Brunello Cucinelli Case Study: The Conspicuous Austerity Customer

Brunello Cucinelli Case Study: The Conspicuous Austerity Customer

Brunello Cucinelli is undeniably a world-class luxury brand that has made a unique name for itself. Due to its understating looks and high product quality, it has become the brand of preference for a unique category of customers. 

These customers are known for their conspicuous austerity taste, as they try to avoid giving away their social status, or wealth by avoiding flashy griffes or eye-catching brands.

In this post, we’re going to look at the history and ethos of the Cucinelli brand to understand some of its most defying traits, from its history and background to its target customers and value proposition to its overarching business strategy. 

Brunello Cucinelli: Company Background

Coming from a humble background, Brunello Cucinelli, since a young age was exposed to the values and principles of the value of human dignity, and the respect for the monetary and moral dignity of work. 

Brunello Cucinelli, experienced some economic hardships himself when, in his mid-20s, he still was unemployed and without a degree. 

Despite the challenging situation he faced, he was able to follow the stylistic example set by the Benetton group and designed a collection of cashmere cardigans which, due to their simplicity and high quality quickly became some of the most iconic Cucinelli products.

These human-centered values, connected to the respect of the monetary dignity of its employees are still present today in his company and are a backbone value that still defines the brand not only as a manufacturer but also as an employer.

A strong employer brand is, in fact, essential for Cucinelli, as the production of his collections requires a vast amount of craftsmanship and expertise. Jobs like the ones involved in high-quality garment production require skill and expertise, and the lifestyle that these careers entail is in many cases not aligned with the expectations of new generations of employees. 

Cucinelli is aware that working in fashion requires artisanal craftsmanship, and manufacturing jobs may be less attractive to younger generations. 

It is therefore mandatory, in Cucinelli’s vision to create a working system that is capable of re-integrating moral and economic dignity in the workplace, so that he can create the right environment for his workers to be happy and creative.

This is why Cucinelli’s focus on the well-being of the employee can be considered one of the essential traits of the brand. 

The values that Cucinelli imprinted on the management of the workforce resonate with the Italian lifestyle, as they allow employees to take enough rest each day. For instance, the company allows workers to take a longer lunch break so that the workers may go home and spend time with their families.

This community-oriented mindset is echoed by the financial management of the firm. 

Company profits are in fact split into 4 parts, one of these parts are given to the employees so that every year the worker’s salaries can be increased based on the successful performance of the business. 

One-quarter share of profits is also going to Brunello Cucinelli, as the owner of the business. 

Cucinelli however, does not use the term CEO to define his role in the organization, but uses the term “Guardian” instead, to indicate his role of protector of the company values.

The culture of the organization is echoed by the firm’s location in the countryside of Umbria, in central Italy. 

Let’s now move into an analysis of the customer target the brand is pursuing, in the next section of our post.

Brunello Cucinelli: Customer Segments Analysis

Brunello Cucinelli’s target is quite unique for the fashion industry. Many luxury brands often target HNWI (High-Net-Worth-Individuals) as a way to connect the brand with the most affluent customers in the market. Luxury is expensive, and targeting rich customers is a way to increase sales. 

However, Cucinelli does not follow this approach. The branding strategy pursued by the company is not connected simply to the customer’s ability to spend, but to the benefits of wearing luxury garments. 

In many cases, in fact, luxury products are bought with the intent of remarking social class. This however can also be a trait of the nouveau riche or what is called “new money,” where customers are hoping to use their looks to clearly stand out of the mass, or feel belonging to a higher social class. The definition of this customer type is provided below:

  • Conspicuous consumption. According to this luxury purchase driver, consumers ‘spend to impress’, either to remark their exclusive lifestyle or to follow high-end trends. This is how most of us think about luxury good consumption.

This is essentially a social need, that as we discussed, has to do with either “fitting in” or “standing out”.

Brunello Cucinelli however, does not target these customers, and instead focused on those customers who instead do not have any need to appear.  Cuccinelli’s customers are happy with the simple emotional reward of owning a high-quality garment, without having to give away their social status or even the cost of their look. 

This emotional component is what Cucinelli’s customers are looking for and their customer typology is described below.

  • Conspicuous austerity. This driver of luxury purchase consists of spending large sums to purchase understating looks, which don’t give away their price point or status.

As discussed in the introduction to this post, the narrative of the brand is not only encapsulated by the customer target but can be better understood in light of the purpose of the business. 

This is the most defying element of Cucinelli’s firm, and we are going to discuss it next by looking into impact-first organizations.

Brunello Cucinelli: An Impact-First Organisation

According to our analysis, Brunello Cucinelli’s innovation lies in the ability of the firm to put its employees first. According to a strictly financial reading of a business, your employees are a liability, a set of stakeholders, the to whom company owes money. 

In Cucinelli’s vision, however, employees are not only managed as an asset, but as a competitive advantage. This approach allows the firm to focus on the employees’ wellbeing and economic rewards as opposed to considering them in any way expendable. 

An approach based on prioritizing social or environmental change is becoming more and more widespread in fashion and many companies are now starting to approach business decisions solely on the grounds of ethics. 

Among the many examples we can make,  we suggest reading into our case study on Good American, and their fight to create a more inclusive approach to plus-size customers.  

Being impact first, despite posing some financial risks provides great business opportunities. It’s a new and completely uncharted way of leading an organization that provides a series of valuable rewards such as:

  • Connecting with your customers. Showing a strong ethical standing and resilience in the pursuit of social and environmental causes will allow you to connect with your customer at a profound level, co-creating value and sharing a desire to change the world.
  • Connecting with your suppliers. Impact-oriented approaches can help in your business-to-business relationships, by identifying the right partners that share a vision that can impact the market for the better.

There is much more than impact-first approaches can do for a business, and we encourage you to read more on our blog about this new business mindset that is here to stay. 

Now that we’ve explored the case in sufficient depth, it’s time to draw a few conclusive remarks.


As we’ve seen in this post, there are many levels of interest in Brunello Cucinelli, a company that was able to take the values of Made in Italy to a new level.

The company’s branding strategy and focus on conspicuous austerity customers have not only given the brand a clear positioning statement but has allowed it to stand above the noise of many other luxury brands. If you’d like to read more about customer segmentation, here’s an article that explores the topic in depth. 

Among the characteristics that define Brunello Cucinelli, one of the most striking is connected to its impact-first approach, capable of moving beyond the traditional vision of Corporate Social Responsibility and getting to the point of potentially jeopardizing profits to benefit the broad set of stakeholders surrounding the company. 

If you’d like to read more about the models with which organizations pursue social and environmental change, we have an article for you right here.

Social impact and sustainability are very relevant topics in the context of fashion, if you’d like to learn more about how your fashion company can learn to assess its social and environmental impact, in this article we explore the topic in depth. 
There you have it! If you’d like to read more about the business of fashion and its overlap with social and environmental causes like the ones championed by Brunello Cucinelli, don’t hesitate to visit our blog to access a wealth of free resources.

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Brunello Cucinelli Case Study: The Conspicuous Austerity Customer In this post, we're looking at Brunello Cucinelli, a brand which is synonymous with class and unassuming style.
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