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Luxury is characterized by striving to capture the best of us, whether that is expressed through the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the places we stay or the cars we drive. While the goal is to achieve and deliver on the best of the best, the definition of luxury is always changing, shaped by and shifting to meet consumer sentiment and behavior. Today, new defining criteria of luxury are emerging based on shifts in the scarcity of certain experiences and new priorities in consumer demand. Brands are able to charge a premium for privacy, security and anonymity—all characteristics of luxury experiences born in response to consumer demand in the age of big data.
But despite the shifts in what we view as luxury experiences, marketers have much to learn from the luxury category overall. Although the category is often perceived as out-of-reach, the art and science that inform luxury marketing can offer insights for all of us, regardless of where we fit within the spectrum.
Set impossibly high standards
Luxury marketing reminds us that, for consumers, the sky’s the limit. No matter how high you set your standards, the expectations of your audiences will typically exceed them. The best luxury marketer understands this and even capitalizes on it.
Luxury marketing creates theater through immersive experiences, surprising and delighting consumers by surpassing what they once thought possible. Apple has come to epitomize this focus, obsessively focusing on surpassing consumer expectations through a sustained focus on improving the experience at every touchpoint, with varying degrees of success but always in pursuit of elusive perfection. Across categories, we can see the marketing of premium products and services as providing the first—and finest—brand experiences to challenge the limits of personalization, reinvent service models and impress customers along the entire journey.
Celebrate the craft
Marketers working in the luxury category understand the power of inviting customers into the story of a product or service’s making. There’s an undeniable romance in the genesis of something: from the inspiration of the founder, the birth of the idea, the bespoke process that brings something into existence and the panoramic journey by which all of these experiences are delivered in the lives of consumers.
LVMH, one of most iconic names in luxury, has made high art of opening its doors to behind-the-scenes views of the ateliers where their goods are carefully crafted. Luxury brands have mastered the art of connecting their pioneering heritage with their powerful vision in new and relevant ways, and marketers can learn from this, tapping into the emotional needs of audiences with the functional motivators that inspire them to act.
Sweat the details
A defining characteristic of luxury marketing is an unwavering attention to detail, and that focus can be a lesson for any marketer trying to increase engagement across channels or audiences. As technology has empowered consumers to engage with brands any time in any place, luxury marketers are running fast to keep pace with the accompanying growing expectations. In an omnichannel world, elevating every moment has become more and more important. Consumers are expecting more responsive, adaptive and intuitive ways to shop, pay and share. Every touchpoint informs the overall customer experience and even the smallest gaffe can turn a brand loyalist into a negative reviewer.
Cultivate a following
Luxury marketing is built on an understanding of the balance of supply and demand. The best luxury marketers don’t cultivate exclusivity, but they do understand the need to define and be relentlessly committed to their mission and purpose. For many, Alice Waters has come to represent the height of what a restaurateur can accomplish, helping to revolutionize American cuisine by questioning what we eat, how we eat and then authoring a new recipe of celebration, sustainability and inclusion. This level of focus is synonymous with luxury brands’ commitment to being the best at who they are and what they do—and in turn, elevating the brand experience.
A benefit of this approach is that there is a scarcity to supply, which results in increased demand and margin. Luxury marketing has also perfected the model of offering their customers the ability to self-select among a collection of premium products and services, thereby providing a greater value for personalization and introducing a path to trade up. Luxury marketing wins on positioning (often an unapologetic point of view) and not on price.
Put on a show
The finest brands in luxury are born from the finest experiences, and their marketers know how to deliver. Luxury marketing enables consumers to interact with products and services through immersive brand experiences, acknowledging that the experience exists for the consumer and that the role of the marketer is not to sell but rather to educate and inspire. Brands as diverse as Tom Ford to Tesla understand that consumers desire engaging in the wonder of design and theater of experience. The greatest luxury are those experiences that belong to none of us but instead to all of us. In this spirit of celebrating the best in life, luxury’s great lessons for marketers may be to strive to be the best at what you do while celebrating the moment.
If luxury brands make it look easy, then they’re succeeding. Getting the nuances right is something that even the most seasoned luxury marketers spend years perfecting. But with a unique story to tell and an innate, sometimes data-driven understanding of who we’re speaking to, marketers can assume a luxury mindset. With the right platform and the right audience, the passion that lies at the heart of any brand will shine through, making the hard work seem effortless and perfectly natural, and therefore, making the brand more desirable.