High-net-worth customers are being targeted, writes Sylvia Pennington.
'Fancy a baby grand with that private jet, sir?"
Luxury brands are joining forces to maximise their haul from Australia's small but lucrative pond of wealthy customers, via lavish events a world away from the hard sell of the showroom floor.
It's a concept known as affinity marketing - the selling of complementary products to the same target market - and works on the premise that those in the market for a top sports car are the same folk who will drop $70,000 on a sound system or a cool half-million on a custom-built dining suite for 20.
Once a largely ad hoc affair, matchmaking between brands has turned professional, courtesy of The Luxury Network, an introduction agency for purveyors of prestige products.
Established in Britain in 2007, it set up shop in Australia in 2011. Two years on, the group has 100 members, selling everything from supercars to artisan chocolates, to a target market of about 150,000 cashed-up Aussies. Companies pay between $8000 and $30,000 a year to join the network. The fee gives brands an entree to functions where they can show their wares and discuss marketing opportunities.
The financial services sector classifies individuals with investable assets of $1 million - excluding their home - as high-net-worth, while those in the $20 million-and-up category are deemed ultra-high-net-worth.
Luxury Network Australia managing director Lynne Wyatt says member companies need to have a hefty percentage of clients who fit the high-net-worth criteria.
These well-heeled folk rarely decide to buy something because they've seen it on TV. Rather, personal recommendation is king, particularly if it's from someone from the same social milieu.
Working together to host upmarket events enables vendors to tap each other's databases and reach a larger pool of customers.
"It's about having a presence, not being in your face," Wyatt says. "I look at The Luxury Network as a giant jigsaw. Every member is a piece. Who you partner with is how the picture will look."
When supercar club Ecurie25's customers are invited to get fitted up for some Titleist golf clubs while they inspect some hot new wheels, it becomes a study in cashed-up, testosterone-fuelled consumerism.
The relationship-based sales approach makes sense to bespoke furniture maker David Boucher, whose handcrafted pieces grace the mansions and boardrooms of billionaires around the world.
Boucher has a workshop in Toowoomba and a gallery in Sydney's Castlereagh Street but says 99 per cent of custom comes via word of mouth.
Showing his work at events staged by Luxury Network members such as Rolls-Royce and Cartier opens the door to further high-end sales - say, perhaps, the jewellery buyer who wants a cabinet to store special-occasion pieces.
The "you bring your customers and I'll bring mine" approach has also found favour with Bang & Olufsen. Since joining the network 12 months ago, the audio supplier has been an in-demand party partner for the likes of Audi, white goods manufacturer Miele and Ecurie25.
Bang & Olufsen's general manager for Australia and New Zealand, Julian Kipping, says teaming with like-minded brands helps the marketing dollar stretch further.