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Popular ambassadors, a boom in street culture, fashion shows in supermarkets, etc.
Luxury’s increasingly on a quest to get up close to consumers, yet this is something that could cause it to lose its aura. Though, having said that…
Strategy Tribune 100% Luxury
Luxury rhymes with inaccessibility. Its exclusiveness placed it on a pedestal. Today, shifts in consumerism and the surge in social media challenge this aura. Consumers are looking for cultural and intellectual appeal with brands. Identity-focused consumerism fuelled by social media, craving direct, affinity-centred relationships that luxury is, by essence, not used to.
In this quest for closeness, it’s only fair to wonder just how far luxury brands can go in quashing their element of mystery. Chanel takes to the catwalk in a supermarket, expresses itself in the street, displays itself in the subway. Virgil Abloh signs a collection for Ikea. Balenciaga launches a video game with a Fortnite feel. Stella McCartney throws open her doors to Disney Fantasia… Popular culture has become the new Grail and luxury establishments now strut their stuff in the street.
Yet, this is where contradiction comes into play: luxury, by nature noble and confidential, becomes spiritless, rolled out for everyone, here, there & everywhere. It no longer addresses individuals but groups. It prefers to exhibit rather than hide. So much so that it has paved the way for masstige, by sharing its secrets with other brands. Whoever could have imagined a partnership between DHL and Vêtement? Karl Lagerfeld and H&M? Supreme and Louis Vuitton? By trying at all costs to keep up with the times and to be on a par with their target audience, luxury brands scatter themselves around and gradually compromise their uniqueness and get lost in a sort of conformism that undermines their historic, cultural and symbolic value.
You just need to take a look at luxury logo me-toos, the boom in flat design and black and white stick-style fonts. And, once again, Louis Vuitton that, wishing to diversify its customer base, got lost in campaigns and blockbusters with an assortment of messages, far removed from the original fantasy of travel and adventure.
So, how can luxury brands get closer to the public without losing their aura? By capitalizing on their one-of-a-kindness: not just on their product know-how but on the relationship they have with their public. Instead of jumping down off their pedestal and drowning among the masses, luxury brands should attract their public to them, then immerse said public in an exclusive, privileged realm. By inviting a select few into an exceptional world, luxury brands can share their privileges without ever discounting, can open up and continue to stand out from the crowd.
This new one-to-one relationship, versus the one-to-many one, gives luxury back its intensity as it promotes attentiveness and exclusiveness. It scorns transaction and puts the accent on emotion. Consequently, the prestige of a brand like Hermès or Krug is forged through this immersive power in a relationship between equals. A perfect example is the “Krug notebook”, inspired by Joseph Krug’s travel diary, where the brand shares its secrets to a handful of its ambassadors without ever distorting its language. A way of inviting every visitor to celebrate the links that champagne has with countries and cultures around the globe. In this notebook, imagined as an experimental medium rather than an explanatory digital object, each page weaves a one-of-a-kind, sensorial and never-to-be-forgotten bond with us that takes us on a journey into the brand’s history.
As such, luxury immerses us in its world, paves the way for new relationships and conveys its own qualities of exclusiveness to the customer who, in turn, becomes legatee of this light. Against a backdrop of excessive consumerism that rejects one-upmanship, luxury should focus on ‘being’. When it’s remarkable, it should promote intensity and intimacy over sensationalism. When offered, it should be meant to ‘be’ and not to ‘have’. It should be meant to be visionary, exceptional. In short, it should be human and breathe life into that which cannot be bought: the precious value of a rare, shared moment in time.