Original research by Red Media and Times Newspapers, and revealed exclusively here in Marketing, shows that premium consumers cross all demographic boundaries - disproving the traditional assumption that wealth is the overwhelming factor affecting brand choice.
Entitled 'Premium Knowledge', the research, carried out by Millward Brown, began by classifying consumers according to the brands they had purchased, rather than their socio-economic status. Initially exploring four key product categories: fashion and footwear, accessories, fragrance and cosmetics, and homeware, 'Premium Knowledge' is the culmination of extensive qualitative work among pre-qualified groups of friends, followed by a national survey of 800 premium brand consumers.
The results reveal why brands are defined as as premium, a profile of buyers, how their motivations and attitudes differ, and the role that media plays in their decision-making.
Here we profile the six groups of premium consumers as defined by their attitudes to life, media and, of course, shopping. For the full report, visit www.redmedia.co.uk.
TREND INNOVATORS - 21%
On the crest of trends, this group is the first to uncover looks, brands and designers. They regularly buy on impulse, so are not brand-loyal. They experiment with different styles and consider themselves to be quite stylish with a unique look. They know how to achieve a look, and mix designer clothes with mainstream brands.
Independent, often single, and unimpeded by the responsibilities of family, they are likely to live in cities or their suburbs. They shop for themselves quite regularly and buy the highest number of premium products of any of the groups - on average 9.23 items a year. This group is young - in their 20s - and has a C1 bias.
They are more likely to wear Diesel, Dolce & Gabbana or D&G, and Donna Karan or DKNY, but less likely to wear Russell & Bromley and Paul Smith.
Cosmetics and fragrances are by Christian Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Issey Miyake, MAC and Bobbi Brown, accessories from Gucci, DKNY, Prada, Christian Dior, and homeware from Purves & Purves, Paul Smith and Fired Earth.
Magazines and supplements are a key source of information for this group.
They read GQ, Elle, InStyle, Time Out, Vogue, Glamour, Wallpaper and The Face, the popular press and Metro.
They are heavy radio listeners and prefer niche stations. They have high exposure to outdoor sites, and claim only to watch TV when they have nothing better to do - though they are more likely to have cable and satellite.
They are the most frequent cinema-goers of all the groups, and are also heavy internet users, frequently shopping online.
Celebrities and shops are greater influencers for this group. Friends and family are not an important source of information, as they like to find things out for themselves.
LABEL LOVERS - 10%
There's nothing discreet about this group's brand consumption. Perceiving themselves to be stylish, they like their clothes to make a statement.
Confident with their brand choices, this group buys well-known labels and doesn't experiment often with different looks or styles. They don't feel guilty about spending a lot of money and prefer to save for what they really want rather than settle for less. They buy 6.3 premium items a year.
The label-lover is most likely of all the groups to live in a small town or a rural area and likely to be single. This group tends to be male, in their late-20s or early-30s, and less likely to be professional. They purchase clothing and footwear by Versace, Calvin Klein, Moschino, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and YSL, and accessories by D&G and Oakley. They buy fragrances from Ralph Lauren, Joop! and Calvin Klein and homeware by Ralph Lauren.
The label lovers' magazines are FHM, BBC Top Gear, Maxim and Men's Health, and they are heavy readers of the popular press. They are frequent radio listeners - tuning in to Capital, Virgin and local radio stations. They have regular outdoor poster consumption, being more likely to pass six-sheets. They make an effort to watch their favourite TV programmes, tending to have the TV on in the background, and are most likely of any group to discuss TV with their friends. They are mid to light cinema-goers and web users.
This group is the most responsive to ads and celebrities, also getting brand information from shops. Articles in newspapers don't feature as part of their repertoire, possibly because they are more likely to read tabloids than broadsheets, which regularly carry supplements on fashion and style.
TRUSTING TRADITIONALISTS - 10%
Preferring a simple and understated look, this group is loyal to its brands. In-store service is important and they rarely buy on impulse.
Perhaps because this group has a male bias in the 40s, 50s and 60s age range, the experience of shopping is not important.
This group doesn't experiment with styles and doesn't like to make a statement with their appearance - they choose brands based on trust. They are more likely to be professional and from a high-income bracket, but buy fewer premium brands than the total sample.
Trusting traditionalists get their clothing and footwear from Hugo Boss, Paul Smith, Gant, Jones Bootmaker and Austin Reed, cosmetics and fragrances from Burberry or Elemis, accessories from Ray-Ban, Samsonite, Mappin & Webb and Mulberry, and homeware from Dartington Crystal, Royal Doulton, Wedgewood and Heal's.
Less likely to read magazines than the total group, they read the quality press, with The Daily Telegraph and Evening Standard most popular. They are light radio listeners, light TV viewers, and moderate cinema-goers.
They have a medium level of outdoor recall, though they travel a lot for work. They are heavy web users and regularly research brands and shopping.
A possible way to introduce relevant brands to this group would be to provide a personal brand experience, such as sampling.
SHOPPING JUNKIES - 18%
This group really enjoys the shopping experience. They are motivated by the little extras that they get in-store; perhaps because they see premium brands as a treat, rather than everyday necessity. They prefer larger department stores, such as Selfridges and Harvey Nichols. They often buy on impulse, but are not motivated by the need to stand out from the crowd.
They are more likely to live in a city than the total sample, but have no major regional skews. They are more likely to be female, in their early-30s, married or living with their partner, and are more likely to be professionals from the higher-income brackets. Clothing and footwear is likely to be from Nicole Farhi, LK Bennett, DKNY and Whistles, accessories from Gucci or Paul Smith and cosmetics and fragrances from Clinique, Estee Lauder, Clarins and Space NK. Homeware is from Monsoon or Dartington Crystal.
Shopping junkies have an avaricious appetite for information on premium brands, scoring higher than average across all sources. Newspaper supplements and articles are a more important source for this group than any other.
Shopping junkies buy weekly celebrity titles, along with glossy monthlies such as Red, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire and Country Homes & Interiors.
They read quality and mid-market newspapers with The Sunday Times' 'Style' section particularly popular. They are light radio listeners, tuning in to local BBC and commercial stations. This group has medium outdoor exposure and cinema visits, and the most likely to relax in front of the TV and have it on in the background. Their internet use is average, mainly logging on to source information on brands and shopping.
SECURITY SEEKERS - 21%
Not very confident in finding their way around the world of premium brands, security seekers rarely buy brands on impulse, preferring to save and wait. They are more likely to buy premium brands for special occasions, and buy the least number of premium brands a year of any group.
Security seekers don't see appearance as a reflection of their personality, preferring a simple, understated look. Accessories are seen as the most important part of an outfit and they tend to shop more regularly in this category. They enjoy browsing and find the overall shopping experience exciting.
This group tends to be female, slightly older - late-30s or early-40s - and slightly less upmarket than the total sample. They are also more likely to live in a small town or rural area.
Their favourite clothing and accessories brands are Russell & Bromley, Bally, Jaeger, Betty Jackson and Viyella, with Laura Ashley, Wedgwood and Stuart Crystal for homeware.
The security seeker reads Hello!, Good Housekeeping, Homes & Gardens, BBC Gardener's World, the Daily Mail and The Times. They listen to local radio and Classic FM, have light exposure to outdoor and cinema, and are the least likely to have used the internet in the past month. They make a special effort to watch programmes they are interested in and often have TV on in the background.
Friends and family are the greatest source of information for the security seeker, with the shops themselves coming second. Other information sources all score lower than average, with advertising, magazines and celebrities performing particularly poorly.
Overall, the security seeker is less likely to be actively looking for brands and the latest trends so doesn't have the same appetite for information as the younger groups.
AFFLUENT ALTRUISTS - 15%
The most upmarket of all the clusters, though not greatly skewed toward older ages, affluent altruists tend to be in their 30s. They like the brands they buy to be unique and individual as they see themselves as having an original sense of style.
Affluent altruists tend to buy a lot of different brands and experiment with different looks and styles. Despite this, the shopping experience and the excitement that other clusters might feel when buying is not something that resonates with this group. They do not buy premium brands in order to pamper or indulge themselves; they tend to feel quite guilty about spending a lot of money on such purchases and don't want to advertise it.
They prefer to shop in smaller boutiques than in large department stores, and are least likely to live in a small town - typically residing in the city, surrounding areas or in a country pad.
Clothing and footwear is from Jones Bootmaker, LK Bennett, Barbour, John Smedley and Agent Provocateur, with accessories from Dunhill and Rolex.
Their cosmetics and fragrances are from Elizabeth Arden, Givenchy, Davidoff and Aveda, while homeware is by Nicole Farhi, Aga, Villeroy & Boch, Conran and Designers Guild.
They read The Economist, GQ, House & Garden, Esquire, Harpers & Queen, and Conde Nast Traveller, and are heavily skewed toward the quality press, especially The Times, The Guardian and the Financial Times.
This group is polarised in terms of radio usage either listening a lot or not at all. They have light consumption of outdoor, though they travel a lot in a working day. As light TV viewers, they avoid ads as much as possible and are the least likely to have cable or satellite in their home. They are medium to heavy internet users, relying on it for e-mail, and are heavy to medium cinema-goers. Ads and magazines are not an important source of information for this cluster, and celebrities are not a source at all.