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- 1 Dec 2011
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To Market or not to Market? The No-Marketing Approach


Consulting academic, Dr. Isaac Mostovicz, explains that luxury marketing isn’t about straight selling – instead it should be about encouraging the consumer to behave according to their own personal values

Luxury consumption can be characterized by the mantra “I want to have…”, not “I need to have..” – I have referred to it before as the “needless need”. We can live without luxury, and we are consciously aware that when we buy it we are spending our money on something we don’t need. So why, in an age of financial instability and austerity measures, is luxury spending on the rise? The decision to purchase luxury good is closely tied to the importance of freedom – freedom of choice, or the freedom to spend our money as we wish.

This insight into luxury marketing is essential to my concept of ‘no marketing’ – the idea that, in luxury as in other spheres, marketing can be at its most effective when it is absent. Rather than actively selling to potential customers, understanding them, building a relationship with them and providing them with expert information can be most effective in building up a brand’s credentials.

Traditional marketing has tended to be about dictating to customers, telling them “you must act in this way, or else…”. It aims to influence behavior, and its success depends on the marketer’s persuasion skills, on their knowledge of behavioral psychology and on the resources they can rely on for launching a campaign. However, this traditional approach to marketing doesn’t work when dealing with luxury. Marketing luxury is a unique challenge because luxury is inherently personal, and increasingly private.

 Traditional marketing aims to influence behavior, therefore its success depends on the marketer’s persuasion skills 

We need to keep the freedom of choice for the customer intact, so diving straight into a heavy sales pitch is counter-intuitive; marketing luxury means encouraging the consumer to behave according to their own personal values, but marketing behavior is by default biased and in many cases does not reflect, or even contradicts, the consumer’s value system,

The “no-marketing” approach lends itself particularly well to luxury brands with its strong focus on the individual and its avoidance of a one-size-fits-all approach. Thus, this was the marketing method I implemented with Kahro Diamonds, a Raleigh jewelry store that is dedicated to marketing diamonds as a luxury. The Kahro staff see themselves as consultants, aiming to help customers decide what it is they want from a diamond. The focus lies on the customer themselves – what are their values, what sort of diamond do they want, and how would buying a particular piece fit with their life-goals and ambitions.

This approach – prioritizing relationship building over a hard sell – is not restricted to in-store interactions. It can be applied to digital media for luxury brands too; in a crowded market place where more and more companies are building a presence online, it is important for brands to understand their target consumers.

 The focus lies on the customer themselves. The UnMarketing approach is about building the relationships that will fundamentally build a business 

Scott Stratten, in his book ‘UnMarketing: Stop Marketing. Start Engaging.” talks about marketing as engaging with potential customers. UnMarketing, a term that Stratten has coined is defined as “…what comes naturally… it’s authentic, it’s personal, and it’s the way to build lifelong fans, relationships and customers.” The UnMarketing approach is about building the relationships that will fundamentally build a business.

Stratten stresses that relationships are vital to marketing – that recommendations are more useful that impersonal advertising methods. There is a need, he claims, for businesses to focus on being recognized and having a relationship built up with customers. This takes time, but will make ensure your particular business stands out above others when the customer comes to making purchasing decisions.

I believe that this seismic shift from the ‘cold-calling’ approach to that of relationship building is only moving in one direction. Most luxury consumers – whether they are shopping online or in-store – expect thoughtful service, and I think brands that do not start to develop this will be left behind.


Dr. Isaac Mostovicz is a consulting academic. He applies his research insights into human logic in practical business situations, coaching business leaders and offering training to support organisational change. He is also actively involved in the diamond industry, devising and executing creative marketing programmes in the US and Asia.