Every brand needs to create offerings that allow more people to indulge a little
As people at the frontier of creating desire, luxury brands have a duty (and not just the opportunity) to feed this yearning
By Asparsh Sinha
There is a piece of wisdom in the Sindhi culture that seems counterintuitive at an individual level, but fundamental to how commerce works. They wish for expenses, not income, to grow; because when people spend more, people earn more.
Hope is an essential commodity. Scary things happen when fear sets in. Negative consumer sentiment sets into motion a self-feeding cycle of downward spiral, which then takes a lot of effort and time to get out of. At a time like now, when the world is navigating the twin tasks of saving lives and saving the economy, the one thing that can bring in as much hope as the vaccine, is hope itself.
Luxury brands are in the business of designing shiny tomorrows. They work at the frontiers of creating desire and optimism. They create seductive canvases: a higher, more fulfilling and enriching place to be in, where our unarticulated aspirations find wondrous expressions; where we get to escape functional monotony and ordinariness that our lives tend to slip into. ‘Un peu d’air sur terre’ (a little bit of air on earth) — like the Lacoste campaign proclaimed. An idea of life that floats in defiance to the terra firma of reality.
When we spend on our needs, we are rational and evaluative; we buy products, deeply conscious of our daily existence. When we spend on our wants, we are driven by desire; we momentarily escape into what can be.
Building hope and aspiration
Today, as we find ourselves trapped in an extended deprivation setting, we itch to break free. Studies are revealing the psychological impact of the pandemic. There is a yearning to reclaim all that we have lost, and more. As people at the frontier of creating desire, luxury brands have a duty (and not just the opportunity) to feed this yearning. Because in feeding this yearning, lies the nudge that can trigger positive consumer sentiment.
This is a time for luxury brands to increase investment in creating and putting out communication. Burberry’s latest campaign is set in a dirty London bylane, amid hail. An unusual setting, probably cueing the grimness of the world today. But what then unfolds is a mesmerising dance sequence, performed by people wearing Burberry trench coats. The message seems to be, with an inspiring fantasy, we can fight anything.
The digital medium, while obviously being a sales channel of great importance, is first a place to create seductive worlds. Brands like Gucci have shown how it can be used to create exciting engagement, with great business impact. Design is the secret sauce to building rich engagement and experience. Luxury brands, on the back of breathtaking art direction and production, elevated the magazine as a medium. A similar opportunity awaits with digital content — to liberate it from the free, fast lens.
Opportunities to indulge
If anything, this is an opportunity for luxury brands to cast their nets wider. More people today value indulgence more. Giving them opportunities to indulge is the opportunity. It is expected that the second-hand luxury goods market will pick up in a big way. What it tells us is that the means might have shrunk, but the aspiration hasn’t. Every brand needs to create offerings that allow more people to indulge a little. The sites on indulgence might change (like home and self-care are new areas of focus), but there is opportunity to allow more people into the fold.
While there are many struggles that a recessionary environment brings in, the power of luxury brands is that their currency is the future. And nowhere is an inviting future a more compelling idea than now.
The author is managing partner, Open Strategy & Design