Editor’s note: Pam Danziger is president of marketing consulting firm Unity Marketing, Stevens, Pa.
In a July issue of Quirk’s e-newsletter I introduced you to the HENRYs – the high-earners-not-rich-yet – and discussed why marketers and retailers need to understand where the HENRYs fit in today’s rapidly changing and competitive consumer economy. In the second of three articles, I discussed the purchase behavior of this demographic. Now we turn to the final article’s focus on the different personalities of the HENRYs.
Understanding the consumer psychology of the HENRYs is the key to brand success. The HENRYs are a highly niched target market, which means a one-size-fits-all marketing strategy will not work. You need to understand the motivations that inspire the customer to buy so you can position brands and experiences effectively to make a real connection with the target customer marketing messages. The mediums through which we deliver messages must be customized so that they resonate, make an impression and inspire the consumer to buy.
Research has identified five distinctly different personalities that make up the affluent consumer market. Think of the HENRY personalities like a pie cut into four fairly large and equal-sized slices and one smaller piece that represents the X-Fluents.
X-Fluents live luxury large
The X-Fluents – extreme affluents – only make up about 15 percent of the HENRYs. Luxury touches every aspect of their lives, from the cars they drive to the way they decorate their homes, the clothes they wear, accessories they carry and the places they stay. They are confident and live luxuriously for their own personal gratification, not to display their status to others. When marketers think about the quintessential luxury consumer they usually have the X-Fluents in mind.
But while X-Fluents enjoy luxury to the fullest, they may or may not choose the most exclusive and expensive brands. They are value-shoppers, not in the sense that they are looking for cheap or discount but they are extremely focused on getting the most value for the money they invest. So an X-Fluent shopper may love your $5,000 handbag or your $10,000 gold watch but they might not be willing to buy it if the brand logo is too large, the brand too common or another less expensive brand offers the same quality and style. Today, the X-Fluents opt for value and a quieter, less conspicuous and authentic luxury lifestyle.
Aspirers want to be seen
The Aspirers make up slightly less than 25 percent of the HENRYs and have yet to reach the level of luxury to which they aspire. There are more male Aspirers than female. Aspirers are on their way up and want to be perceived as players. For them, luxury is about showing social status and prestige. They are less secure and confident than the X-Fluents and believe that the glitz and the glamor that comes from the status-symbol brands they own identifies them as successful. However, their incomes don't match their aspirations.
So an Aspirer may want to own a showy $5,000 designer bag or $10,000 Rolex watch but he or she may not be able to afford it. An Aspirer is more likely to purchase the lowest-priced model of that brand’s luxury range or simply wait until their income catches up with their luxury aspirations. This is the personality that brands that talk about the aspirational customer are targeting but less than one-fourth of HENRYs fit this personality.
Cocooners express luxury in their homes
Cocooners account for another quarter of the HENRYs and express luxury in and through their homes. Cocooners are all about the home: decorating, furnishing and surrounding themselves in a home that makes them feel warm, secure, comfortable and happy. They are core customers for well-designed, prestige brand bath and kitchen appliances and fixtures, high-end furniture or expensive home furnishings.
Since a Cocooner tends to focus her luxury indulgences on things for her home, not for herself, she may look more fashion victim than fashionista when she goes shopping in her mom jeans and sneakers. As a result, she might be easily overlooked as a potential customer for more high-end appliances, furniture, decorative home furnishings and other items for the home. She might also be scared off if your brand or shopping experience is too X-Fluent or Aspirer-focused and doesn’t speak to her more traditional, hearth-and-home lifestyle. Many luxury brands are extending their ranges into the Cocooners’ home territory. Brands ignore her at their peril because she is a prime candidate for high-end and premium home brands. For her, the attraction isn’t or status but genuine quality and comfort in style.
Butterflies value experiences
Then there are the Butterflies, who value experiences over material things. While HENRY Butterflies may enjoy a nice lifestyle and own many nice things, Butterflies prefer to spend money on experiences like travel and fine dining rather than on material goods. For Butterflies, luxury isn’t what they own but rather the things that they experience – and the joy they share with others from these experiences. When it comes to material things, quality, premium or even mass-brands appeal to Butterflies’ sensibility, as compared to heritage luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci or Chanel.
Butterflies can dress themselves and furnish their homes well with premium brands bought for less, while saving what’s left for the high-end travel, dining and other experiences they crave. Luxury brands are largely missing out on selling to this highly experiential customer by focusing on selling a product rather than giving them an experience in shopping, buying, wearing and using that product.
Temperate Pragmatists will not buy more than they need
And finally there is the Temperate Pragmatist, which is a luxury brand's worst nightmare. Temperate Pragmatists view luxury with suspicion. For them luxury is just a marketers' label, not something that has any real meaning to them. They may enjoy a high income and personal wealth but they would rather save it or spend it on things that are meaningful to them.
This personality is utilitarian, practical and oblivious to traditional marketing and branding approaches. Temperate Pragmatists are concerned about the environment and the negative results of the typical American throwaway, disposable consumer lifestyle. This personality recycles, repurposes, reuses and makes do. Do-it-yourself appeals to this personality, as does the emerging tiny-home movement you see on HGTV.
They will steer away from overt marketing messages based on prestige, status and entitlement. They favor brands that are solid, well-crafted, long-lasting and inconspicuous. A Temperate Pragmatist might drive a BMW or Volvo, not for the status but rather for the engineering and durability. But they also could drive a Prius, an old model used car or do without a car altogether in favor of a bicycle and a Zipcar rental when the occasion demands a car. This is the target customer for the emerging renting and sharing economy.
Many young HENRYs show a decided Temperate Pragmatist approach to shopping and buying. So if you are thinking that 2026 may be the beginning of the next great luxury boom with a whole group of young affluents eager to buy your brand, you may be in for a surprise.
Temperate Pragmatist lifestyle keeps up with this generation's concern over the environment, global warming and the negative impact of excessive materialism. If your brand offers a lifetime’s worth of use, you might get his or her business with that practical strategy. That said, Temperate Pragmatics will not buy more than they need and they have come to learn that they can get by with much less.
Making it personal
In marketing, perception is reality. You create that reality in the minds and the hearts of the consumer. A one-size-fits-all strategy for marketing to HENRYs won't work in today’s increasingly diverse and sophisticated consumer market with so many good products available everywhere and at every price point.
A brand that targets the Aspirers may well turn off an X-fluent as being too showy or trying too hard. The Cocooner might be ignored because they don’t look dress like one’s idea of an affluent consumer. The Butterfly will be drawn to brands that promise enhanced experiences but those experiences may not be a five-day vacation at some luxury resort or a luxury cruise. The Temperate Pragmatist isn’t tempted by traditional marketing pitches, yet if they consider the investment a practical, useful and good long-term investment, they may well purchase on the spot.
To market to the HENRYs, brands need to understand the distinctly different lifestyles of those customers who have discretion and can afford their goods. More importantly, brands need to focus on how to attract and inspire the HENRYs in their own language.