It’s a period of courting for both consumers and ultra luxury brands. Both assume that their loyalty is a privilege and an earned reward, respectively. However, ultra luxury brands are at a crucial milestone with the next generation of consumers who possess influence and affluence and are coming of age when their spending power and loyalty will define the path forward for many heritage and legacy brands who have, to this point, focused predominantly on the relationship with their Generation Y and Z clients.
But this next generation is less likely to have the same affinity for the ultra luxury brands that their parents and grandparents had – if they don’t align with principles of sustainability, social responsibility, technology, innovation and exclusive access to experiences and communities. Their loyalty is the most critical currency for ultra luxury brand marketers who understand that it holds the keys to relevance for decades to come.
A generational shift
This is driving a shift in ultra luxury product development, brand positioning, client relationship strategies, retail flagship store design, and branded experiences in the physical and digital worlds. The benchmark of ‘affluence’ is no longer about the perceived monetary value alone.
The watch and jewelry categories are prime examples where sustainability, transparency and technological innovation have become equally important as heritage, legacy and collector value. Luxe Impact (lab grown diamonds), ID Geneve (sustainable watches) and Aston Martin Valkyrie hybrid supercars have introduced fresh narratives geared for this new generation of ultra luxury consumers who align themselves with such values.
In another example, Chopard, Lalique and Van Cleef & Arpels are just a few of the heritage ultra luxury brands that have meticulously preserved their core client base through their education programs, high-touch hospitality service, curated experiences and exclusive access rewards, too.
Ultra luxury brands more generally are at a critical point where they must court these new consumers and adapt their marketing and loyalty strategies to these different expectations.
Luxury brands are walking a very narrow tightrope. They must focus on retail flagship experiential-centric designs, technological innovation, sustainable product designs and increased commitment to inclusive and accessible cultural opportunities – while also preserving their prestige and limited access through exclusive spaces and experiences.
For example, Chopard 1 Place Vendôme. frames itself as the “anti-hotel” and does not rely upon the brand name to attract guests to the 10-suite, five-room establishment. Instead, it “sells” a type of luxury experience unlike any other which underscores their intent to preserve their traditional client base. It assumes those that associate with the Chopard design, art and lifestyle will not need to be marketed to, but will instead, seek this out.
A brand’s relevance to this next generation also must be authentic and it must be able to define, validate and support its authenticity in the following ways:
This unifying promise is applicable to product development, innovation, community partnerships and social consciousness. Storytelling and aspirations alone will no longer satisfy the new wave of consumers. These consumers require transparent sourcing of materials throughout the full life cycle of the product. For example, ID Geneve has taken the lead in this with their “Circular Swiss Made” which is associated with the 100% Swiss circular economy.
Moderation and ecological impact considerations are increasingly important to socially responsible-minded consumers. Alternative material and sourcing such as vegan leather, lab-grown gems, circular economy and upcycling are becoming the luxury standard versus the outlier.
Cultural icons have a social responsibility and opportunity to share, educate and contribute to the perpetuation of cultural heritage. Marketers can and should do more than fund events and art installations. They have the ability to support the next generation of creators, artists and cultural influencers by establishing consistent opportunities to identify and support their achievements.
For example, an ultra luxury brand could create a new brand dedicated to sustainability and generative art forms fueled by its own archives of design and new technology. The resulting creations could foster a new culture of collaboration with and mentorship of emerging designers.
Innovation requires a fiscal investment towards research, technology and the commitment to uncompromising quality. Brands will need to communicate and validate their value proposition by proving their product has a proprietary technique, craft or material unique to their brand.
Technology drives product innovation, customer fulfillment and shared experiences, digital and physical. The ultra luxury brand sector should take notice.
Design and creativity are increasingly fueled and enhanced by digital software applications and AI tools. As a result, collaborations and ingenuity output will increase which will provide a unique opportunity for brand marketers to invite the next generation to contribute or become inspired. Imagine the opportunity to co-create a Hermes scarf using a limited access, closed AI platform that is moderated and directed by the creative directors of Hermes.
Interoperability across all technology devices, tools and platforms such as AR/VR, mixed reality and AI will enable hyper-personalization in all areas of the customer experience journey.
The next generation assumes technology is built into every aspect of daily life. Brands should be investing in interoperable systems that permit instant access to the full inventory, authenticity credentials, localized services and loyalty rewards within minutes of interacting with their wearable tech devices, mobile devices, merchandise and product displays, and co-branded spaces.
The cultural and technological paradigm shifts of the past five years have shaped a new frontier. Ultra luxury brand marketers must continue to cultivate the most prestigious opportunities for loyalty access, exclusive experiential events and culturally unique programs as they develop a relationship with their next generation of consumers.
Opinions expressed by SmartBrief contributors are their own.
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