(Jeff Koons and his £3000 bag)
Luxury brands are complex. Many say a mix of smoke and mirrors, A fantasy world, a place where customers feel valued and flattered. We trade in historic capital, visually propped by the arts and culture. We make ‘creations’ not products.
As much thought goes into the Brand marketing, messaging, copywriting, narratives, design, imagery, brand strategy, research, strategic brand thinking, brand names, logo design, online/offline content, and website development communications campaigns as the product itself.
The good, the bad, the luxurious
Let’s step back. The background of luxury is extraordinary. Debate over its very existence has, troubled religion, politics, and the law for time immemorial: matters of moral corruption, sin, lack of control, excess to name but a few – and now, rightly, environmentalists and green activists.
All that, BUT balanced with The Good Things: beauty, design, innovation, the world’s best craftsmen, authenticity, and entrepreneurial courage.
And always success. Luxury has never failed whatever disease, war, depression or unrest has been flung at it.
Recession proof, it sees off economic downtown. It will see off Covid.
Here are SIX observations on how luxury continues to survive:
1. Get the language right
We have always liked our words as opulent and crafted as the products we are selling. Everything should taste delicious, be sumptuous, is lusciously fragranced, hand crafted, timeless, exquisitely finished and made to last forever.
We live in a haze of ultra-luxurious, the best quality, five-star, private, premium, world-class. We want elevated excellence and superiority.
Luckily things are changing: the virus, SEO, and most importantly a new kind of consumer need a different form of language. One that communicates humility, kindness, compassion, and depth of expertise.
We shall return to this in the next blog. Meanwhile we note it all with great interest.
2. Get the aura and ambience right
We understand how important history and backstory is. How the cues of art and culture ennoble a brand and customer. To create the right aura you have get it as authentic and pure as possible.
Thus, channelling the cultural essayist Benjamin Walter. He famously wrote ("The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction") that art loses its traditional and ritualistic value – its “aura” - if the environment is not as authentic as possible.
Think of that when you see the simulated perfection of classical imagery n’ props next time you’re on Bond St or the Champs Elysée.
3. Power and status. It's still a thing
So many car, yacht, plane, diamond, mad castle (King Ludwig: exploring castles.com/Europe, and ‘Thing’ stories to choose from.
Here is a new one for me: 1626, France, and violinists were rare. Violins were incredibly expensive. Most music ensembles had only one. Louis XIII thought that he’d have 24 of these rare special people. Because he could. Because it showed his power. Les Vingt-quatre Violons du Roi were therefore created for his showcase events at Versailles.
Each member of the Vingt-quatre Violons had to have an impeccable reputation and had to be Roman Catholic. Their privileges included tax exemption and the right to carry a rapier. These were mighty privileges at the time.
And that is what the 24 violins were: a musical institution with power. The director of the 24 Violins even had the title – "King of the Violin." A strong title to give to someone at Versailles.
For classical music buffs: the Vingt-quatre Violons played with the wind instruments of the Grande Écurie, the royal stables, and were available for hunting, war, all celebratory open-air occasions. They’d have done Bar Mitzvahs but they were a little thin on the ground then.
A combination that became in fact the world’s first true orchestra, as that term is understood in Western art music.
4. Craftsmanship - still important after all these years
c. 1765 - c. 1770. early 19th century. Oak veneered with ebony and contre-partie Boulle marquetry of turtleshell and brass, gilt bronze, gilt brass, walnut, amaranth, pinewood (partly stained), bleu turquin marble, steel. A rectangular, break-fronted cabinet veneered with ebony and contre-partie Boulle marquetry and mounted with gilt bronze. The front is divided into three panels corresponding to the doors of the three cupboards behind. There are three gilt bronze figurative reliefs on the front depicting Bacchus, the Flaying of Marsyas and Ceres and on the sides Flora and Hiems. The top is of bleu turquin marble.
Now that’s what I call a product description.
See here for more exquisite handiwork at the Wallace Collection here
5. Learn something new and luxury is legitimised
What to make of the wine reviewers describing aromas of rich dark currants laden with mocha, loamy soil, charred herbs, pencil shavings, roasted hazelnut, nectarine skins, gushing blackberry, fragrant tobacco, rich soil, white flowers, smashed minerals and metal? Who knew that a wine could be “broad-shouldered” or “sinewy”?
At the same time...
Easy to make fun of to be sure. The serious point is luxury customers do want acquire information if it’s real, has conviction and authority.
It gives a purchase talk value, adds a range of deeper psychological values and attributes to a buyer’s character - learn more about that here.
6. Understand the contradiction
At its core is this: if luxury loses its lustre it loses its differentiation. So, an element of artifice must be built into the business model. This includes high pricing. The challenge is to bring the buyer along with you.
People will buy into this and the fantasy it might offer provided it rewards back with the sufficient rational – most importantly emotional and psychological cues.
And to make it more confusing, part of it is a game. Brands can be playful. See fashion ads. A beautiful example of taking things seriously and not seriously at the same. Humour disarms and makes a world appealing.
As Peter York wryly observed: “Luxury is a business model. If you are a luxury brand, the thing that you make is the brand."
Luckily, at Anew, we get it:
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.