To be in luxury brand marketing. Or not to be in luxury brand marketing.
That is indeed a question right now.
Maybe philosophy can help us.
This is the first of three small reflections on the matter.
There is precedent for this:
In the past luxury companies have hired philosophers. Two years ago LVMH appointed Sophie Chassat to its board.
(Louis, Georges and Gaston-Louis Vuitton, lying down on a trunk-bed, pose with factory workers in front of a horse-drawn delivery van. Asnières, 1888.)
Chassat, an alumni of the Ecole Normale Supérieure-Ulm, holds France’s prestigious agrégation post-graduate qualification in philosophy.
The company said her academic background would enrich the board to which she would bring philosophical insight into societal changes. She said:
“Often it’s about looking at a problem from a different perspective to find original answers.”
This is not the first time this has happened. Lancôme once commissioned philosopher Vincent Cespedes to create the manifesto behind its “La vie est belle” perfume.
(Rose fragrance. The wine is better)
It is not as eccentric as it sounds.
Here we all are in luxury brand marketing, debating the meaning and purpose of our working lives, our strategies, campaigns, designs, copy writing, brand narratives but, right now, it might be good to know if we are serving a higher noble purpose.
It don’t mean a thing if it ain't got that swing.
We bandy around words about like innovation, unique, passion, core values all the time but we know people want to buy not just things, but meaning.
It seems to be a good time to understand why luxury still might seem like an acceptable route to a good life.
The implicit philosophy of luxury is that its very price condemns a huge section of society to feelings of incompleteness. Which breeds envy and division.
By definition ‘luxury’ is what a significant percentage of the population either cannot, or can only just (with huge effort) afford. That definition might need re-examining.
In the old, old, days.
Socrates was the first to articulate the concept of luxury. 2,400 years ago Socrates laid out a picture of an ideal peaceful city, in which every citizen’s needs - food, clothing, and shelter - would be met.
He envisaged a simple society in which everyone is satisfied, but to exceed that would cause injustice, poverty, or war.
But his fellow philosopher, Plato, disagreed, saying a city fit for humans should go beyond such bare necessities.
“People want to be luxurious, to be comfortable, lie on sofas, and dine off tables. And they should have sauces and sweets.”
Plato: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”
Socrates immediately replied that a luxurious state would probably have more injustice and illness —but he acknowledged it to be inevitable, given the depths of human desire. People would not be satisfied with the simplest food, clothing, and shelter.
He was the first to identify the need for humans to aspire to more than the essentials of food, clothing, and shelter.
Philosophically speaking, thinking of now and the future, we should be pleased he did.
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