Tips on how to win over… Asia’s discerning customers

Tiffany & Co ping pong paddles, a gold-covered burger, that martini with a one-carat diamond (the world’s most opulent choking hazard?). These are just some of the most ludicrous items that come to mind when we think of luxury.

After all, isn’t the point of luxury having the means to be outlandishly excessive?

“If you really zoom out, the definition of luxury is about unnecessary specs,”​ agreed Mario Braz de Matos, co-founder of Flying Fish Lab, a digital branding agency headquartered in Singapore.

He pointed to Vertu, a luxury mobile phone brand and subsidiary of former mobile giant Nokia, as a prime example.

Back in the early-aughts, Vertu charged a hefty price tag for their craftsmanship. Unlike the run-of-the-mill mass-produced phone, each was handmade using premium and precious materials such as diamonds, titanium, gold, and high-quality leathers. What’s more, owning a Vertu phone granted you access to an exclusive concierge service that could help you make reservations at high-end restaurants or get invites to exclusive events.

All of these and more to justify price tags that could well exceed $10,000 and go as high as $100,000.

Even though Vertu still exists today under different ownership, it is not actively regarded as a prominent or relevant player in the mobile phone game. Tech publication Wired has even referred to it as the “cockroach of phone companies​” that “refuses to die”.

With hindsight, it is easy to understand why Vertu failed. The consumers – even the ones with more money than sense – shifted their priorities to functionality and features. With brands like Apple and Samsung focusing on advanced features and technology, it was difficult for Vertu to justify its exorbitant prices based solely on luxury and craftsmanship.

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