No border guards. No welcome signs. No security check. No customs post. But walk down one side of a street in New York and you are in Luxuria. Cross the street and you leave it. Turn the corner on a Parisian boulevard, open a gate in Istanbul … the secret borders are ever-changing.
Long Live Luxuria If it was a single nation, it would have one of the highest GDPs in the world, with a population of less than 10 million. It is an international, shifting coalition of individuals who agree on the status of objects , experiences and, ultimately, people. It has no army – but battles are waged by intercontinental taste makers. It has no government – but sanctions on style are brutally imposed. It has no public buildings – but citizens of Luxuria can find a safe haven in every city of the world.
. You are now leaving the Masslands Forget Maslow’s hierarchy. It looks like an anthill from up here. Across there in the Masslands, brands exist within economic parameters. In Luxuria, there is a purely emotional economy. The currency of Luxuria is not the dollar, euro or ruble. It is status. A volatile, non-fungible means of exchange that fluctuates like a Kenyan banknote. The motto on Luxurian loot: in Status we trust Status is rooted in the primordial brain of all humans. But, whereas in the Masslands, economic reality enforces a hierarchy based on the physical ability to acquire the product, in Luxuria no such restrictions exist. Purchases in Luxuria are priced according to the unofficial, unpublished International Status Index that runs like a 24 hour tickertape in the minds of the Luxurians.
The status trap Living in Luxuria is wonderful. But far from easy. It is like living with hyperinflation. In Luxuria, the fluctuations in the value of their currency – status – need to be continuously monitored like Weimar Deutschmarks. And that takes effort. To buy the wrong product is to diminish one’s status. And status, like diamonds, isn’t fungible. You can’t take two small diamonds and make a big one. You can’t take the status from one product and shift it to another; you lose it when the product loses it. So if luxury consumers seem excessively touchy -- even fearful -- this explains why. They live with the risk that the value of their status holdings may drop, suddenly, unexpectedly, like an over-exposed hedge fund manager tracking the Chicago Metal Exchange. Here’s the conundrum: those who want for nothing can lose everything that matters if they don’t keep up. Yet, there’s no streaming share prices to alert them to rising and falling values. They must keep track through the media, through small talk, through personal experience to minute fluctuations in the status of products, places and people. A brand that gives them breathing space, that becomes a gold standard, is a trusted confidant: a priceless asset.
Closer, closer, closer still There is an old saying in Luxuria that you keep your friends close, but your concierge closer still. The secrets that are revealed to the truly trusted often transcend family and friends. These human confidants are prototypes for the brands that Luxurians bring into their lives. Discreet, utterly human, emotionally connected, yet with a capacity to be distant and non-judgmental that is utterly inhuman. These are the brands that flourish in Luxiuria. Since status is turbulent, brands that offer stability command a premium. That premium is not necessarily monetary, though it can be. Much more important is the loyalty that a luxury consumer commits. Brands that get close to Luxurians cannot be complacent. The trust that has been bestowed comes at a price. Any deviation from the status stability that attracted them can lead to genuine emotional turmoil. If a brand breaks its promise, its connection with status can be severed irredeemably.
Luxurian Personas The concept of hierarchy in luxury branding is obsolete. Differentiation amongst customer bases is emotionally driven, may change with lifestage and may flex within family and social contexts. aspirational: This group trades its real life dollars, pounds and euros into status currency. They will scrimp and save, beg, steal and borrow in order to maintain a connection with beloved brand experiences in specific product categories. Their influence on the other citizens of Luxuria is complex: they both reinforce and undermine the status of products. connoisseur: These Luxurians know your products better than your sales people: they are studying at the University of Luxuria, graduating cum luxe. They are meticulous in their planning, methodical in their purchasing protocols and will defer gratification until it is absolutely the right product. ultra- highnetworth : The recession-proof, global leaders of Luxuria who rule without recourse to votes or violence. Their status is assured because they infuse meaning into the products for those who live in Luxuria -- and for those who don’t. They know not, and care less, what the cost is. Their brand loyalty lies in the status that the brand confers. The greatest brand treachery would be to democratize: viz Porsche Cayenne. trendsetter: the intelligensia of Luxuria are perhaps the most confident in their choices. You might think of them as having dual citizenship. They live with both status currency and real currency, but may not be heavy luxury consumers. Instead, their opinions have status and, therefore, value in Luxuria.
How will you know when a brand is in Luxuria? The easy answer -- you will know when you leave it. Luxuria is … - an absence of friction between desire and delivery of the desired. - trust in the authenticity of experience, consistently repeated - interconnectedness of brands and experience – an authentic brand story - never having to ask - never having to accommodate, mediate or compromise