People with money – people who can enjoy all the luxuries that money can buy – have a plethora of choices of how to spend it, from luxury travel and dining, the clothes and jewelry they wear, the fashion accessories they carry, and the cars they drive. But the purchase consideration for these types of luxuries differs from those they make for their homes.
Such personal and experiential luxury purchases give a thrill, but they are fleeting and lose value in time. Only in rare cases does the monetary value of such purchases increase. That is generally not the case with many purchases made for the home, however. A home is an investment, not an expenditure, and consumer purchases made to make the home more luxurious often reap financial gains over time.
That is what distinguishes the home luxury market from personal or experiential luxury. Purchases of luxury goods for the home are fundamentally different because they are an investment that often will yield a financial return as well as emotional rewards. Other luxury purchases primarily give personal satisfaction, which is not insignificant, but since people who have money accumulate it by carefully evaluating the many facets of the ROI in all purchases, home luxury purchases stand apart.
Demand for luxury kitchen appliances growing
It is not surprising then that the recent YouGov Affluent Perspective Global Survey among the top 10% of consumers across the world identified luxury kitchen appliances as a particularly strong category for growth, most especially in the U.S. market where the world’s wealthiest consumers are concentrated ($10+ million in assets and $350k+ household income).
“Where we have seen a decline in the overall luxury market, the wealthy are continuing to furnish their homes with high-quality, high-priced products,” Chandler Mount, vp business development at YouGov, shared with me, adding that 33% of the wealthy bought home furnishings items costing $6,000 or more in the past year. The rate of luxury home purchase rose five percentage points from 2016. Further, the wealthy’s purchase of luxury home furnishings is also significantly higher than among all affluents in their study.
The wealthy are nothing less than house proud . Nearly 80% of them agree with the statement “I enjoy presenting my home to others.”
Driving those high-end home purchases, according to Mount, is the competitive streak that is characteristic of those at the top. “The wealthy worked hard to get it. Their home is about positioning and making the point that you are at the top of your game,” he says.
Brands define the luxury home
The brands the wealthy select for their home send a powerful message that they have made it and no brands are more widely recognized than the name plates in the wealthy homeowner’s kitchen. “There is a lot of brand recognition in kitchen appliances. People know what the brands mean. There is a cache in that,” Mount explains.
Given the primary role the kitchen plays in the home, as a place to prepare meals, gather with family and friends, show off to neighbors and the room that will sell the home faster and for more money, perhaps no kitchen appliance has more of that cache than Sub-Zero and its sister brands Wolf for cooking and the new Cove dishwasher brand.
While the YouGov survey includes luxe appliance brand rankings, Chandler held that data close to the vest. However, a recent analysis of luxury home listings conducted by Zillow found that mentioning a “Sub-Zero frig” in the listing text netted a 38% premium over other high-end listings with less prestigious refrigerators. These are also brand names I hear quite often in research with affluent consumers and interior designers that influence them.
If a kitchen sells the home, then Sub-Zero sells the kitchen
That is why I reached out to Brian Jones, senior director of marketing at Sub-Zero Group, to reflect on the YouGov survey findings and what they mean for the future of the brands he oversees. “We have tremendous brand strength, when it come to brand awareness and consideration in the luxury space,” Jones shares.
While he too wouldn’t go on record with market share specifics, he did say, “We have very strong market share. Overall we are seen as the brand leader when it comes to innovation, design options and style.”
The YouGov survey provides insights into the values that the wealthiest consumers who purchase luxury kitchen appliances are especially attuned to. They are: Artistry, Power and Self-Worth. Mount notes that these three qualities are low on the index of qualities that affluent consumers look for in other luxury purchases. But for the wealthiest considering major appliances, these three values are prime.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
Just how much artistry can be had in a functional kitchen appliance may be debated, but Sub-Zero and its sister brands aim to define artistry and beauty for the category as a whole. For over 20 years, the company has sponsored a bi-annual Kitchen Design Contest where designers can showcase their best cutting-edge designs using Sub-Zero, Wolf and Cove appliances. “Designers have told us that this contest has led design trends in the industry,” Jones affirms.
The company’s styles are coordinated to match the homeowner’s tastes. “Kitchen designs today vary in styles, from traditional, transitional, contemporary to professional. We offer products in all four of those styles across refrigeration and cooking products in order for our customers to build the kitchens they have always been dreaming about,” Jones says.
That extends to hiding the refrigerator behind cabinet panels covering the doors. “We were first to provide a built-in refrigeration platform and the first integrated refrigeration platform made to look seamlessly like cabinetry in the home,” he adds.
And who can argue that there is artistry in cooking. Using a professional-grade appliance like Wolf with its signature big red knobs can inspire the artisian-cook.
Feel the power, be empowered
Extraordinary refrigeration power is what put Sub-Zero on the map in 1945, when it was the first company to offer a freezer that had a below zero cooling capacity. The brand also led the industry with air purification to eliminate ethylene gases given off when fruits and vegetables ripen. “That was something we picked up from NASA when we worked with them,” Jones explains.
But for the wealthy, the concept of power is more than just sub-zero freezing and BTUs in the stove. It is using the power of the appliances to empower the owner to achieve mastery of the kitchen experiences he or she desires.
For that the Sub-Zero website has a series of videos entitled “The Conversational Chef” featuring Coleman, its corporate chef, who takes the viewer to restaurants to unpack their secrets of gourmet cooking, then shows how to achieve the same results at home with the advanced features of its appliances.
The website also includes an inspiration and planning section to help potential buyers create their dream kitchen, along with recipes designed to use the appliances’ special features for exceptional results.
“Because I’m worth it”
While there may be a show-off value in the selection of luxury kitchen appliance brands, the wealthy feel entitled to own the best that money can buy in those categories they consider important. The brand must be worthy and measure up to their feelings of self-worth and personal values.
“We are an aspirational brand, but we bring substance to luxury,” Jones states. “We are the go-to brand for designers and for the customer who is looking for the best, they are going to use us.”
The confidence of quality that the customers’ gain from their appliance choice is something that Sub-Zero, Wolf and Cove intend to engender and build over time.
“Quality is the foundation of our company,” Jones concludes. “Our customers don’t just purchase our products, they invest in them. We give them peace of mind. We build our products to last decades, not just years. There is value in knowing our products are going to perform as well as the day they first go into the home till the day they move out.”
Appeal to reason, engage emotions
In the final analysis over 80% of wealthy consumers in the YouGov study consider their selection of luxury kitchen appliances as being “rational,” not a “guilty pleasure.” Nearly three-fourths research the brands thoroughly even before heading into the dealer to try them.
The take aways from this research is that while luxury appliance brands need to appeal to the left brain, rational justifications for the wealthy with talk about quality, style, longevity and investment value, it is equally, if not more important to appeal to the right-brain, emotional reasons why they should choose a brand, like market leader Sub-Zero, Wolf and Cove.
The emotional values the wealthy are seeking in their kitchens are to express artistry in the design of their kitchens and what comes out of them; to transfer the power in the appliance to feel personally empowered; and to reinforce their feelings of self-worth through the selection of the best of the best for their homes.
That is the message of psychologist G. Clotaire Rapaille in The Global Code: How a New Culture of Universal Values Is Reshaping Business and Marketing, where he writes that the emotions, or the “reptilian brain” as he calls it, is looking to the left-brain, logical cortex for a good excuse, or an “intellectual alibi,” to give it what it wants.
The more luxury kitchen appliance brands can push the emotions, like Sub-Zero and Wolf have done, the more successful they will be in today’s luxury marketplace.