(Feature image with thanks to Richard Boll)
Well, it's Summer 2021 and we still don’t know how it’s all going to pan out.
And the big brand trend conversations in luxury marketing....
Timelessness, craftsmanship, longevity, relevance, wellbeing as wealth, transparency, being engaging, customer-centric, buying ‘fewer but better’ ,value-led experiences, the positive addressing of sustainability, race, gender, the digital you-niverse, Asia, privacy, purpose, resale, local….it’s a mix of same old and New Normal as luxury continuously redefines itself, as does the market and the consumer.
But here we examine luxury psychology and research synthesising new thinking behind consumption of luxury objects. It offers some novel perspectives and makes interesting – if provocative – reading.
It highlights three motivations which shape consumers’ status-driven desire for luxury: biological, sociopsychological and structural.
Here's the headlines:
1. Testosterone is a biological driver of luxury consumption
Testosterone – associated with the need for status in animals and humans – increases the desire for luxury brands. Specifically, researchers found that administering testosterone increased men’s preference for luxury brands (e.g. Calvin Klein), but not non-luxury brands of similar quality (e.g. Levi’s).
2. Size might indeed matter
Another study showed how biological factors interact with social context in shaping the desire for luxury: males purchased more expensive products in the presence of another physically dominant male. This effect was stronger among customers shorter in height or with a high hand digit ratio (which is indicative of low levels of testosterone). These findings are consistent with the idea that evolutionary needs and mating goals uniquely alter consumers’ luxury consumption.
3. The right wing loves luxury
Conservatives attach more importance to maintaining status and so seek luxury because it enables them to vertically differentiate from others in the social hierarchy and to endorse their beliefs about the hierarchy’s legitimacy.
In contrast, Liberals differentiate non-hierarchically through unique and creative (typically non-luxury) consumption.
4. Lower socioeconomic tiers prefer ‘loud’ luxury product
For example, consumers with less experience in luxury (referred to as ‘luxury excursionists’), typically from lower socioeconomic tiers, prefer ‘loud’ luxury products with more prominent brand identifiers (e.g., logos). In contrast, those with greater expertise prefer ‘quiet’ luxury products with less prominent (or no) identifiers.
NB For a deeper dive, read Pierre Bourdieu/Cultural Capital.
This is because non-experts seek to be affiliated with more affluent and experienced groups, whereas experts seek to dissociate themselves from the mainstream.
5. Iconic or ephemeral Sir?
Luxury consumption is also expressed in buying iconic products (that have been part of luxury brand collections for decades) or ephemeral products (that change every season).
Both signal high status, but the latter creates a stronger perception that the buyer earned their status through effort (rather than inherited it from a privileged background), which, in turn, boosts the recognition bestowed on the consumer by observers.
6. Is fitness, or doing the garden, luxury?
As the scope of luxury consumption behaviour widens within and outside traditional categories, people have started to look beyond the usual signifiers of the meaning of luxury.
For example, people are increasingly investing in parenting, education, and health to acquire cultural capital and status recognition that were traditionally attained through luxury.
Some parents face pressure to send their children to elite schools, sign them up for extracurricular activities, and nurture their cultural to garner social status.
Likewise, eating and living healthily, and environmentally friendly behaviour might have become symbolic of high status.
For example, shopping at specialised grocery stores, paying for fitness equipment/classes, a gardener, using sustainable energy and materials are becoming sometimes associated with privilege and status.
7. It's complex
Luckily At Anew, we get it and what it means for luxury brand development strategy and creativity.
We 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 sustainability, outstanding quality and craft.
You can read more about us here
Drop us an email. Based in the heart of London, we'd be delighted to meet for a coffee, either face-to-face or virtually to discuss your brief.