Digital strategy for "luxury" fonts

Given the multitude of discussions about marketing fonts (often, a luxury product).
https://www.nngroup.com/articles/luxury-terrible-ecommerce/

Comments

  • How does this relate to the type business? 
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,434
    often, a luxury product
    In the sense that demand is such that spending on fonts is disproportional to income and people are purchasing licenses for fonts that they do not need?
  • KP MawhoodKP Mawhood Posts: 282
    often, a luxury product
    In the sense that demand is such that spending on fonts is disproportional to income and people are purchasing licenses for fonts that they do not need?
    Could be? Luxury items are the opposite of necessity goods, which people buy regardless of their income level or wealth. I think Bruno Maag once said that fonts are luxury products although I cannot trace the reference.The article has its own definitions, a few interpretations:

    "Favourite typefaces" licensed to the max:
    These are high-quality products or services, offered at prices so high that many consumers will not afford them. Those prices are partially justified by the high quality, but more so by the emotional connection that their devotees have with the brand. 
      "Cult-status typefaces":
      Luxury brands often have cult-like followings, and their products may act as status symbols.
      Tailor-made, high-value typefaces:
      Prices are so high that very few people in the world can afford them. 
      Finally, a reflection on retail licensing vs. custom work:
      …the same brand might have different offerings at different levels. For example, Hermès offers some accessories that cost a few hundred US dollars and are easily purchasable from their website — a luxury offering, but not an ultra-luxury one. However, they also sell the famous Birkin bag, which costs tens of thousands of dollars and is available by invitation to VIP customers only.
    • JoyceKettererJoyceKetterer Posts: 685
      edited June 20
      I feel like there's some conflation here between luxury and non-commercial.  Most people don't need non-system fonts because extra fonts aren't really all that useful at the personal level (especially given you can't use them in emails).  There are people who license fonts just for fun but I don't think that makes them any more of a luxury product than having an extra chair at your dining room table.  At the level of licensing most people need, fonts aren't especially expensive.
    • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,478
      This reminds me of something House Industries did back around 2000 with their Luxury font collection, which were inspired by high-end brand logos. It's been priced normally since a few years later, but I recall that the original price was something like $1000 for the basic license. 
    • When I hear the words luxury fonts, I think of the sort of fonts that get used to represent "luxury" brands. The fonts them selves are tools a graphic designer might use, or not use, depending on the project. Kind of like, are you going to use a hammer, a screwdriver or a wrench? 
    • Christian from Commercial Type tweeted about Luxury in this Twitter thread. The entire conversation is a bit relevant to this topic.

      To quote the tweet: “The initial incarnation of the Luxury Collection (when it was more conceptual art project than typeface, circa 2000) was priced high. I think it was $1500? We never sold a copy and rereleased it as a 'real' typeface with @houseindustries a few years later.”

      The conversation also turns towards Enschedé’s Lexicon which sells for $391.00 per style for a single user. (Which I am surprised hasn’t been brought up in this thread yet.)
    • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,434
      There is a casual use of the term ‘luxury’ that applies to anything that isn’t a necessity (often alongside failure to consider what constitutes a ‘need’ except in the most basic sense of shelter, clothing, food). In that sense, most fonts would be considered luxuries to most people most of the time. But that is not the meaning of luxury good in economic terms, and I am finding this whole discussion untethered from any meaningful, systematic analysis of what constitutes a luxury good and, hence, whether there are luxury fonts.

      Commercial Type’s Luxury project, in its initial conceptual art project phase, seems to support my instinct that no, fonts are not luxury goods, because deliberately positioning a font family in the market as if it were a luxury good means no one buys it.

      And yes, these conversations often turn toward’s The Enschedé Font Foundry, but does high(er) price automatically equate to luxury good? I would say that market activity around a product is a necessary consideration here, and something is only a luxury good, in the economic sense, if people are buying it regardless of their income level. Who purchases licenses for TEFF fonts? I have seen them in use by some Netherlands publishers, but almost nowhere else. That suggests to me that their pricing makes them exclusive rather than luxury.
    • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,879
      Shinntype has fonts at a great range of price points, including several that are premium-priced, but is not a luxury brand per se.
      A more realistic marker for foundries would be the typical base price of fonts for desktop licences. Mine is US$39.
    • KP MawhoodKP Mawhood Posts: 282
      A more realistic marker for foundries would be the typical base price of fonts for desktop licences. Mine is US$39.
      Chanel will not sell a handbag for much less than €2,000 but moves millions of €30 lipsticks. Is a desktop license more like a lipstick or a wrench – it depends, right?
      There is a casual use of the term ‘luxury’ that applies to anything that isn’t a necessity… But that is not the meaning of luxury good in economic terms, and I am finding this whole discussion untethered from any meaningful, systematic analysis of what constitutes a luxury good…
      "Income elasticity of demand" is a mouthful, whereas "the opposite of necessity goods" is much easier to understand *and* aligns with economic terms (double win ).
       …and, hence, whether there are luxury fonts.
      Which fonts are sensitive to changes in buyers income and/or wealth?

      Not sure how easily this could be measured with one-off perpetual desktop licenses, but could (in theory) be analysed with extended licensing needs in regard to consumer activity. Equally, some fonts will never fit the economic definition of luxury goods due to negative income elasticity of demand.
      To quote the tweet: “The initial incarnation of the Luxury Collection (when it was more conceptual art project than typeface, circa 2000) was priced high. I think it was $1500? We never sold a copy and rereleased it as a 'real' typeface with @houseindustries a few years later.”
      If the initial incarnation never sold, then that iteration didn't impact luxury font sales. It's interesting as a case study and conceptual art project. I'm not clear that it gives insight into luxury fonts in economics terms.
      And yes, these conversations often turn toward’s The Enschedé Font Foundry, but does high(er) price automatically equate to luxury good? I would say that market activity around a product is a necessary consideration here, and something is only a luxury good, in the economic sense, if people are buying it regardless of their income level. Who purchases licenses for TEFF fonts? I have seen them in use by some Netherlands publishers, but almost nowhere else. That suggests to me that their pricing makes them exclusive rather than luxury.
      Price and exclusivity can be a useful quantifiers of luxury, for instance in surveys conducted with HENRIs (high earners not yet rich) and HNWIs (high net worth individuals). What best exemplifies what “luxury” means to them… etc.
    • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,220
      Luxury products serve as a status symbol, but fonts alone cannot do so. When comparing fonts to luxury goods, keep in mind that they are B2B products, not retail products. Businesses purchase luxury items such as pens, yet they are given as personal gifts for personal use. This concept does not have much crossover value in my opinion. Because fonts are not intended for personal usage, purchasing an expensive one is pointless. Because you can't hang it on your wall or wear it, it fails. Is the purchaser of a luxury font supposed to make their own posters or t-shirts with it? How will anyone know that they used in a luxury font? Luxury goods show their brand name on the product but that's not possible unless the buyer adds a logo or something? I don't think this idea makes any sense.
    • Jasper de WaardJasper de Waard Posts: 539
      edited June 22
      While I agree with most of the arguments against luxury fonts, here's a consideration I didn't read yet:

      A huge part of the appeal of luxury products is the exclusivity. Few people have them, because they are so expensive. A similar argument could be made for 'luxury' typefaces. Price them high, and whoever buys them can be sure that this font will not be the next 'hot' typeface, so that it can be used somewhat (though not completely) exclusively by the buyer. 
    • KP MawhoodKP Mawhood Posts: 282
      Luxury goods show their brand name on the product but that's not possible unless the buyer adds a logo or something? I don't think this idea makes any sense.
      In the next part of the series, a study suggests that some buyers do not appreciate logos.
      https://www.nngroup.com/articles/luxury-user-groups-journeys/

      "Some luxury shoppers wanted noticeable brand logos on the luxury products they bought and used… On the other hand, some shoppers (particularly big spenders) preferred to have subtle logos on their luxury goods — if any logo at all. They reported feeling this way for one or more of the following reasons:
      • They felt that heavily branded items with noticeable logos were too “flashy” or “tacky” and not a “refined” approach to luxury.
      • They had seen many fake, knockoff versions of the heavily branded items.
      • They wanted to avoid being perceived as trying too hard or showing off, particularly around people who couldn’t afford those items."
      Luxury products serve as a status symbol, but fonts alone cannot do so. 
      How do fonts not serve as a status symbol for those who are interested – isn't that part of the point of a custom made typeface? It's exclusive, it's unique, it's expensive.
      Because fonts are not intended for personal usage, purchasing an expensive one is pointless. Because you can't hang it on your wall or wear it, it fails.
      Personal branding.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_branding
    • I struggle to apply the word luxury to a font. The concept just doesn't fit - it's simply not a meaningful adjective to use. For some, a banana might be a luxury, for others a Ferrari. Perhaps a hot bath or an expensive watch. But a font? I don't think so.

      On the subject of The Enschedé Type Foundry (mentioned above in this context), they seem deliberately to shun the mass market and this draws me like a magnet to their product. I suppose with over 300 years of history behind them they can afford to go their own way. Their website, which appears not to have changed in over 10 years is an object lesson in restraint. The absence of online user testing or purchase/download options, webfonts etc., suggest that this is a foundry that understands its own market. No special offers, no newsletter or blog, no social media links, just a discreet contact email address on the home page. How refreshing!
    • I never thought someone would consider the TEFF website refreshing ;)
    • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,867
      Is TEFF trying to be a luxury brand, or are they just haughty?
    • Craig EliasonCraig Eliason Posts: 1,278
      Or did they just stay put while most of the rest of the industry moved downmarket?
    • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,879
      KP said:

      Chanel will not sell a handbag for much less than €2,000 but moves millions of €30 lipsticks. Is a desktop license more like a lipstick or a wrench – it depends, right?

      Not a valid comparison, unless I position the foundry as a luxury brand of expensive fonts, and also sell, say, chewing gum. On the other hand, I suppose you could say that the luxury product I sell is bespoke fashion (custom fonts), and the retail font licences are the lipstick.
    • John ButlerJohn Butler Posts: 45
      TEFF’s Trinité and dfType’s Rialto remain on my wishlist to license one day. Their beauty is singular, like a Wiesmann or Spyker automobile. I don’t want to see them driving all over every road.
    • Stephen ColesStephen Coles Posts: 949
      edited June 26
      Or did they just stay put while most of the rest of the industry moved downmarket?
      Naw, their prices have always been 2–10x higher than the rest of the market.

      I think @Jasper de Waard has it right, at least in TEFF’s case. They prefer their fonts be used by a specific segment of the market, primarily publishers who produce high-end books and journals.
    • Rialto is available on Adobe Fonts which should help its spread, but I don’t think I have ever seen it anywhere on the web (well, except for my own usage). Maybe part of luxury is a design being an acquired taste.
    • Eris AlarEris Alar Posts: 373
      I equate luxury items to things I cannot justify buying usually, so buying them is a special consideration. Fonts absolutely fit this, buying font licenses is something I do rarely as they are just out of my price range. Most clients I work with want Adobe Fonts or free fonts so they can implement them fairly easily across their teams without addition costs. Buying licences is rare. 
    • Is TEFF trying to be a luxury brand, or are they just haughty?
       :D:D:D 
      Commercial Type’s Luxury project, in its initial conceptual art project phase, seems to support my instinct that no, fonts are not luxury goods, because deliberately positioning a font family in the market as if it were a luxury good means no one buys it.
      I seem to recall Christian Schwartz said that at the beginning it was meant as a semi-joke but I may be wrong.
    • Stephen ColesStephen Coles Posts: 949
      Yes, besides the more recent Twitter thread linked above, you can read Christian’s description on his own site.
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