The Changing Face of Luxury

The global concept of what a brand is, and what luxury is, is evolving.  This means new pressures on — and opportunities for — you.

In brief, Luxury concepts of “brand” are changing, becoming “interactive” in nature, involving or demanding a higher level of relationship between buyer and brand.
Guernsey cow

Guernsey cow (image courtesy US Library of Congress) – the latest in luxury leasing

This will drive new pressures onto you, your clients, and your clients’ clients.  Buying patterns will change.  Customer expectations will change.  What happens in the luxury space inevitably ripples outward and downward.
And the underlying emotional drives that animate luxury buyers are drives that all human share, regardless of their buying power.  By studying luxury, every brand can learn something useful.
Brands will be expected to deliver more of these five emotional experiences (read the article for details):
  1. Indulgence
  2. Belonging / Exclusivity
  3. Questing / Experiencing
  4. Doing Good / Purpose Driven
  5. Self Expression / “Brand Hacking”
Read the article for more.  The author, Ibrahim Ibrahim, owns a global branding firm named “Portland” even though it has no offices here in my home town.  That somehow makes me feel connected. 
Here are some ways you can harness these trends with your non-luxury buyer, or your customer’s need to appeal to their buyer:

Indulgence

Talk with your customer service team and ask for ideas on how your brand can deliver a little more indulgence — whatever that means in your industry — and gather ideas. Pick one to try for a few weeks, and measure the impact.
Alternatively, if your brand image is that you are low cost, high efficiency, and pass the savings to the customer, you can humorously use your non-indulgence as a selling point in your marketing — and remind customers that they money they save by using you, is money they can spend on some other indulgence.

Belonging and Exclusivity

 Your sales team and brand managers should have a thousand ideas here — look for ways to convey some unique additional value to your customers because of their membership in your circle of customers.

Questing and Experiencing

You already have the information, most likely, to start giving a customer a more enriched back story about your product.
A clever example from Ibrahim’s article: “…you can lease a cow and have the cheese made from its milk delivered to you personally (along with the story of how the milk used to make the cheese differs in flavour depending on the type of alpine herbs in the fields where the cow grazes).”
Small experiments here might include raiding the happy-customer-story files to see what back story elements resonate with them, or hiring a complete outsider to walk through your production process and share that experience with fresh eyes.
Consider the powerful impact of SSI’s “Shred of the Week” video series.  The maker of high end industrial shredders made a series of cheap videos where they shredded random objects (from bowling balls and soccer balls to entire vehicles) and generated massive brand awareness. Could a shredding service offer, for a modest fee, video footage of YOUR shreddable items being shredded?  The net cost would be trivial, and only the customer knows if they would value that or not.

Doing Good and Being Purpose Driven

You should already be sharing your glorious purpose with your staff.  Share it further.
For example, the Manager Tools brand promise is “Every Manager Effective” — which still gives me goose bumps and renews my desire to help them reach every manager.  I’ve mentioned Manager Tools at least 40 times in columns over the past 5 years — their content is excellent, however it’s the purpose that excites me.  I’m a customer who also evangelizes, because it makes me happy to share the purpose.  You could have that with your customers even more than you already do.

Self Expression and “Brand Hacking”

How can you customize the customer (or customer’s customer) experience?  What would they like? Spin up a small effort to monitor how your power users are hacking your product to make it cooler faster better.  (The outreach alone will probably delight your power users, giving them a happy jolt of “Belonging and Exclusivity” above.)
As with all experimental questions, remember to fail early and often, in small batches — and document your work.
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