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Gen Z Brand Strategy Luxury Brands

Gen Z’s ‘luxury aspirers’: How high-end brands can avoid alienating aspiring buyers

By Luke Hodson, Founder

NERDS Collective


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October 2, 2023 | 5 min read

Should luxury brands position as a cheeky indulgence for the fortunate, or an aspirational goal for everyone else? Luke Hodson of Nerds Collective looks at how they can strike that balance.

A vivid piece of graffiti, featuring a plant growing out of someone's head

How can luxury brands appeal to younger, aspirational buyers? / Ashkan Forouzani via Unsplash

Luxury branding is a nuanced art, demanding an in-depth understanding of its audience. A demographic that stands out in this space is gen Z’s ‘luxury aspirers’: young individuals with ambitions that stretch beyond their current means. These youthful aspirants hold in high regard brands that can elevate their social status and aid them in projecting an image of affluence and accomplishment.

This can require a delicate balance in a brand's tone.

Luxury aspirers: What do they want to hear?

This group is on an earnest pursuit to uplift their lifestyles. They engage with brands that mirror their high-reaching aspirations continuously, putting the value of luxury and sophistication at the forefront.

Perhaps surprisingly, then, a noticeable trend among luxury brands is the incorporation of a casual, even humorous, tone in their communications. While this light-heartedness may appeal to some, it risks alienating this group of young, luxury-driven individuals.

For these gen Z consumers, indulging in luxury products is far from frivolous; it serves as a testament to their success. Brands like Louis Vuitton stand as more than just markers of material wealth; they symbolize accomplishment, achievement, and the realization of lofty ambitions. As such, advertising strategies that employ humor or portray the brand in a playful, tongue-in-cheek manner may appear to trivialize the aspirational status that luxury aspirers strive for.

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Playfulness and privilege

Playfulness in luxury branding can be perceived as an exercise in privilege, suggesting that luxury is an everyday reality for those already well-positioned in society. This interpretation starkly contradicts the perspective of gen Z luxury aspirers, who view luxury items not as commonplace comforts but as treasured symbols of a life well earned.

So, while infusing a brand's communication strategy with humor can create a lighter edge, it's crucial to avoid making luxury appear trivial or easily attainable.

So, what's the key to resonating with this discerning demographic without undermining their ambitions? The answer lies in imbuing brand communications with ‘humor with a touch of sophistication’. This nuanced approach allows a brand to showcase a more relaxed, accessible side without diluting the seriousness of the luxury it offers.

Humor, when used judiciously, can make a brand more relatable and more human without devaluing its aspirational significance. This type of considered humor respects the weightiness of luxury aspirers’ journey toward high-reaching goals, acknowledging their diligent efforts and dreams.

Dreaming bigger

Brands aiming to capture the loyalty of this unique demographic must walk a fine line, carefully balancing humor with a level of respect that appreciates the gravity with which these young consumers approach the concept of luxury. In acknowledging luxury as a hard-earned achievement rather than an everyday indulgence, brands not only deepen their engagement with this group, but also sow the seeds for long-term loyalty.

Luxury branding is not about trivializing gen Z’s genuine aspirations through casual humor, but rather amplifying the luxury lifestyle these young consumers passionately pursue. Luxury brands serve as markers, signaling ascent on the socio-economic ladder, highlighting their success, and illustrating a move away from less privileged backgrounds – a significant motivator for achievement.

The goal is to engage with gen Z luxury aspirers in a way that aligns with their personal aspirations, honors their unique journey, and fosters a deeper connection with the brand. For these aspirational youths, the brand is more than a mere emblem of luxury; it symbolizes their loftiest dreams and ambitions, which is a sentiment that should never be taken lightly.

Gen Z Brand Strategy Luxury Brands

Content by The Drum Network member:

NERDS Collective

NERDS Collective was founded by Luke Hodson In 2013 as a specialist agency that places brands at the frontline of street culture through hyper-nuanced consumer insights,...

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