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The DNA of Luxury: Defining Desire With Consumers

To create aspiration, we often hear “luxury” associated with many products and brands. Luxury cars. Luxury vacations. Luxury shoes. Marketers seemingly hope that this elevation into “luxury” maintains recession-proof sales. But what exactly does it mean to be a luxury brand? How do we create luxury? And what must it include (or not include) for the consumer?

“Success in luxury rarely comes without a story, and ideally a myth,” according to Paul McGowan of Added Value. This is how brands justify celebrity cachet, selective distribution and a solid marketing strategy to push iconic identity. “If a luxury brand exhibits these attributes, by and large the cool police, the luxury consumers and the analysts are happy,” McGowan said at Added Value.

A fantastic example of a luxury brand pushing its iconic identity was in “L’Odyssée de Cartier” video. The panther, shown as the ever-present aesthetic icon of Cartier, goes on a whimsical journey between dream and reality highlighting the many facets of the brand’s history.

Pierre Adenot composed the original score of this three and a half minute short film. This film took 60 on-set crew members in addition to 50 special effect technicians working six months on the post-production. The stunning visuals shown in the video above were aimed to elevate the brand to existing luxury consumers and entice new markets.

A more recent example of a brilliant luxury marketing campaign that pushes the boundaries of reality is none other than Alexander McQueen’s fall/winter 2012 film. Sarah Burton’s brilliant designs come to life as David Sims directed this trippy and futuristic video below. Suvi Koponen dances with her McQueen metal eye mask in front of a world of abstract exploding colors, seemingly out of an fantasy fashion rave.

diamond rings

Forevermark is large scale diamond retailer backed by De Beers who is having success when breaking into new markets like China through the use of clever marketing campaigns.

And of course, when it comes an iconic marketing push, it’s impossible not to reference Chanel. Selective distribution, celebrity branding (e.g. Brad Pitt landing a spot as the first actor to represent Chanel’s No. 5 perfume), and an incredibe story behind Coco Chanel’s destiny are all attributes that define Chanel as a desirable luxury brand. To wear a pair of Chanel pearls or a tweed Chanel jacket shows to the world that not only are you a luxury consumer, but you’re apart of Coco Chanel’s story.

Defining luxury, though, is often in the eye of the consumer. At its core, luxury must focus on the consumer motivation: the need to feel more desirable. After research in different markets commissioned by Walpole and undertaken by Added Value, consumers expressed their relationship with luxury in five different ways:

  1. I feel taller.
    2. I feel sexier.
    3. I command respect.
    4. I live my dream.
    5. I feel complete.

Since the motivation for luxury is to reach and/or create desire, the behavior of the consumer works in interesting ways. According to their findings, the main elements that drive luxury consumers are to “show” and to “know.” In other words, the luxury consumer’s motivation is about elevating and/or maintaining themselves to a desirable position. The research took place in emerging markets, China and Russia, as well as three established markets for luxury brands: Japan, USA and UK.

According to Abigail Bray, head of luxury Practice at Added Value London, “In the UK, consumers like to think they know their luxury and many of them enjoy showing it. US consumers are pretty well versed [in luxury brands] and they definitely like to show it. Japanese consumers can be amongst the most knowledgeable, [and] in the main they wear their knowledge with discretion.”

For the Chinese consumer, in general, its about status and show driving motivation. We’ve come to learn that luxury fashion in China has become an external expression of China’s reemergence as the leading power.