Exploring symbolism in masstige brand advertising within the discursive context of luxury: a semiotic analysis
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Many consumers are drawn to the allure of prestige brands such as Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Victoria’s Secret, to mention a few, and as a result, prestige brands have seen global financial success especially in North America, Europe and Asia (Silverstein & Fiske, 2005). These brands do not fit the luxury frame neither are they middle-range brands; they form a category of brands termed as masstige brands, a phenomenon seldom researched in marketing literature. This study explores Masstige branding, a modern, profitable business which sees the production and distribution of prestige goods with mass accessibility. There is need for research that provides an understanding of the prestigious nature of masstige brands and this dissertation hopes to fill this gap. In order to understand the prestigious value of Masstige brands, the paper discusses Masstige brand values within the context of luxury brands, drawing similarities and differences between Masstige and luxury brand identity. The research asks: whilst masstige brands are similar with middle-range products in terms of the ‘mass’, what values do masstige and luxury brands share that reflect ‘prestige’? Extensively, what values are exclusive to masstige (and luxury) brands? Simply put, the paper ultimately aims to answer the question: what constitutes a masstige brand? To answer these questions, the research employed the semiotic method to analyse the advertising of eight brands, four Masstige and four luxury, identifying common and differing brand cues. The sample were randomly selected but were restricted to fashion campaigns between 2009 and 2015 with saliently encoded brand meanings. The masstige samples include Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Coach and Armani Exchange while the selected luxury brands include Gucci, Dolce and Gabbana, Chanel and Louis Vuitton. The analysis found that five common implicit advertising themes shared by luxury and masstige brands include exclusivity, independence, sophistication, accomplishment and pride. Four themes most common with luxury brands include authenticity, heritage, timelessness and prestige of which the last two are unique. Three themes most common with masstige brands include seasonality, allure and adventure of which seasonality is unique. Due to the small scope of existing research on the topic, this exploratory research aims to contribute to the understanding of Masstige brands as a vital phenomenon and masstige branding as a practice. By identifying the identitary values of masstige brands through this empirical research, researchers and scholars can build on the findings and further explore the phenomenon while masstige brand managers can utilize these thematic strategies in the marketing of their products. The paper begins with an introduction and presents relevant literature review on luxury and masstige brands followed by a semiotic analysis, and closes with a discussion, conclusions, implications, limitations and suggestions for future research.