What do luxury brands stand for today

Dec 12, 2019 | Pulse

Historically, luxury brands anchored their identities in exclusivity, high fashion, status and prestige. However, in a landscape where consumer’s needs and realities are shifting, these values are shifting too, adopting a more human-first approach to connect and build trust.

Luxury needs its own new meaning in an emerging human era.

Luxury might no longer be in the industry of newness but continues to be in the business of appealing to ‘human’ needs. Social shifts and tensions today are impacting the luxury segment in a big way. This creates a strong case for why luxury brands need stories that are rooted in social tensions.

Examples of such shifts:

1. The search for social currency has been replaced by ‘social identity’

– Today luxury brands are not acquired for status alone, instead consumers want to relate with the ethos, spirit, passion and point of view that a brand owns. This is creating a shift from ‘objectified’ to ‘empathised’ luxury codes.

Louis Vuitton’s collaboration with Supreme brings with it values of ‘street fashion subculture’ into the brand world, allowing the younger millennials to engage with the brand beyond it’s premium imagery.

2. Greater cultural influences coming from brands outside traditional luxury

– Brands that operate outside the boundaries & definitions of luxury are unburdened by the ways of luxury business and look at luxury codes with the fresh eyes of the modern luxury consumer, giving birth to various sub cultures within the premium/luxury space.

Veil Fluid Makeup, rocketed the brand Hourglass to success and went completely VEGAN. Owning a strong point of view was central to the brand’s ambition to get ahead of the luxury movement. “Luxury is a combination of innovation and integrity, and our values have always been exemplified in our commitment to creating cruelty-free products,” CEO Carisa Janes.

3. Modern brands using relevant stories to connect with the ‘user’

– These brands are building businesses on the cultural language and direct relationship with consumers. Their ethos, values and purpose become their zeitgeist to fight off ‘transactional’ codes or digital commodification.

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Aesop’s Fable: The Skincare company that puts culture first. Aesop roots its brand story in the philosophy of balanced life. “We value all human endeavours undertaken with intellectual rigour, vision and a nod to the whimsical,” is Aesop’s philosophy and it’s retail. Website and products live and breathe this brand idea.

Paradigm shifts like these are giving birth to new luxury codes that connect with human needs anchored in today’s social context.

Today’s luxury user consumes a strong point of view, compelling beliefs and values they can relate to. Falling in love with the product is a part of the process.

Kenzo opted for a bold campaign that embraced the idea of ‘breaking stereotypes’ by portraying the emotional complexities & impulses of a woman on screen. This broke clutter within the category as well as created conversations beyond. The campaign won Titanium at Cannes as well.

These new movements and shifts are making luxury brands reimagine the way they communicate themselves, design products, retail or do business.

Lancome celebrated the idea of ‘diversity’ age, race, religion and talent. This was also translated into it’s products as well, for example, 40 shades of foundation.

Stella McCartney “Clevercare” video series celebrated Earth Day April 22 with tips on how to maintain Stella McCartney clothes and ways to minimise a consumer’s carbon footprint. The six-part series takes an unconventional approach for most luxury brands by making the films highly comedic in nature.

Uncovering relevant social tensions that a brand can own and embody is the way forward in enabling luxury brands to predict stories & narratives of the future that are taking birth today and that will be relevant for brands in the luxury category.

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