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'Luxury sits entirely outside the boundaries of rationality'

Branding expert Markus Kramer opened day two of the Cass MBA London Symposium 2016

by Sophie Cubbin (PR and Communications Manager)

Strategy and branding expert, Markus Kramer, took to the stage at the Wellcome Collection in London to open proceedings on day two of the Cass MBA Symposium.

Markus shared his experiences of working with famous brands such as Aston Martin, Harley Davidson and Ferrari in a talk entitled ‘Exploring the World through the lens of Luxury’.  A well-known thought leader in brand and marketing management, his portfolio has covered the entire spectrum of product markets: from mass to premium to luxury.

Kramer told the audience of MBA students: “Luxury sits entirely outside the boundaries of rationality – it is subjective.  Some people think luxury is the opposite of poverty – it is not, it is the opposite of vulgarity. Luxury goes beyond the price point”.

He elaborated: “Status is probably the most fundamental driver of the luxury proposition – what you show to your friends and what they think about it. But, it is a transitional concept.  Historically, status was achieved through a demonstration of social power.  It moved with the industrial revolution to be about a demonstration of material goods – wealth and possessions were another way of saying ‘look, I’ve made it’.  The more recent demonstration of status through sophistication and taste is what Coco Channel really referred to”.

Throughout the talk, he referenced six areas which are crucial in forming a successful luxury brand today:

  • Transparency and Values
  • Scarcity
  • Alleviations
  • Differentiation
  • Purpose
  • Integrity


Kramer explained that luxury brands must offer differentiation with the acceptance of the risk of being polarising: “If you are Hublot, it is subjective whether people like your watches.  Lamborghini is also polarising but your niche means, for certain customers, you are super attractive. The worst thing you can do is try to be everything to everyone and luxury brands don’t do that”.

He closed by telling the audience that the most important element for building a successful brand was to have a defined purpose which is shared and aligned from the start.

“You have to have a crystal clear reason why you exist, a purpose at the heart.  You can do this for yourself as well as for your organisation – pick five words or less which explain why you exist.  If your employees can recall those five words at least in spirit, you have shared purpose which is a great point to start.  For me, having a shared and aligned purpose sits north of strategy – it is really the starting point to build an eco-system which moves as one”.

About the Symposium

Day Two speakers:

  • Mark Sherwin, Managing Director of Accenture Digital UK & Ireland
  • Sir William Sargent, CEO and Co-founder, Framestore

The London Symposium provides MBA students with a unique opportunity to meet leaders from across a range of industries including business, finance, media, culture and sport. The theme for the third edition, which takes place from the 25th to the 28th April, is "Explorers & Discoveries". It will welcome more than 150 MBAs from all Cass MBA cohorts, as well as MBA teams from partner schools in Europe and South Africa.

The inaugural Cass MBA London Symposium was held in 2014 to celebrate Cass's unique network inside the heart of the global city. It mixes thought leadership in plenary sessions with a ‘backstage pass’ to some of London’s most iconic locations, brands and organisations which drive the city's prosperity - from the Treasury to the Ministry of Sound; Central St Martin's to Lloyds of London and from Soho to Savile Row.

The London Symposium is now the flagship MBA elective, providing students with excellent networking opportunities and access to some of London's most high profile and prominent business figures. Speakers in 2015 included, Dame Fiona Woolf, former Mayor of the City of London, Sir William Sargent, founder of Oscar-winning Framestore, Alejandro Agag, CEO of Formula E Holding, Chris Gottlieb the Head of Brand for the Mayor's Office, Graeme Craig, Commercial Development Director for TFL and Vernon Hill, Chairman of Metro Bank among many others.

You can read more about the other days of the Symposium below:

Day One

Day Three

Day Four

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