In the first decade of 20th century, a group of “irrational” economists acknowledged that non-price related factors can also influence demand (Leibenstein, 1950). Rooted in the existing tenets of ‘markets’, this approach has – decades later – led to the emergence of marketing as a separate discipline and marketing as a term/word emerged in dictionary for the first time. Since then, marketing has gone through many changes and challenges at all levels of marketing mix. Marketing theory has evolved through these times, and scholars have touched on varied sub-disciplines. One major breakthrough in marketing theory was brand equity (Keller, 1993; Yoo, Donthu & Lee, 2000; Yoo & Donthu, 2001; Pappu et al., 2005; Kumar & Paul, 2018). Not a surprise that brand equity became an important consideration for marketers across the globe. Brands could charge premium prices because of high levels of positive customer-based brand equity. The super extra premium prices which luxury brands charge can be explained through the tenets of brand equity and mass prestige (masstige).
Over the years, luxury/premium brands have been catering to a niche market and exclusivity, rarity has been its top most characteristics (Miller & Mills, 2012; Walley, Custance, Copley, & Perry, 2013; Zhan & He, 2012). With time, despite rarity as an characteristic, it was realized that brands have to grow fast to sustain in market and have to go where the market is (Kapferer, 2015). In addition, scholars have explored how the brand luxury generates positive consumer affect in social media (Mandler, Johnen, & Gräve, 2019; Bazi, Filieri, & Gorton, 2020).
Therefore, we have seen calls from scholars asking for scrutiny of rarity and luxury paradox (Dion & Borraz, 2017; Gurzki & Woisetschläger, 2017). There are studies in which the rarity principal was questioned and it has been argued that premium brands can grow with a bandwagon effect by creating mass prestige (Fain, Roy, & Ranchhod, 2015; Kapferer, Klippert, & Leproux, 2014; Kapferer & Valette-Florence, 2016; Phau & Prendergast, 2000; Kastankis & Balabanis, 2011, 2012 & 2014; Paul, 2019). Such thoughts continue to become robust with studies like that of Kastanakis and Balabanis (2011; 2012; 2014) where need for uniqueness or rarity was called as unimportant even for status consumption (which is basic tenet of luxury consumption). In contrast, consumers might look for a brand which is known by many and accepted as prestige brand (Kastanakis & Balabanis, 2011; 2012; 2014) to achieve the social ideal self and desired identity (Kastanakis & Balabanis, 2014). This was pointing towards an important facet that marketers can enjoy luxury image for brands at varied price points (Kapferer et al., 2014). This development is pointing towards a big segment in making since long. We have seen luxury brands extending their pricing spectrum downwards (Boisvert & Ashill, 2018) and yet retained their luxury image. For example, Louis Vuitton in Japan has successfully got strong hold in a larger market without losing the luxury tag (Paul, 2015). With these changes, the world is waking up to a new market - Masstige. This market would require a different strategy to handle and grow. The seminal article of Silverstein and Fiske (2003) published in Harvard Business Review was an important scholarly work towards theory of masstige (Kumar, Paul & Unnithan, 2020; Paul, 2019).
Silverstein and Fiske (2003) convinced scholars with many examples like Bath and Body works lotion, Starbucks coffee, Kendall Jackson wines, Victoria’s Street lingerie that masstige is already here and is being exercised by marketers profitably. Companies following a masstige marketing strategy keep prices relatively high and constant, while formulating marketing strategies which focus on product, promotion and place (Paul, 2018). Kumar et. al (2020) defined masstige marketing as a phenomenon in which Price = f (Product, Promotion & Place strategies).
Masstige is characterized by mass prestige consumption, with consumers trading up for better quality against a reasonable premium, with a careful downward extension of luxury brands to reap a larger market in waiting (Silverstein & Fiske, 2003; Kumar, Paul, & Unnithan, 2020). With increasing roles of brands as carriers of consumer’s ideal self and image, adoption of masstige strategy has been witnessed worldwide. Among all this, it is important to note that masstige is not only about reducing the prices of luxury brands. It is about product innovation, diligent promotional strategies coupled with supportive placement while keeping price relatively high (Kumar et al., 2020). We can look at masstige operationalization across the globe in two broad categories. One is a born masstige brand – for example Starbucks, Victoria’s Secret and Apple. Another one is through downward brand extension – for example Mercedes Benz, Tiffany and Burberry (Silverstein & Fiske, 2003). Both of these strategies have been successful. The idea is to reach to the middle class who are ready and able to pay premium prices if they can be convinced to do so (Paul, 2015). World leading brands like Louis Vuitton (Paul, 2015, 2019), Toyota, Honda (Paul, 2018), Apple (Kumar & Paul, 2018), Starbucks, Bath and Body Works, Kendell Jackson wines, Victoria’s Secret, Mercedes, Tiffany, Burberry (Silverstein & Fiske, 2003) have been following the masstige strategy. Top home and personal care companies have seen annual revenue growth of 6 percent even during recession of 2008 by adopting masstige strategy (Vacirca, Imporzano, Coleman, Gupta, & Jackson, 2013). Therefore, brands should also look at masstige as an effective marketing strategy to deal with recessionary times. In times, when the world is converging towards the emerging economies in general and in terms of luxury brands in particular (Hung & David, 2020; Sharma, Soni, Borah, & Saboo, 2020), and changing paradigms of world economic powers, masstige strategy becomes even more important as these emerging countries have huge mass market.
To look back at the scholarly contribution towards masstige theory, starting from the Masstige Marketing Model given by Silverstein and Fiske (2003), we have travelled through some benchmark efforts including theoretical models and measures such as
- Brand Equity Measurement Scale (Yoo and Donthu, 2001)
- Bandwagon luxury consumption model(Kastanakis & Balabanis, 2011; 2012; 2014),
- Populence paradigm (Granot, Russell, & Brashear-Alejandro, 2013) and
- Masstige Model, Masstige Mean Score Scale and Masstige Mean Index (Paul, 2015, 2018, 2019).
To cover the journey of masstige evolution, Kumar et. al. (2020) have comprehensively reviewed the masstige marketing phenomenon and theory and also proposed agenda for future research with reference to theory, methods and constructs. Despite being a proven strategy, masstige research has largely been ignored by scholars with few exceptions (Kumar & Paul, 2018; Kumar et al., 2020; Paul, 2015, 2018). This is evident from the fact that to date there is only one measure of masstige available (Paul, 2019). The marketing world look at masstige as a formidable alternative to brand equity. For example, prior studies have estimated masstige value of competing brands comparing foreign versus domestic laptop and car brands (Kumar & Paul, 2018; Paul, 2019). We therefore, invite scholars to engage in masstige research dialogue and look forward to receiving theoretical and empirical manuscripts that further enhance our understanding of masstige theory; provide the extension of existing theories, measures; and escorts the managers globally with improved brand management decisions. In this context we list below the probable themes of submissions (this is not an exhaustive list, it is for illustrative purposes only). Author(s) may submit in any domain related to masstige:
- Estimation and Comparison of masstige value of competing brands in a specific product category, in a country, across countries and product categories
- Brand equity and Mass prestige: Measures, Linkages, Interfaces and dispersions
- Masstige theory building
- Computing and comparing Masstige value of foreign versus domestic brands in different product categories such as Smart Phones, Cars, Garments, Watches
- Relationship of masstige with various other brand equity constructs
- Masstige and consumer-brand relationships
- Masstige and consumer psychology in the post-COVID 19 era
- Masstige and positioning theory in the post-COVID 19 era
- Masstige and consumer satisfaction
- Relationship between masstige and consumer happiness
- Masstige brands as a medium of attaining consumer’s desires
- Masstige as a tool to handle brands in recessionary times
- Attaining masstige for brands through promotions, product and place strategies
- Masstige and product innovation
- Masstige and price strategies
- Masstige and its impact on consumer behavior attributes like consumer attitude, self-concept and motivation etc.
- Born masstige brands vs masstige brands evolved through downward brand extensions
- Masstige marketing measures
- Perspectives, practices and methodological advances in masstige theory
- Brand equity-Mass Prestige interface in the post-COVID era and Managing brands in the recessionary times
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