Modern Marketing Brand

Brands need to move beyond the bling as the future of luxury is intangibles and escapism

By James Honda-Pinder | Senior Strategic Planner

July 31, 2017 | 6 min read

Even in some Asian markets infamous for materialism, a sensory overload to conspicuous consumption is tainting the word luxury. James Honda-Pinder argues that luxury brands must look beyond badges of bling and embrace demonstrations of discernment as new frontiers upon which to re-establish the dream.

Luxury’s starting point has never been about the practical. It has always been obsessed by pursuit of the extraordinary.

Yet over time, the concept of luxury has become one-dimensional, tainted by associations of vulgar extravagance and regal indulgence.

Golden Limo


Nothing quite makes this point like a fleet of gold-plated limos parked outside a Macau hotel (pictured above).

Isn’t it ironic that an image with so much sparkle has become a symptom of a malaise that has robbed luxury of its shine?

At iris, we believe this sensory overload to conspicuous consumption has pushed the definition of luxury to a tipping point, one that has left discerning luxury lovers searching for deeper, more meaningful experiences to indulge and distinguish themselves.


For true luxury lovers, value is no longer found in tangibles and material goods. Instead it is found in the intangibles. Time, space, freedom, personalization and possibility. These are the birthplace of New Luxury.


Perhaps the most apt metaphor for this shift can be found in artist Marcin Rusak’s piece called “Time for yourself.”

In our always on, 24/7 world, perhaps the ultimate luxury would be to stop the clock and simply lose yourself for a while.

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Therefore, Rusak has essentially designed an executive survival kit for getting lost. It includes a compass that sends you off in random directions, a dial-less watch because time is inconsequential, and a blanket to keep you warm on your journey wherever you go. Beautiful objects shorn of their function, to provoke a thought that perhaps the ultimate luxury, would be the chance to escape from a world where the pursuit of luxury is all that matters.

It epitomises the paradigm shift in luxury, as it shifts from the conspicuous to the meaningful. From what is, to, what if ?


A great example of this shift is seen in Audi’s recent collaboration with Airbnb. It offered a lucky few the chance to stay at the Rondolino Residence, a luxury residence in the Nevada desert. The home comes complete with its own personal Audi R8, to speed around the desert expanse to your heart’s content.

For both brands it demonstrated the wow factor escapism that today’s luxury lovers yearn for. For Audi, it was the chance to enjoy the finest in German engineering in its purest form. For AirBnb it reminded people of the unique experiences that only its platform for wanderlust can offer.


Equally, Kenzo surprised and enthralled audiences in the last year with its quirky tale of a woman breaking free from the stifling world of socialites. It may have broken the category with its stunning choreography and aesthetic, but the underlying sentiment was one of escaping. Liberating yourself from the norms and conventions of high society and just wilding out.


It was with this escapist desire in mind that iris considered how we should approach Marina Bay Sand’s new brand campaign.

Marina Bay Sands has become a bucket list destination all round the globe for its iconic facade and Insta-perfect infinity pool. But to future-proof the business, it was essential to transition a hardware conversation into a software conversation.

That’s what our Come Alive campaign seeks to do. To look beyond the façade of the exterior and shine a light onto all the different worlds you can escape into, within this Capital of Contemporary Culture.

How the thoughtfulness and intentionality in the celebrity restaurants indulge your gastronomic desires. How the world class exhibitions at the Art Science Museum immerse you in new mindsets. How the Broadway-calibre theatre shows and live performances awaken your senses.

Our looping film Endless Possibilities captures this energy and possibility. It celebrates the notion that no one night at Marina Bay Sands is the same. And a cameo from Gordon Ramsay proves you never know who you might run into in an elevator there.

While there are many more stories to come in this journey, they’re united by a singular benefit. To escape from a world where the pursuit of luxury is all that matters. Because what else do you offer the person who has everything?

James Honda-Pinder is a senior strategic planner at Iris.

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