stay true to their values. The offering needs to build on what the brand stands for and heighten its unique qualities, instead of moving away from its area of expertise without a clear purpose.

The examples below show how some luxury brands make their offering more accessible to the masses and how other mainstream brands are elevating their products to have for a slice of this attractive market.



Increasing numbers of high end brands are using food and drink to diversify their offering and lure customers in-stores. Prada’s owned Pasticceria Marchesi recently opened a second fine pastry shop in Milan where the interior’s palette draws inspiration from the brand’s fall 2015 ready-to-wear collection. The shop’s traditional sweets, high quality chocolates, cakes and savoury treats are wrapped in chic pastel packaging and presented in wood and glass cases resembling makeup counters.

The products on the menu are far more affordable than the ones on the racks, allowing consumers to take a bite of Prada’s luxury universe.



For its SS16 show in New York, Givenchy opened its fashion show extravaganza to the public for the first time in fashion history. The company set aside 1,200 tickets for people from outside the industry and fashion students, which were given out on a first-come, first-served basis through its website.

This tied in with the brand’s opening of its first New York store, getting the city and its shoppers excited about the arrival of the French label. As fashion shows have become an essential consumer marketing tool thanks to live-streaming and social media feeds, Givenchy’s tactic will likely be adopted by other industry heavyweights.



The Jacobsen Vintage trilogy (Jacobsen Vintage No.1, No.2 and No.3) are Carlsberg’s premium products and three of the most expensive beers in the world. With an extremely limited edition production run of 600, 600 and 1,000 respectively and price of $300 per bottle, the trilogy pushes the boundaries of what beer can be and challenges the gourmet wine segment by utilising Carlsberg’s innovation and brewing capabilities. The label design of each Jacobsen Vintage range is done by artists such as Frans Kannik, Marco Evaristti and Kaspar Bonnén and depicts motives and symbols evoking the brand’s heritage.



The newly opened Starbucks Reserve in London could be easily mistaken for a private club, fusing premium coffee, alcohol, luxury and tech. The interior is split in half, with an open kitchen where customers can see the food being freshly prepared while baristas talk customers through the coffee chain’s luxurious Reserve brews. The café is also the first licensed Starbucks store in London that serves wine and beer, encouraging people to stay longer. The coffee giant is using tech to enhance the experience too – there are only a few traditional cash registers, instead staff take orders via tablets or through the Starbucks mobile app. The menu near the entrance is a screen that updates automatically depending on the time of the day. Unlike the rushed atmosphere in other Starbucks outlets, Reserve emphasises slower, relaxed conversations and the joy of discovering new coffee.

From exclusivity to inclusivity

Premiumisation allows brands to speak to consumers at a more personal level, establishing a real connection and intimacy. This inclusive luxury is based on what matters to the customers and invites them to become part of a brand’s universe, to feel a sense of belonging. Creating such communities doesn’t make a brand less premium but instead fuels passion for further experiences and offerings.

From fashion to lifestyle

Simply implementing the codes of luxury is not enough. With purchase behaviours increasingly driven by what brands stand for outside of their own bubble, it is important for a premium offering to emphasise the brand’s specialness and fit consumer culture. Retailers have been quick to realise this, and some are addressing it by moving away from being perceived as fashion brands to lifestyle brands. Giorgio Armani famously said about the opening of its cafes ‘I’ve always wanted to create a complete Armani lifestyle that reflects my ideas and can be applied to different areas, not just fashion. Restaurants and cafés seemed a logical expansion.’

Surprise and delight

Premiumisation has created a new niche for brands and products, allowing for new offerings to be introduced. This is also a way for brands to reach out to new audiences without moving away from their original area expertise. It’s about celebration of the brand’s specialness and creating joy for customers by letting them constantly discover something new about the brand, either through experiences or new product offerings.