Less is more: today’s consumers crave experiences over material status quo

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A new era for luxury

The concept of luxury has traditionally been associated with the things in life that are desirable but expensive or hard to obtain – the trinkets, trappings and toys that reflect or project a lifestyle of exclusivity, status and quality. But times change and we now find ourselves in a new era for luxury, redefined by technological advancements that have changed the needs and expectations of us all.

Within this context, luxury is no longer simply defined by the quantity of what one may have but by the quality of what one does. The previous norm was that wealth creation led to the acquisition of ever more visible rewards, yet we are now faced with the paradox where life has become so all-consuming that the consuming class are consciously choosing to consume less and experience more.

So in the modern world where three out of four millennials will spend their money on experiences over branded goods, the luxury brands of today have needed to revisit their strategies; repositioning their brands as ‘the gateways to experiences’ in order to attain a deeper and more relevant connection with their target audience.

A more mindful approach that celebrates personal experience is thus emerging within the communication strategies of luxury brands, as can be seen from Ralph Lauren’s latest story of ‘What I do is about living – enjoying the fullness of life around you’, and Bentley’s ‘Bentley Inspirator’, a first-of-its-kind personalisation app that uses emotion recognition software to suggest the perfect car for you.

The direction of travel is clear; luxury brands must now embrace their role as catalysts to ephemeral feelings and, as such, the stories that celebrate their physical products should extend the possibilities for consumers to achieve those feelings.

It isn’t however a secret that experiences have become the currency of luxury, but it isn’t common knowledge that the new ultimate reach is found within ‘moments’. Whereas experiences tend to carry the connotation of being group led, shared and possibly over-celebrated on social media, the ‘moment’ on the other hand is an acutely personal experience that is more intensely felt. We all perceive our moments differently but they usually feel quieter, more intimate and ultimately more meaningful to us in the longer term.

The luxury lifestyle management and concierge service Quintessentially has taken an approach of investing in ‘moments’. Each of its 100,000 strong customer base is supported by specialist lifestyle managers who are there to deliver the promise of ‘anything, anytime, anywhere’.

Indeed, with its brand focus of being ‘for exceptional people’ and despite it representing a global community, Quintessentially has shifted its positioning towards delivering those highly personal moments that create a sense of mindfulness. This is a very human approach that differs in part from its competitors such as Velocity Black, which uses more digital offerings as its point of difference and may be less likely to have the levels of customer awareness or empathy that leads to creating that highly personal ‘perfect moment’

Aaron Simson, the co-founder of Quintessentially, comments: “We are seeing a noticeable increase in requests for products or experiences which carry more thought. Being more mindful is a way of ensuring a more productive way of life, and helps adjust perceptions of careers and personal life. I think, also, there’s a lot of global turmoil at the moment and people are wanting to invest in things that will increase their awareness and social consciousness, and increase their life enjoyment. It will be interesting to see the implications of these spending decisions on the luxury product market...”

Emotional engagement has become the biggest battleground for brands, and luxury brands are no exception. While mindfulness may not be relevant for other luxury brands, the key takeaway is to have a more holistic point of view on luxury – one that is aligned with customer values – and to bring that personality to life within your brand story.

At Underscore, we believe that the subtle shift from ‘experiences’ to ‘moments’ is not only here to stay but, importantly, these moments can transcend the need for financial and physical wealth, thus making the concept of luxury in theory more accessible to everyone. Brands would do well to consider the pursuit of mindfulness as a core need for their customer base and construct or adopt strategies that will help them achieve this.

So, whereas the definition of luxury was once ‘something that is not essential but provides pleasure and comfort’, by removing the barriers and altering the way we perceive the term you could argue that it is actually now one of life’s essentials. Indeed, in today’s ever-changing global marketplace, one of the few future-proofed commonalities will possibly be the currency of personal moments that are already beginning to mean so much to the luxury consumer. Which might now be all of us.

Neil Stanhope is founder at Underscore.

This article was originally published in The Drum Network luxury special. You can get your hands on a copy here. To be featured in the next special focused on the charity sector, please contact stephen.young@thedrum.com.

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