For Marketers: Thoughts On Luxury

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The latest Frisk (our British brethren's takes on today's trends) focuses on an oft-contested subject in life (and most certainly marketing): luxury. …

The latest Frisk (our British brethren's takes on today's trends) focuses on an oft-contested subject in life (and most certainly marketing): luxury.

Inside Frisk, LB London gives its take on luxury's democratization, trends in wearables, and why the buzzword is more of a state of mind than a price on a tag.

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  • 1. Frisk Special: LUXURY March 2014
  • 2. Hi there. Welcome to the latest Frisk special. If you missed the last one, these newsletters act as a showcase of the thinking that goes on within the venerable red bricks of Leo Burnett London. Frisk has been running for some time as a weekly internal newsletter, with the first edition of each month centring around a particular theme. We recently decided to externalise these specials because, well, we’re nice like that. So the first one was about WOMEN, and this one has a LUXURY theme. That’s right, luxury. As you may be aware, we’ve got a whole in-house wedge of premium-oriented thinkers in the form of Atelier; this newsletter contains much from them, but also otherwhere. You see, we’re not just talking about luxury in the sense of Riva speedboats and penthouses full of Cristal, but what the notion of luxury actually means in an everyday sense, across all levels of the social strata. You’ll see what I mean. We begin with a thinkpiece from Canvas8 entitled ‘Premium vs. Luxury: How Luxury Is Fighting Back’, which is a nice gritty feature. We then move on to ‘Luxury: The Human Story Behind Its Resilience’, from our very own Atelier experts. Then it’s over to LSN who have a few global examples of modern luxury for us, a look at Digi-Luxe from one of our LB LDN Planners, and then a few little Snapshots to round things off. I sincerely hope that you enjoy what you read. If so – or indeed, if not – do be sure to fire some feedback into the Twittersphere: the handle’s @LeoBurnettLDN. See you next month for more of this bejewelled thinkery. Daniel Bevis Senior Knowledge Editor Leo Burnett London
  • 3. We work closely with Canvas8, a deep-dive insight network who ‘make the complex simple by helping us make the simple significant’. This ‘Premium vs.Luxury’ piece deals with one of the dichotomies of modern life – just what does luxury actually mean today? With premium threatening to steal its consumer base, luxury is forced to carve out a new space. But with perceptions of value changing rapidly, just how is it going to define itself? Luxury and premium may be highly subjective terms but there is no denying the recent emergence of a new contender in the upper echelons of the market. Premium, unlike luxury, is the product of its time: democratic, technically innovative and performance led. In such a context, luxury is forced to reconsider and reassert its own relevance. From catering to individualism and speaking local languages, to the provision of exclusive experiences and combining heritage and digital values, we survey some of the avenues open to luxury. PREMIUM VS LUXURY: HOW LUXURY IS FIGHTING BACK A NEW BENCHMARK In a 2009 blog post, bestselling author and entrepreneur Seth Godin provided a simple definition of premium: “Premium goods... are expensive variations of commodity goods. Pay more, get more.” [1] The rise of premium goods in recent years has been fast and formidable, as informed consumers – empowered by new research devices and information sources – demand more and more from the everyday products they consume. [2] In a global marketplace, the quality of output must rise accordingly. Brands polarise – popularly known as ‘death of the middle’ – meaning that, for many consumers, premium has become a new benchmark. [3] And once people become accustomed to asking for better and getting it, brands are confronted with an attitude that can be hard to reverse. image © Achim Hepp, Creative Commons (2009)
  • 4. As author Kristina Wilson explained in New York Times article ‘Design Loves a Depression’, “American designers took the Depression as a call to arms... It was a chance to make good on the Modernist promise to make affordable, intelligent design for a broad audience.” [4] In many ways, the rise of premium goods during the current recession provides an easy analogy. In the same article, Michael Cannell, founder of thedesignvote.com, states his case: “Modernism’s great ambition was to democratise design. Ikea and Target have shown that the battle for cheap design can be won. The emphasis will most likely shift to greater quality at affordable prices. This time around it will be the designer’s job to discourage consumers from regarding that $30 Ikea side table as a throwaway item.” [4] From high street / designer collaborations to the democratisation of the smartphone, mid-range brands everywhere are stepping up their game – it would certainly seem that Cannell’s prediction, made in 2009, has come true. A PRODUCT OF RECESSION image © Apple (2013) A 2011 survey by Added Value found that premium brands are perceived to have seven defining qualities: “less ostentatious, more accessible, more modern, more rational, best in class, sleeker in design, and precision in fabrication.” [5] There is a very clear emphasis here on performance over appearance – a move towards stylish substance (or substantial style). Consumers are willing to invest in premium goods during a recession precisely because – in keeping with an increased interest in preparedness – they want something that, above all, works well. [6] Responding to this new set of priorities, many higher-end smartphone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung have adopted a new premium look that prizes function over form – an austere, albeit stylish, aesthetic that almost ‘vanishes’ the medium altogether, characterised by smooth lines and a monochrome palette. As emphasis on technology performance shifts increasingly from hardware to services, this will be reflected in their design. INVESTING IN PERFORMANCE
  • 5. THE RISE OF AUTHENTICITY; THE DECLINE OF SHOULDER PADS In stark contrast to the perceived practical benefits of premium, luxury goods are widely considered “needlessly expensive” – because, as Godin explains, “price is not related to performance. The price is related to scarcity, brand and storytelling. Luxury goods are organised waste. They say, ‘I can afford to spend money without regard for intrinsic value.’” [1] Michael Cannell paints a vivid picture of this kind of ostentatious superficiality when he recounts a scene from a pre-recession furniture fair: “Marcel Wanders, a Dutch designer known for arty provocations, held a thumping party to show off his 15-foot-high lamps and other furniture of distorted Alice-in-Wonderland scale. Never mind that his work was upstaged by his girlfriend, Nanine Linning, who hung upside down half-naked while mixing vodka drinks from bottles affixed to a chandelier. Form followed frivolity. Function was left off the guest list.” Cannell goes on to criticise Wanders for a glamorous aesthetic that no longer responds to the true needs of society. [4] http://youtu.be/85XU7SizykE LUXURY GOODS AND HOLLOW CONSUMPTION In the context of a recession, such decadence is easily perceived as tasteless and divisive. In a 2010 article for Canvas8, anthropologist Krystal D’Costa reported that “wealthy consumers are conscious of the public’s disapproval of displays of wealth during recession,” leading to the rise of “subtle displays of wealth” on Wall Street. [7] Retailers have embraced this new trend to maintain luxury sales, with Gucci relegating its iconic GG bags to the back of the shop in favour of the ‘New Jackie’, a timeless wardrobe essential, and understated fashion brands like Celine and Martin Margiela (which eschews labels altogether in favour of a small white cross-stitch) coming into their own. Even emerging markets, like China and India, are turning away from conspicuous consumption quicker than many had anticipated – a sign of what some are calling ‘logo fatigue’. [8] In 2011, steps were taken to remove words like ‘regal’ and ‘luxury’ from Beijing billboards, in what David Wolf of communications advisory agency Wolf Group Asia called “a campaign against ostentation.” China Daily described the new legislation as protective of social harmony – because the pernicious belief that ‘wealth is dignity’ was guaranteed to upset low-income residents. [9] In a 2009 article for Canvas8, Marco Bevolo claimed that “The luxury market is in complete disruption. Because luxury is built on the aspiration of people within cultural norms, and the current massive crises has destabilised these norms.” [10] A substantial report published by the UK arm of the World Wildlife Fund in 2007 expands further on this theme: “The definition of success – and the way it is perceived by others – is changing.” It anticipates – interestingly, from a pre-recession perspective – a move towards “a new type of luxury whose deeper values are fully embodied in the sourcing, manufacture, marketing and distribution of products and service,” driven by “an affluent, global elite that is increasingly well educated and concerned about social and environmental issues.” [11] This is all part and parcel of a move towards a deeper definition of luxury, inspired by premium and its apparently better value. CHANGING VALUES AND REDEFINING SUCCESS image © The Chalk Room at Hostem (2013)
  • 6. INDIVIDUALISM AND BESPOKE ArecentarticleinTheGuardiancoveredthegrowing popularity of bespoke fashion consumption amongst everyone from business women to the Duchess of Cambridge. “In a homogenised world, where we can order Burberry’s and Topshop’s latest collections as we watch a live stream of their runway shows, and every capital city features the same glass-fronted, glossy temples to expensive designer brands, this is the antithesis of the marketing and hype surrounding what we traditionally know as luxury labels,” writes Karen Kay. [13] Bespoke aside (and it’s worth noting that couture is also undergoing a significant revival), luxury labels – through scarcity, false or otherwise – are able to meet a growing demand for individualism. The Chalk Room in London’s East End, for example, provides customers with a unique experience by customising any item from suiting to S&M gear, whilst customisation tools like Bespoke Burberry take luxury brands back to their roots by letting customers design their own coats using over 2 million different features. The successful launch of Hermès Chinese luxury brand Shang Xia, alongside an intimate exhibition celebrating the history of China’s culture, certainly testifies to this. [14] Notably, in 2011, Hermès also launched an exclusive range of saris to the Indian market, whilst way back in 2003, Louis Vuitton commissioned artist Takashi Murakami to create a colourful monogrammed bag as a tribute to its formidable Japanese market. [15][16] In this way, luxury brands, unlike their premium rivals, are able to cater to local values and tastes through their emphasis on performance and functionality that appeals to an international audience. Exclusive ‘unhotel’ service onefinestay proves just how attractive local luxury, whether at home or abroad, can be. [17] http://vimeo.com/5198631 So where does this leave luxury as it seeks to redefine itself against premium? Forbes outlines the ‘luxury advantage’ and the reasons for its enduring success: “Luxury brands know how to create and foster emotional value. It’s this distinction that enables them to continue to live so large, even in a time of constricted budgets. What luxury brands do well is exhibit clear brand values that lead to a meaningful emotion.” [12] But with premium promising something more tangible, will emotional values suffice? And what are they, anyway? INSIGHTS AND OPPORTUNITIES LOCAL LUXURY LANGUAGES Talking about China, David Wolf describes “a pushback against things Western... There is the desire to see those Western things take a lesser role in the development of Chinese culture.” [9] INSIDE TRACK AND LUXURY EXPERIENCES Increasing democratisation means that luxury has struggled to maintain the exclusivity that distinguishes it from premium offerings. To quote Luxury Society’s manifesto: “The definition of luxury has changed considerably in recent years. No longer the privileged domain of the happy few, it is an eclectic, competitive and highly developed marketplace.” [18] Yet whilst democratisation expands consumer bases, it significantly impacts mystique. As Walpole’s deputy chairman Guy Salter put it, “our products have become more accessible and by definition less exclusive... it is this, our very success, that imperils us.” [11]
  • 7. TAPPING INTO HERITAGE The challenge for luxury brands is to simultaneously maintain a high profile and a sense of exclusivity. Though this may sound paradoxical, it’s not impossible thanks to consumer streaming – take, for example, the very different experience afforded by watching a backstage Fashion Week tweet walk versus attending an actual show. The London Louis Vuitton store may often find itself overladen by tourists, but the invite-only apartment above it ensures that valued buyers still feel special. This, in turn, ties into luxury experiences – a genuinely exclusive commodity that premium brands can only emulate on a large scale. The All New Range Rover experience sees customers picked up at home and chauffeur-driven to Solihull, immersed in the brand’s heritage and history, and treated to “augmented reality, projection mapping, 3D stuff.... all the bells and whistles,” in order to justify the car’s six figure price tag. To quote Tim Hill in The Guardian: “A true luxury brand has license to add another zero to the price tag because price just isn’t important. It’s the experience of the brand that you buy into.” [19] Threatened by premium, luxury brands have traditionally fallen back on heritage discourses as proof of value and expertise. After all, longevity – or ‘timelessness’ – is a major part of their appeal. For fashion houses, this may mean a high profile foray into their own archives or an overt demonstration of expertise, such as an exhibition showcasing 10 different Hermès crafts recently staged at the Saatchi Gallery. Champagne brand Dom Perignon celebrates its own experience through its Oenotheque vintage, which is released from the cellars only when the ‘chef de cave’ deems it ready to consume. As an article from luxury phone maker Aesir’s magazine Taenker explains: “In a world where so much is available so quickly and so cheaply, expertise matters... In fact, the expertise is the luxury.” [20] Yet as the WWF-UK perceptively states, heritage is not a long-term strategy. “Luxury brands need to see heritage as an evolving phenomenon, and work at contemporary heritage creation, by shaping the future proactively.” [11] This is most particularly the case when seen in the light of one of luxury’s greatest perceived flaws – a lack of innovation when it comes to adapting to the digital world. Whilst consumers may balk at the impermanence of electronic objects, the supremacy of performance over all other considerations means an emphasis on longevity will no longer suffice. The challenge for luxury, then, is to integrate technology into its offering whilst maintaining its core values – difficult, but not impossible. A Canvas8 article on luxury mobile phones applauds the Ulysse Nardin’s Chairman model, which marries a traditionally luxurious exterior – replete with precious materials and heritage references – with a special programme that allows subscribers to their phones in twice yearly for software and hardware upgrades. In this way, it marries the ‘solidity of luxury’ with a constantly evolving offering. [21] In the same way, luxury brands are beginning to overcome perceived barriers to digital marketing and even e-tail. The Inside Chanel website uses video, text and imagery to tell the story of the prestigious fashion house, marrying a focus on heritage with a distinctly digital aesthetic. [22] Burberry, which is widely celebrated for its use of new mediums, recently launched a new flagship store replete with digital elements – including a 22-foot screen and augmented reality changing rooms – designed to create a new luxury experience that straddles the virtual and physical worlds. [23] By employing such measures, brands are not abandoning the tangible physical values that luxury has so long relied on, but using hybrid forms to create an emotional world that is infinitely more valuable and enduring. EMBRACING INNOVATION AND INTEGRATING TECHNOLOGY
  • 8. 1. ‘Luxury vs. premium’, Seth’s Blog (May 2009) 2. ‘Informed Consumerism’, Canvas8 (July 2011) 3. ‘Death of the Middle’, Canvas8 (July 2012) 4. ‘Design Loves a Depression’, The New York Times (January 2009) 5. ‘Luxury versus Premium – Luxury Detectives’, Added Value (October 2011) 6. ‘Preparedness’, Canvas8 (January 2012) 7. ‘Subtle hints of luxury on Wall Street’, Canvas8 (May 2010) 8. ‘Has Logo Fatigue Reached a Tipping Point?’, The Business of Fashion (March 2013) 9. ‘In Beijing, Even Luxury Billboards Are Censored’, NPR (April 2011) 10. ‘Art collecting and tomorrow’s luxury’, Canvas8 (December 2009) 11. ‘Deeper Luxury – Quality and Style When the World Matters’, WWF-UK (November 2007) 12. ‘Style And Substance: What Luxury Fashion Can Teach Us About Branding’, Forbes (March 2012) 13. ‘Bespoke clothes take over as the real fashion luxury’, The Observer (March 2013) 14. ‘Shang Xia: Pass It On’, Canvas8 (February 2011) 15. ‘Hermès saris’, Canvas8 (December 2011) 16. ‘Alt couture: shaking up luxury marketing’, Canvas8 (June 2009) 17. ‘Local luxury with onefinestay’, Canvas8 (September 2012) 18. ‘Manifesto’, Luxury Society (2013) 19. ‘How experiences are redefining luxury’, The Guardian (April 2013) 20. ‘Aesir: luxury in simplicity’, Canvas8 (January 2012) 21. ‘Luxury mobile phones: all in the best possible taste?’, Canvas8 (May 2012) 22. ‘Inside CHANEL: luxury storytelling’, Canvas8 (November 2012) 23. ‘Will digital save luxury?’, Canvas8 (September 2012) SOURCES
  • 9. Atelier specialises in luxury and lifestyle communications. Experts in understanding the style and luxury consumer, we create distinctive and effective brand strategies and multi-platform, beautifully crafted ideas. We work with brands like Max Factor, Glaceau vitaminwater, Aussie, The OUTNET.COM (part of Net a Porter Group), Dorchester Collection and Lindt on a UK, European or global basis. London is our flagship office, and we have Ateliers in Hong Kong, Tokyko, Beirut and Berlin. Luxury maintains its stubborn appeal – everywhere, and not just in the BRIC markets, the TIMPs or even the MINTs. It’s a truly global phenomenon, currently worth $258 billion and expected to grow 9% each year for the next decade. You could be forgiven for thinking that those who are lucky enough to have the means to enjoy their luxury tastes should do so quietly, given the plight of the majority. However at Atelier we recognise that modern day luxury is a far more complex and diverse phenomenon. Rather than luxury being a wholly unnecessary & frivolous expression of wealth, it is an expression of a deeper human story: one of identity, individuality and belonging. While there is no doubt that the modern luxury consumer is among the more privileged in society, engagement with luxury brands is expanding to the mass consumer. Driven mainly through the digitisation of luxury, anyone can now engage with the luxury brands they desire, even if they can’t necessarily own them. LUXURY: THE HUMAN STORY BEHIND ITS RESILIENCE By Eleni Chalmers, Director of Strategy at ATELIER
  • 10. ‘Luxury’ cannot be categorised simply by income or expenditure, but by the choice to opt for the more desirable option within any given category. This desire is routed in the more elevated emotional experience - or badge - one brand can offer over another, and the lengths you go to, or price you’re willing to pay, to get it (or experience a bit of it). LUXURY IS NOT A CATEGORY BUT A STATE OF MIND Almost 90 percent of luxury consumers agree with the statement “Luxury doesn’t have to be the most expensive thing or be the most exclusive brand” Our chosen desire tells a story about who we want to be. Traditionally, it can be very status-driven. Or, as we are increasingly seeing, our desires are far more nuanced, diverse and unexpected. So behind the price tag is a deeply human story. Luxury consumers are, directly or indirectly, telling a story about who they are through their brand choices. They are weaving the brand story into the narrative of their own identity. We call these ‘individual identity stories’. We have found 8 emerging global identity stories; unlike classic typologies, a person can express different identity stories in different situations or environments. Each identity story communicates something about who they are and importantly, who they want to be… Characteristics: - The shrewd ones - Do their research - Often have tastes beyond their budget - Looking for good value, e.g. tax-free shopping, sample sales, outlet stores - Happy to combine cheap Primark T-shirt with superfluxes Prada jacket - Seek innovative ways to save without compromising on the end experience 1. I AM A SMART CONSUMER. Characteristics: - Passion for craftsmanship & artisanal values - Seek the brand’s back story - Only desire the authentic - While often drawn to brands with long distinguished histories, they also seek modern innovations - Embrace technology to extend the experiencing of their passions & network with kindred spirits - Emerging markets are also responding to the yearning for connoisseurship. The ultimate stamp of luxury is goods brought from their original provenance 2. I AM A MODERN CONNOISSEUR.
  • 11. Characteristics: - Started out as passionate connoisseurs but became obsessives - Almost like having another job - In traditional categories like books or watches they only buy antique or vintage - …but not confined to traditional categories - It can extend to any category considered worthy of collecting, e.g. classic American denims 3. I AM AN EXPERT. Characteristics: - More than just the classic status seeker, this is about using luxury to assert that you’re one of life’s success stories - Luxury goods that reinforce self-esteem are particularly key. Can range from luxury beauty to watches, cars, accessories, etc. - Not as simple as ostentation; rather more about confidence-building during hard times 4. I AM SUCCESSFUL. Characteristics: - Growing international elite who may use their (often developing) home country as a base but will spend much of their lives in the malls, shops & playgrounds of the international jet set - Very drawn to old world luxury as they may not be as weary as their counterparts in developed economies - Happy to enjoy, savour & show off their purchases 5. I AM AN INTERNATIONAL. Characteristics: - Seek perfection in their appearance – especially when uncomfortable with traditional ostentation - Sense of pride and self-love in taking care of yourself to be the best ‘me’ - Not just confined to women. Male grooming/ cosmetic surgery has skyrocketed. There’s a L’Oreal Hydra-Electric Men Expert sold every minute 6. I AM ONE OF THE BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE.
  • 12. Characteristics: - This identity story is about acknowledging the personal & reinforcing the uniqueness of the individual - Often it’s about seeking great service - Desire things that make them feel special and deserving - As much about experiences as material possessions - But if possessions are sought they must have a personal angle, e.g. a Rolex from their birth year 7. I AM SPECIAL. Characteristics: - This is the luxury of being able to feel morally or spiritually revived. Particularly rising in mature economies where wealth alone is no longer enough to express your unique identity - This identity story is about having the means to give back to society - Can operate on many levels such as paying back to others less privileged through charitable giving - …or being able to strip the stresses of modern life away, retreat & return spiritually boosted. The luxury of space, time, silence - Or it can be simply expressing your sense of citizenship through sustainable choices, like driving a(n expensive) Prius 8. I AM A POST-MATERIALIST. As these emerging identity stories have demonstrated, luxury is not simply a category of aspirational goods & services, but an entirely human act of individual self-assertion. Buying luxury brands is (especially if, like us, you define it broadly) an act of expressing our desires, and the people we desire to be. This very human story bolsters who we are and goes some way to explain why, in the toughest of economic times, our yearning to reinforce our identities continues, perhaps even strengthens. As the digital revolution continues, more and more people can experience a bit of their desired luxury. But rather than it losing its cachet, the increasing desire among mass consumers for luxury brands and experiences, merely serves to reinforce its appeal and continue to grow the luxury footprint. We predict that luxury will continue to enthral us and inspire more ways for us to express who we are. CONCLUSION:
  • 13. We work in partnership with LS:N, the Lifestyle News Network, to offer planners and client teams access to a trends and insight base that plugs us into what’s new, next and innovative in consumer thinking. Here are some highlights from their latest luxury-themed round-up… In the luxury travel market the trend of drawing on local nuances and materials is widespread, not just in design but also in the experience offered to travellers. It’s part of a reaction against cookie-cutter resorts that are divorced from the local environment and culture. LOCAL BUILD HERITAGE+ Some hotel groups are working the local ethos into their architecture and design. ‘With all of our properties, we want to make sure that they fit in the local environment, and that we use local materials and artisans,’ Chris Orlikowski, PR and marketing manager (Europe) for COMO Hotels, told journalists at the International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM) event in Cannes this month. ‘We don’t build castles on hills. We are rooted in local culture,’ said Six Senses CEO Neil Jacobs. Ritz-Carlton is taking the approach practised successfully by Six Senses, launching Ritz-Carlton Reserve, a series of boutique resorts that each ‘has a distinctive personality that blends together the culture, history and heritage of its setting’. At ILTM, Ritz-Carlton announced it would open a new Reserve property in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia, which will take architectural cues from the ‘unique environment of Ubud’, and features ‘exquisite indigenous design’ and ‘respect for the surrounding environment’. Brands are also applying the luxe locale principle to the classic hotels in their portfolios. Dallas-based luxury hotel and resort group Rosewood was relaunched in 2013 incorporating its A Sense of Place philosophy. To achieve this, it has recruited a series of well-known individuals – Rosewood Curators – to introduce guests to the local area. These include former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for Silicon Valley, art auctioneer Simon de Pury in London and fashion journalist Nina Garcia in New York. Rosewood is due to open a hotel in Beijing in spring 2014 that features local Mongolian blue stone in its architecture. It is also re-opening the Hôtel de Crillon in Paris in spring 2015 after a total restoration. It’s the ‘perfect embodiment of A Sense of Place’, says Perkins. ‘You don’t get more Parisian than a hotel where Marie Antoinette used to practise her piano on the first floor.’ Starwood Hotels & Resorts, which owns luxury brands St Regis and The Luxury Collection, has also put those values at the heart of its offer. ‘When we approach luxury through the Luxury Collection, it’s about this authentic, indigenous, experiential vision of luxury,’ says Paul James, Starwood Hotels’ global brand leader for luxury brands. INSIDER KNOWLEDGE Other hotels have focused on their local experiential offers. This year, The Peninsula Hotels relaunched The Peninsula Academy, its suite of local activities that showcase the local destination’s history, cuisine, shopping and culture. Activities include lessons with a surf instructor in Malibu and a private tour of a firehouse in New York. It’s ‘to give our guests a little bit of something new’, says Robert Cheng, vice- president of marketing at The Peninsula Hotels. Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas also offers hyper-local experiences, from a Chiang Mai dining tour of night vendors and regional specialities with a local guide to an insider’s view of Vietnamese heritage town Hoi An that includes traditional painting classes. LUXE.LOCALE
  • 14. Luxury consumers are hungry for hotels and resorts that give them a taste of the place they are visiting, while delivering high levels of service and comfort. Gone are the days when travellers found comfort in the same filet mignon and marble lobby all over the globe. Today, a true sense of locale is key. WHAT THIS MEANS TO YOUR BRAND The innovation: Luxury Revivalism The instigator: Louis Vuitton In its race to climb to the top of the luxury tree, Louis Vuitton has taken inspiration from a second-placed finish. In 1934, iconic modernist designer Charlotte Perriand created a holiday home for a design competition. She finished second and her house, La Maison au Bord de l’Eau, was never built. For Design Miami/ 2013 Louis Vuitton used Perriand’s original designs to construct La Maison au Bord de l’Eau on the Miami beachfront. Some 14 years after her death, the French designer’s Utopia has finally come to life – as a luxury temple to the Louis Vuitton brand. LA MAISON AU BORD DE L’EAU Atelier started to explore the trend for local authenticity in the campaign it created for the iconic hotels within the Dorchester Collection in 2011. The hotels weren’t just landmark, famous hotels - they were the entry point and the extension of the experience of staying in a specific city, rather than the retreat offered by other luxury hotel groups. For example, Le Meurice and La Plaza Athenee provide two very different gateways to Paris. The work Atelier created was crafted to reflect the character of each individual hotel and to build the ethos of the whole hotel group. Photographers Guy Aroch and Alistair Taylor-Young brought this to life in a series of stunning images, including an exhibition of iPhone images capturing the more intimate moments of the hotel experience.
  • 15. EXPERIENCE ECONOMY SPACE EXPLORATION For luxury brands in the 21st century, it is not enough simply to produce luxury goods. ‘It’s not just the product any more, it’s the experience,’ explains Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute, a luxury brands consultancy. La Maison au Bord de l’Eau’s airy wooden rooms display pieces from Louis Vuitton’s spring/summer 2014 Icons fashion collection – also inspired by Perriand’s better-living-via-design ethos – as if they belong to an absent householder. A checkered dress hangs on the outside of a cupboard, and a leather jacket is draped across the bed. The effect is to give the Louis Vuitton brand a tangible persona. The combination of Revivalism and physical presence is a potent symbol of the modern-yet-timeless aesthetic that luxury brands strive for. French luxury conglomerate Kering recently announced that its new headquarters would be in a former hospital and church in the centre of Paris. Tod’s and Fendi, itself an LVMH company, have sponsored the restoration of Rome’s historical monuments. “Funding the realisation of a project that was conceived but never built feels fresh”, says Ilaria Alber- Glanstaetten, founder of luxury brand agency Provenance. “Perriand is not alive, so it is a fairly risk-free association. She worked with Le Corbusier, a legend, but she is not nearly as famous. It’s interesting without being trite”. LUXURY LEVEL Louis Vuitton’s sales growth in the past two decades has been spectacular, yet its popularity has diminished its cachet. The association with Perriand is also a canny way of subtly boosting the brand’s feminist credentials. ‘Perriand was one of the first women to work as an architect and designer,’ says The Future Laboratory creative director Kirsty Minns, who visited La Maison au Bord de l’Eau during Design Miami/. ‘She was a true pioneer. Her life story is an incredible mix of exploration and adventure. In that sense she was a true Athena Woman.’ The Athena Woman, the educated, affluent and confident modern woman, represents a big growth opportunity for luxury brands. ‘Women’s economic power is growing astronomically,’ says Pedraza. ‘It cannot be ignored.’
  • 16. 2014 is seeing an explosion of devices in the wearable tech category, with an effort to make existing products more desirable from a fashion point of view. Fitness monitors currently dominate the wearable technology market, and with many duplicating each other’s basic features, companies are under more pressure to make products that stand out from an aesthetic point of view. To this end, Fitbit announced a partnership with Tory Burch, who will design a line of necklaces and accessories that will ‘transform your tracker into a super-chic accessory for work or weekend, day or evening’, according to the brand’s website. A greater fashion influence was also visible in the emerging category of smart wristwear. The Pebble smartwatch, a Kickstarter-funded darling of CES 2013, returned this year as the Pebble Steel, featuring a sleeker premium metal look and leather straps. Another smart wristwear company, MetaWatch, launched a new brand of devices called Meta that reflects a design philosophy more in tune with traditional watch design, again featuring premium metals and leather. It seems wearable tech companies are taking seriously the idea that, as Bill Wasik puts it in the January 2014 issue of Wired magazine, ‘wearable devices will need to convey a message to the world that the wearer is happy to send – even if the batteries are dead’. Other devices reimagined the wrist as real estate with more limited applications. The Kapture wristband, another product funded via Kickstarter, is an audio recorder for the Twitter generation. It continually creates a 60-second buffered loop of audio that is overwritten until the user presses a button, which sends the past minute of sound to the user’s smartphone to be logged and shared, or simply quoted later. The device avoids the overkill of some always-on ‘lifelogging’ devices, while allowing users to remember the quips and ephemeral snatches of conversation that are otherwise often lost. Another standout device was June by Netatmo, a sensor that measures exposure to the sun and offers recommendations for protection. More devices like this are sure to have an impact on the beauty industry going forward. ‘The future of cosmetics is going into personalisation,’ explained Guive Balooch, global director of the Connected Beauty Incubator at L’Oréal Research & Innovation. ‘It’s all about the data of your body or environmental condition and giving you a perfect product for your regimen,’ he told the audience at a wearable technology panel. WEARABLE TECH BRAND
  • 17. NICHE, NOT LUXE Luxury: traditionally it implies exclusivity, rarity, an inessential item or service that is difficult to obtain. But it’s 2014 and times are changing, consumers are becoming increasingly demanding and luxury is shape- shifting. Trying to get cool? Older, wealthy patrons of luxury brands do not attract aspirational younger consumers looking for personalisation and unique experiences. Millennials are highly tech-savvy, shop hi-low (skipping between expensive purchases and discount vouchers), and are seeking something different, but with the assurance of quality. So as the Cool Brands list in 2013 was dominated by luxury - Bang and Olufsen, Aston Martin, Alexander McQueen - is this evidence of luxury brands becoming more accessible? As they battle to lead the fore in innovation, luxury brands are increasingly allowing consumers to access, engage with and even co-create – becoming fundamentally more appealing to younger but more discerning consumers. They’re using social platforms in really inventive ways, for example Colombian clothing brand GEF created a live Pinterest board allowing consumers to showcase their own styles, then used the images to populate a digital catwalk. Users posted an image via Facebook, Twitter or email and it was pinned, then displayed at the Colombiamoda fashion event and at malls across the country. The most liked images were awarded prizes, inviting further incentive to interact. Luxury brands are also telling their stories through digital; Gareth Pugh’s ‘Monolith’ immersive experience offered shoppers at Selfridges the chance to learn about the brand by wearing a helmet with a virtual reality embedded display. Saddleback leather goods released a fantastic film with their founder on YouTube demonstrating how their bags are engineered to persuade consumers not to buy fakes. By using the platforms Millennials engage with, luxury brands demonstrate an understanding of their needs… needs that their products can meet. Leo Burnett Planner Rebecca Fleming takes a look at whether digital is democratising luxury.
  • 18. Look at the trend for personalisation. This is evidenced across numerous categories as varied as retail (Louis Vuitton Maisons invitation-only apartments), beverages (Share a Coke) and automotive (Vauxhall Adam). Consumers have variety at their fingertips and access to millions of brands worldwide that they can select to showcase their own individual style. In China, a huge focus for luxury brands, trends analysts predict that we’ll see an emphasis on self- expression and individualism as these consumers become more selective, choosing their purchases to enhance their personal style and taste – rather than merging into the label-toting crowd. Brands offering personalised sales for luxury consumers are bypassing a potential danger of homogenisation: designer retail outlet Gilt Groupe have used data they hold on customers to offer custom-designed product recommendations. Let’s look at the faces. Impossibly glossy, beautiful people will likely feature in luxury forever, but we’re starting to see brand ambassadors that consumers can relate to. Brands have realised that hip-hop stars with emblazoned logos are tarnishing their shine and have opted for more positive representation – evidenced by real-life Brit couple Sienna Miller and Tom Sturridge in the interactive Burberry kisses campaign. Digital innovation is helping luxury brands become more relevant to Millennial consumers, offering varied, tailored and creative ways to reach and share brand values with them. Niche is the cool new take on luxury and the category is using digital to drive new brand perceptions.
  • 19. FOLDING FLOWERS Everybody likes to receive flowers, don’t they? It’s not just the cheery, colourful aesthetic that they beam into your home, or that pleasant aroma, or the fact that you’re doing your bit to bolster the dwindling bee population by giving the fuzzy little fellas a playpark, but it’s the thinking behind it. Someone likes you. They think you’ll enjoy flowers, so they spent some of their money on giving your day a lift. Awww. Receiving flowers can be tricky though. If they’re handed over in person, it’s great – you can do that self- effacing ‘oh, I don’t know if I have a vase…’ thing whilst blushing with happiness. But what if they get delivered to your office? There’ll be all kinds of embarrassing nudging and pointing. Worse still, what if the delivery goes to your home and you’re not there? Then the loveliness of receiving flowers gets lost in the frustration of trying to rearrange delivery. Tchuh, first world problems, eh? But worry not. There’s now a system for delivering flowers in the post without them getting all squished. This is very clever. Bloom & Wild’s method basically involves laying out the flowers in something resembling a Graze box, ensuring that they have sufficient water to survive the journey. It fits through a standard letterbox. All the recipient needs to do is liberate them and plonk ’em in a vase. Best ideas are often the simplest, eh? http://youtu.be/XXRqZ-DEGRw TELLY ART There are two reasons for having copies or prints of famous artworks in your home. Number one: you like them. Number two: you want people to think you’re cultured. Thankfully, as long as you’re canny with your selection, the two are largely indistinguishable.
  • 20. And if you’re in the latter camp and want to take your pseudoartism a step further, there’s an app for that. Artkick works by connecting your telly to the interwebs and trawling through all manner of publically available art, which you can then favourite and add to playlists. It’s a way of turning that chunky rectangle in the corner of the room into a huge version of one of those random slideshow digital photo frames - you’re basically saying ‘yah, I have a television, but I only use it to display art.’ Quite a statement. http://artkick.com/ Yes, that’s right. This zeitgeisty, futurey newsletter is talking about a fax machine. Whatever next, the Amstrad Em@iler...? OK, this isn’t actually a fax machine per se. It’s a 3D printer that’s connected to a phone line. You can see where this is going, can’t you? The concept was always inevitable really, it was just a matter of who developed it first – all you need is two connected 3D printers and bingo, you’re away. In simple terms, user A wangs their SD card into their device, selects the file they want to send, and hits ‘fax’. User B then receives a 3D-printed copy of whatever it is, straight into their home with nobody having to go to the Post Office. Handy. Oh, and the Zeus machine is also a pioneering one- touch 3D-printing photocopier thingy too. Look: http://youtu.be/apj1IVUkZC0 3D FAXING