Up Marketing

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When you're draping your lovely wife in furs and jewelry, think of Cadillac.


You've created a wonderful product for your company. It's practically top of the line. It's reliable, sturdy, comes with a lot of great features, and everyone loves its design.

However, all this quality comes at a price. Namely... well, price. It costs too much for the mainstream market to afford it. What do you do?

Well, you have two choices. The first choice is to sell the product at a loss, so that the mainstream can afford it. This is only advisable if it's sold with another product profitable enough to offset that loss, which is the old "Give away the razors to sell the blades" strategy. The second choice is to not bother with the mainstream at all. Instead go for as much of the market that can afford it. This is known as the upmarket.

Of course the upmarket doesn't just go for anything. They have to feel they are getting their money's worth. So instead of just a hook for people to remember the product, you need the upmarket to feel your product is worth their money. There are three common methods of doing this.

  • Just to focus on how good your product is. This is often going right for the old money crowd, who are old money because their parents and grandparents spent their money wisely. They spend hundreds on a pair of shoes, not because it has a designer label, but because it will last years and years and still be good as new with a nice polish.
  • Focus on the sophistication of your product. This also works with old money, because they do have an image of sophistication to uphold. This also works with new money, because they want to look sophisticated too. Hence this is likely the most common form of appealing to the upmarket.
  • Claim this product makes one superior for owning it. Mostly works with new money. May or may not directly state that anything less is tripe meant for the Lowest Common Denominator, but the implication is sometimes there in Subtext.

This doesn't always go for the upper classes. Anyone with a decent salary and an expensive hobby can be the upmarket for that hobby.

Compare/Contrast Pandering to the Base.

Examples of Up Marketing include:


  • Since this is for the upmarket, advertising is rarely done where the mainstream marketing is done, like Television. It's often done in Magazines catering to the demographic for the product.
    • Take 99% of all Fashion Magazine ads.
      • Or even "Maxim" magazine, which really contrasts with their articles, which are meant to be almost Testosterone Poisoning than for the GQ crowd.
    • If the mainstream can occasionally afford your product, marketing to them is advisable.
      • The ads for De Beers diamonds.
      • Ads for fur coats, or there used to be such ads on TV.
      • Ads for some of the more expensive cars (although not likely the really expensive companies, like Rolls Royce, Porsche, Ferrari, and Bentley). Cadillac, on the other hand, does a fair bit of advertising.
      • Until recently this combined with Smoking Is Glamorous.
  • Speaking of cars, upmarket car ads usually don't have women in bikinis laying on the cars. They are more likely to have women in their finest evening clothes admire the cars, as in the above pic.
  • Again, a hook is not required, but it can help.
  • Although what is considered to be the hardcore video gaming audience is actually the upmarket for gaming, it's rare to see this among that audience. The big exception is expensive gaming devices, when they are not sold at a loss, like the Neo Geo and high end gaming PCs.
    • VERY common for dedicated peripherals. Why play an FPS with a normal keyboard and mouse when you can have a keyboard and mouse spefically designed for FPS? Why play racing games with anything but a steering wheel & pedal peripheral? Why play MMORPGs without that "glow in the dark" keyboard extension featuring all your hotkeys and quickslots? Why play flight simulators in anything less than a full cockpit, complete with stick, throttle, rudder pedals, MFDs, other assorted switches for various subsystems, and maybe even topped off with a motion platform?
    • Steel Battalion used a humongous proprietary controller and therefore was out of the price range of most gamers at US$200 MSRP. Needless to say, it was a commercial flop, but remains a Cult Classic.
  • High-end displays (TVs/monitors) like the Pioneer Kuro Elite and Mitsubishi LaserVue lines do not come cheap. You're looking at spending at least US$4,000 on the low end for one of those, all in the name of image quality over cheap commodity TN LCDs and aged CRTs.
  • Electrostatic headphones and loudspeakers, compared to conventional dynamic driver-based offerings. It doesn't help that they're only produced by a few manufacturers for the most part (Stax for headphones, Acoustat, Quad and Martin Logan for speakers), and the headphones need specialized amplifiers that are just as expensive, unless they come with transformer boxes meant to be used with conventional loudspeaker amplifiers (which do not perform as well as the direct-drive amps). The loudspeakers are also very demanding on amplification, but most of them have built-in transformers, so you can at least use any power amp that can meet their demands. Even vintage equipment will still command a fairly high price.
    • The discontinued Sennheiser Orpheus electrostatic headphone system can sell for upwards of US$12,000 when it can be found on sale; only about 300 were produced, making it extremely exclusive.
  • The radio commercials on classical music stations are rather different than regular radio commercials, such as having British guys telling you where you can get thirty percent off handwoven Persian rugs.
    • The same goes for the ads in the playbills at orchestra productions, opera, or musical theater.
  • Most Bridal Magazines will try to look like this, no matter who is buying it, merely to maintain the appearance of elegance, regardless of whether the dresses in the articles and ads are simple or Fairytale Wedding Dresses.
  • Stella Artois invoked this with the slogan 'Reassuringly expensive', although it became known as 'wife-beater' (because the British can't hold their liquor - Only ten pints? Are you some kind of pansy? - and because, despite the up-marketing, it's largely sold to proles.)
  • Nearly all ads for high-end watches. Does the ad copy call it a "timepiece"? It's this trope.
    • A good ad is the Patek Philippe slogan "You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation." Nothing says upmarketing like arguing that the product is literally more valuable than you, the buyer.
  • Tony Robbins, in his recorded spiel on the subject of VALS, describes Merril Lynch's ad campaign thusly (paraphrasing):

Merril Lynch's old ads used to show a big, smelly herd of running bulls with the caption "We're bullish on America." That's never going to appeal to the upper-crust Achievers, it sounds more like it's aimed at the beer-swilling good-old-boy Belongers. So, they cleaned up their ad campaign. Now, there's just one bull -- but he's no ordinary, smelly bull, no, this bull is a cut above. He's got a well-groomed coat and polished horns. He's an Achiever bull. And what do they show him doing? Walking through a china shop without knocking anything over. Now, the message is that Merril Lynch will help you stay a cut above the rest of the rabble, where you -- the Achiever -- belong."

  • Seattle's Bumbershoot festival has become ridiculously expensive in recent years, with single-day tickets being $45 at the gate, and for the gold pass, prepare to shell out $300. Then there's the concessions and other fees inside.
  • American Express was able to carve out a niche for itself as the credit card of the (somewhat) upper-crust, in contrast to Visa's and Mastercard's more plebian demographic. Most notably, the Amex Centurion, the application fee is around $5000 and the yearly service charge is $2500.