What’s Your Status?

February/March 2018—

Brand equity can’t be measured with a calculator.

It was a balmy California day when my wife informed me she needed to go to Chicago for work and asked if I wanted to come out after so we could spend the weekend together. Her timing was serendipitous as I realized another trip would change my flight status from silver to gold.

Status is a funny thing because, as any self-help guru can attest, only you can define your status. I’ve read all the books and the pundits say the same thing: If you’re not happy with your status, do something about it. In this case, the only thing I could do was to get on another plane and then the clouds would open for me and the Friendly Skies would declare me to be…. Gold. How could I say no?

Fast forward a month later and I was walking down Michigan Avenue, the Miracle Mile, with a chill running down my spine; the wind coming off the lake was brutal. We were dressed in typical California winter attire and the looks we were getting from passersby told us we were way out of our element.

The Miracle Mile is the Rodeo Drive of the Midwest. Every high-end brand is represented and represented well. We dropped into a few stores to look and get out of the cold; then we came upon a store that houses one of the most famous handbags and various Euro-Couture from France. These handbags are nauseatingly expensive, but they somehow elevate the internal status of any individual who may be keeping their portables inside.

You see, my wife had recently had her little status symbol stolen out of her car, and her self-directed handbag cred suffered a little. Not a huge deal, but a big bummer for her. That bag was a de facto “woobie” blanket, and any woman who owns one knows what I’m talking about. This bag was important to her. It was a Mother’s Day present many years ago and it was her first bag of such high regard. So much so that she kept the box the bag came in as well as the bag the handbag came in.

In an instant, all could be rectified as we walked into the store. The security guard welcomed us with an unsure look, wondering if we walked in to escape the cold or to drop coin on one of their brown-and-gold bags with the LV logo renowned on all continents. When he saw my appalled expression mixed with the gleam in my wife’s eyes, he knew the answer.

After being magnificently handled by the associate behind the counter, we walked away with two bags and a very wounded credit limit to my American Express. In the end, we all got what we wanted though. I got a happy wife and my wife got something she really likes for reasons I’ll only ever partially understand.

Why the story? Because there’s an economy here that a lot of people don’t see. Why she buys is what keeps your lights on and the heat pumping. A price cannot be put on the oohs and ahhs made by her friends and people she meets. Jill’s eyes lit up when a stranger came up to her and said, “I love that bag”! Who knew a purse had such power? She is emotionally tied to this bag.

I’ve done the math. For the same money, we could have bought a new dining room or living room set. From some manufacturers, we may have been able to buy both. Regardless, what the Louis Vuitton brand has done has made an emotional connection with its consumer that makes people want to be a part of the movement that began in 1854.

I think back to my retail days and our movement was on real value, but the term ‘value’ is a cliché. It means nothing unless you can truly quantify it. It’s easy to sell something, to accommodate a transaction, but to truly have something that makes what you have to offer so desired on such a soul-shattering level is quite an accomplishment. The equity or status you build or achieve within your business can’t be measured by sales volume or net income. Instead, it’s the result of the investments you’ve made in the 360-degree experience you offer to everyone you deal with that makes what you have so special.

About the Author

Jonathan Schulman
Jonathan Schulman is a member of the IHFRA executive committee. His coverage area includes Southern California and Hawaii. He has won several awards including Sales Professional of the Year in 2013 and can be reached at jschulman@breaklinesales.com.