(Feature image with thanks to Fortnum & Masons: Platinum Pudding winners)
We attended the 2022 Luxury Summit this week, put on by the wonderful Walpole.
It was a stimulating, informative, day. And they called it right with a range of speakers who addressed the core issues facing the industry right now. Macro to micro.
From the Ukraine to the success of Fortnum & Mason’s British #PlatinumPudding competition
Quotes, reflections, observations…
1. The Big Picture
War, geo-politics, food crisis, post Covid, US midterms, China, hybrid WFH, climate change, crops, energy, ESG, product supply … it all has an effect. We learn that the world is chaotic, cruel and profoundly unfair; that terrible things happen to good people, while bad people get away with murder. The pressure on brands is immense. Analytics and data is becoming more important, but you still need an emotional analogue quality. It’s called human feel.
Society is looking to brands to fill the void and people are expecting them to lead on solving society’s problems. However, audiences are more connected, cynical, and equipped to block messaging than ever before.
Authentic, real, communication has never been more important or harder to achieve.
For luxury consumers consumer, fun, joy and seizing the day is what is needed. (See ‘Return of the 1920’s blog’). They are now less willing to compromise. They want convenience, comfort – and are exhausted by the last two years.
We all are.
(Image with thanks to Hero)
2. Climate change
When luxury brands moved in the 1990s from small family-run brands to global publicly-traded conglomerates, their raison d’être, and greatest selling point, shifted from what the item is to what it represents.
They also started to focus primarily on elite customers democratising luxury, meaning bringing it to the middle market consumer.
This has reaped enormous financial benefits for those companies. However, the impact on planet and humanity has been enormous as well.
'You can’t have infinite growth on a finite planet.’ (D. Attenborough). Luxury is working hard in sustainable sourcing, traceability and transparency, de-growth. Brands that don’t take those changes seriously will not survive.
There are some amazing start-ups in sustainability. Two examples: Demetra/Gucci. A sustainable substitute for leather.
And this from Pangaia, while not traditional luxury, shows fashion turned into 'material science'.
3. Luxury working together
We were struck by how helpful and supportive all the speakers were to each other. The usual anxieties about competition seemed to be replaced with collaboration, working together, and a desire for the common good.
4. Learning from the hotel and hospitality industry
We noted several luxury brands are learning how the hotels do ‘know thy customer’ especially how ‘soft power’ knowledge and information is quickly passed up and across a business chain.
5. Using your staff imaginatively
'During Covid we used our shop sales staff to man the online sales site. Sales increased by 60% because the customers were talking to real experts. We have now built that into our model’
You knew it would come up. Forget the crypto meltdown. There was a view that lux pre-pandemic was complacent. This view says we now have a more approachable, more innovative version of luxury. Which excites some.
The rise of NFTs and virtual realms have forced a re-inspection of status and value. Like the value of nutmeg or cloves in the Middle Ages (you could buy a ship with a handful) through to the value ascribed to modern art:
Also, context and community matter more than ever for brands. It takes constant energy and work. Your brand is very much the sum of its interactions and web 3 means there are many other interesting ways to gamify engagement.
NFT’s will solve real issues luxury brand owners and consumers face: authenticity, verification of ownership, transparency, quality assurance and storage. Believers say the future of purchasing, collecting and investing is centred around communities – and this is very appealing to the luxury sector. Read more here on the subject in our latest blogs 'Metaverse Matters' and '15 ways NFT's might be used'.
It's now 'on the inside'. The logo is the beginning of your story: it encompasses the product, the brand presentation and the way you do business.
8. The luxury sector is full of healthy tensions
- Luxury is a celebration of craft and design. Luxury should lighten a mood, but how this is framed is the difference between fun, fame and faux-pas. Finding a balance between confident, purposeful creative thinking and a sensitive and well-thought approach is becoming a fine line to tread
- Convenience. But that can also mean no emotional connection
- Informality. Like low/high fashion/culture combinations
9. Luxury is not only the holy mantras of authenticity, provenance, history, craftsmanship, quality, scarcity, cultural capital…
Luxury is can also be provocative and challenging. It can also be:
- Being unnecessary
- Privacy. One of the new desires of luxury . At Maison Estelle. they put tape over your mobile camera. No pictures. No social media, no website, no ads. nothing
- Being contradictory
- Being effortless
- About ownership to subscription
- About gaming. It’s predicted to be the largest media category ahead of streaming, TV, web…everything
- Founding spirits. They’re more important than history or heritage
- Design now being inspired by Metaverse and neon tech
(Image with thanks to Architectural Digest)
10. The word luxury is not luxury
We need a new word
So, who will help you navigate the new 'luxury' (until a better word comes along)
We will help your brand develop a presence in the Real World – and the Metaverse if you need it.
Anew are brand development and marketing specialists for ambitious businesses of excellence. Whether it’s insight from research, strategic brand thinking, a new brand name and logo design, messaging, online and offline content or website development, 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.
Based in the heart of London, we'd be delighted to meet for a coffee, either face-to-face or virtually, to discuss any new projects you might be considering.
Get in touch here.
Blog sources: Walpole 2022 Luxury Summit speakers.