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In consumer marketing, an aspirational brand (or product) means a large segment of its exposure audience wishes to own it, but for economic reasons cannot. An aspirational product implies certain positive characteristics to the user, but the supply appears limited due to limited production quantities.
An important characteristic of an aspirational product is that the part of its exposure audience that is at present economically unable to purchase it, thinks of itself as having a fair probability of at a certain point in the future being able to do so. This part of the exposure audience is referred to as the aspirational audience, whereas the part of the exposure audience that already can afford the product is called the consumption audience. Consumption audience and aspirational audience together form the aspirational product's target audience, which typically represents 30%-60% of the exposure audience
Weak aspirational brands have target audiences that are almost as large as their exposure audiences (e.g. MP3 player brands), and are therefore slowly becoming commodity brands, e.g. brands with consumption audiences that coincide with the exposure audience (and therefore, brands without an aspiring audience).
As a general rule, an aspirational brand and its products can command a price premium in the marketplace over a commodity brand. This ability can to a large extent be explained by the consumer's need for invidious consumption for which he is willing to pay a premium. The smaller the size of the product's target audience compared to the exposure audience, the more the product satisfies this need, and the higher the premium that such a consumer is prepared to pay.
The larger the ratio of aspirational to consumption consumers in the target audience, the higher the brand's premium, e.g. Maybach cars. To keep the premium level of a brand high, the consumption portion of the audience should not exceed 30% of the aspirational audience.
In the context of fashion magazines, the "aspirational model" offers readers continuing (and continually changing) fashion, beauty, and physical ideals to which they can aspire but, perhaps, never actually achieve. Criticized for this approach, magazine editors have claimed that their readers do not want to see "real-life" models or the way that beauty products and clothes look on "real women"; that they buy the magazines in the first place because they prefer the aspirational fantasies, and in the second, because they continually hope that by following the advice or buying the products, they will achieve the ever-changing looks that the magazine promotes via the models and photographic/technological wizardry.
Aspirational brand strategies are designed to re-position a brand within a marketplace. The idea is that brand can lead organizational change and lead consumer opinion about a brand. Aspirational brand strategies are used when the current image of the brand is either negative or no longer relevant to the company.
Companies have to take great care in employing an aspirational brand strategy. The company needs to be structured around truly delivering on the promise and must have employees who understand the brand goals and actively and daily work to achieve them. BP learned the dangers of aspirational branding during the summer of 2010 during the BP/Deepwater Oil Spill disaster. As the article BP: Disingenuously Branding explains, the aspiration of the company to be environmentally friendly and "Beyond Petroleum" backfired in a big way.