Essential Elements of Luxury
For a few weeks now I have been following two new Instagram accounts; OneFineBid, the feed of an English magazine that features fine art, antiques and high end real estate properties in London and Europe; and Camper and Nicholsons, the feed of the well known mega-yacht company.
The houses and apartments on the OFB feed are uniformly gorgeous. Photographed in the super glossy style they are reminiscent of high-end magazine layouts. OFB allows its followers access to views of a highly desirable residential lifestyle.
The C&N feed has photographs of exclusive ports-of-call, mega-yachts and custom travel content for those whose lives — or spending habits — permit them to afford that lifestyle.
Both feeds get high marks for having high-end aspirational content. They are both textbook-perfect on the type of imagery that captures the Ultra High Net Worth lifestyle, perfectly.
Perusing these feeds and their content got me thinking about what are the essential elements to Luxury in 2016. We have constant access to examples of luxury products and lifestyles. We are now learning about luxury developments, having gained access to more of the Finest, the Mostest, the Ultra Plus. So what are the essential elements of Luxury? What elements need to be present in a product or service in order for it to be considered a Luxury product?
In the past, we covered the difference between a High Quality product and a Luxury product. As worldly consumers we have blurred the lines between these two distinctions. High Quality does not necessarily predestine Luxury. A Dolce & Gabbana dress might be made of luxurious materials but it is not considered at the same league as, say, a Chanel Haute Couture suit that is made-to-order from start to finish.
As Rob Campbell recently wrote: “The ‘luxury’ word has been hijacked by marketers and ad agencies to elevate the importance of their product — a product, that most of the time is only luxurious because of one thing: Price.”
To some people, Luxury is having access to a product or an experience not available to many. Recently, I received a brochure from Four Seasons advertising a 20-day private jet journey. It cost $160,000 per person. The brochure, printed on thick, luxurious paper stock was of a quality I call reassuringly expensive. Yet, the elements that made the experience feel “Exclusive” were absent. The copy to the description of the trip was high-tone. The invitation itself was not adequately personalized, making the experience sound rather nonexclusive. For such an expensive voyage, consideration could have been taken to beguile the recipient in to at least inquiring about the trip’s special features.
An essential element of Luxury is Exclusivity. How many luxury companies and products can make the claim they succeeded in making exclusive products in 2016? With the exception of a small number of watchmakers and one-of-a-kind watches, few others can make that claim.
Exclusivity often promotes desirability. We often read about celebrities who have access to seemingly endless rare and exclusive experiences. Trips to Cabo, together with other celebrity friends are openly shared on social media.
The other important element to Luxury is the image of Success. Financially successful individuals often prefer brands that are also successful businesses.
We can thus expect Prada, whose financial results are showing a decline in profits, to be falling out of preference with luxury consumers. Indeed Prada recently announced a lower priced line of leather accessories aimed at consumers who are reluctant to buying its higher end lines.
In promoting their own business success, luxury brands can often stay in the forefront of their target audience. A client at Pictet (the Swiss private bank of many UHNW individuals) is presumably also a client at Cartier, or even an investor in Richemont.
Few people know that Hermès makes custom linen covers for its custom leather luggage. The covers guarantee that the precious leather is not affected by scratches caused by careless handlers. It is allowed to weather gradually over time to a desirable luxurious patina. The function of those covers indeed is an extension of the service for which the brand is best known. Hermès ensures that by offering you this option, your considerable investment in its luggage is protected over time.
This brings us to another essential component of luxury, Service. A luxury purchase can be only considered with the brand’s ongoing promise of service and support to its customer. This promise guarantees his/her brand advocacy and dedication. The type of customer service befitting an established or aspiring luxury brand ought to be present at the concierge level.
Lately, innovations in digital technology have enabled luxury brands to extend their customer service beyond the point of purchase. An example of that practice is the Amble app by Louis Vuitton. Until recently Amble was updated with new travel trips by a roster of LV celebrities who are all well-versed in the art of travel and also have exclusive access to places and events.
Finally, Style is an element that is present in all luxury products, from Dunhill lighters, to Aston Martins to bespoke John Lobbs. Timelessness is evanescent to most fashion trends. A luxury product is often prepossessed of timeless style.
A luxury brand’s ability to offer minute refinements of its product represent a hallmark of the marque’s heritage. A legendary Luxury Brand is created around these lasting impressions.
Simoudis Image Design develops brand identity, brand strategy and digital marketing programs for exceptional brands. Our publication, Luxe Trends provides expert Monitoring, Analysis and Curation of the Luxury industry. Visuals by Territory.