If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.
Wit, humour and elegance used to characterise luxury brand communications. Have we reached a time when brands re-discover these qualities, having got bored with the usual luxury narrative and tone?
There was a time when luxury brand marketing offered more than a pack shot, or a site with a film depicting soft focus vineyards, a designer at the jewellery bench with gnarled hands, and a blog scattered with SEO golden nuggets.
The new discerning luxury customer – according to Deloitte, Millennials and Generation Z are predicted to represent more than 40% of the overall luxury goods market by 2025, compared with around 30% in 2016 – cannot be so easily fooled by hyperbolically gushing site copy, forum threads and blog comments selling the latest luxury branding consultancy nirvana:
Lovingly chiselled and hand-crafted at dawn, with the finest Dalbergia wood shavings, as the sunlight slowly infuses the surrounding hills with the wondrousness of nature, by designers/artisans/saddle makers/tailors whose inspiration is our blessed founder, and great grandfather, using ingredients/recipes/designs - passed down through the generations and for which we go to the ends of this precious earth to source. If that means it costs the earth in materials, packaging, time and the sleepless nights keeping the whole show on the road, while dreaming up new styles, new directions, new campaigns, new marketing.. so be it.
Luxury copywriters and image makers tried to reflect luxury brands’ craftsmanship, authenticity and provenance with some wit and insight.
Yes, sounds like an old story - brand narrative - but this is no misty-eyed, rose tinted glasses look-back.
Fatigue and boredom in the face of relentless launches of me-too products will result in some form of luxury brand consumer revolt.
Some brands are to be applauded and get it.
They have bought back humour.
It has always been a wonder why, for decades, successful, intelligent, high achievers buying luxury, have mostly been fed with a diet of boring close-ups with no real creative idea other than the product itself.
The old guard
Let’s briefly applaud some Old Masters before applauding the New Wave. Some well known, some vintage, some pre-loved, some legacy, all hand crafted….
With big respect and thanks to Stuff from the Loft
A new way forward
One luxury brand that aims to disrupt is watchmaker H.Moser & Cie.
Bravely it has turned traditional luxury watch marketing on its head.
While H. Moser & Cie still manufactures luxury watches, its content is based around making fun at the watch industry. By using humour and creating a different relationship with its audience, it has opened up the brand (and the world of luxury watches) to younger consumers.
But we come to praise Caesar not bury him. To misquote a phrase.
We love luxury brands here.
We strategise, copywrite, design, research, create, refresh and build them with great success. See examples here.
30 years in brand communications, we care about luxury branding
Artisanship and craftsmanship are hallmarks of robust, confident, successful civilisation.
And we need that to continue.
Creative directors and designers should love luxury too: luxury brands set themselves up for generations, not just the next campaign. There is sometimes more freedom working on luxury brands than you get working for FMCG brands. You get closer to the people that make the important decisions. Smaller clients don’t have the market research infrastructure and therefore have to trust the creative more.
So, let’s restate some of the Golden Rules*
- We sell emotions, stories, connections- the world doesn’t need another watch or piece of jewellery.
- We sell something for people to talk about – why would people pay thousands otherwise etc.
- ‘Aspiration’ is losing relevance.
- Status or heritage is not enough. Uniqueness and quality are far more important, and in-store purchasing is now being trumped by online.
- Luxury brands need to lead with meaning. Because, in luxury, the gap between the functional value of a product and the symbolic value of a brand is the greatest in comparison to any other market category.
- Serious brand personas can be turned into something a little more light-hearted. Self- deprecation, humour and irony might have a role in the marketing mix.
- Exclusivity is still important. Of course. A sense of ‘community’ has always been strong and people -more than ever – want to belong. They want to share/show off/reassure themselves throughout the various life stages with brands that reflect their values and interests.
- The very idea of luxury as it exists in the general cultural imagination today has been abused to such an extent as to become virtually meaningless.
- But still, everybody wants some luxury. It’s a tough world and if you can, you want to be complimented on your taste, style and discernment. As long as it doesn't cost too much. So brands need to make the price as painless as possible.
- The rich like a deal
- New luxury brand shoppers are aware there’s often a big difference between price and revelation. In some cases, you don’t get what you pay for. Brands need a good story to justify a price premium.
- We buy luxury on the assumption that they will somehow make us express what we could otherwise never say in words, to reflect our best selves, to surrender ourselves to a dream we want to reflect, a persona we want to be, a uniquely personal story we wish to tell without words.
- We all need our dreams. We all long for better. We all want to tell our own life narratives.
As Don Draper said:” Do you want the door open or closed?” “Open.”
(*Apologies to Larry David)
Anew are brand development and marketing specialists for ambitious businesses of excellence. We help companies increase brand profitability through sharper insights, distinctive propositions, creative ideas and faultless execution. We are particularly adept at working directly with luxury brands, business owners, start-ups and entrepreneurs who are committed to outstanding quality and craft.
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