The Shifting Meaning of Luxury

By convention, luxury has been associated with tradition, exclusivity and high quality- something only an elite few could experience. Yet as the market has evolved over recent years, the meaning of luxury, and its consumer face, has changed. Reasons for this include the proliferation of digital technologies, an increasingly globalised marketplace and a growing competitive set (Source: WARC).

Attitudinally, changing perceptions mean luxury buying has become a phenomenon that primarily focuses on selling expensive designer brand names with a mere illusion of exclusiveness and superior quality to the masses (Bhardwaj & Bedford). Subsequently, because of this mass luxury surge, purchasing a designer watch or handbag serves a different end. Owning one of these luxury or ‘designer’ items no longer guarantees the wearer’s socioeconomic status in the same way as it did before. Additionally, consumer centricity is more important than ever, meaning brand communication is changing from its traditionally top-down, unapproachable style. With digital offerings providing more and more behind the scenes content and hunger for transparency continues to grow across categories, luxury brands face new challenges to reinforce their core values and reveal themselves like never before.

To stay competitive, luxury brands must keep up with modern desire. Today’s customers enjoy goods and experiences that say something positive about their identity and who they aspire to be. The more brands project positive statements about their origins and purpose, the more likely they are to resonate with these audiences and overcome the mass luxury threat.

Re-shaping the meaning of luxury to one that resonates with consumers who seek something more material (and share-worthy) will also be key. By communicating the emotional value of purchasing a luxury item, brands can better account for the high price asked and allow consumers to feel comfortable expressing their life choices both online and offline. Further steps include playing into the experiential quality of a luxury purchase, pursuing sustainable action, highlighting manufacturing processes and speaking to consumers on their level. In this way, luxury brands can better navigate the changing relationship with consumers, who evidently have the power to shape the luxury market.


WARC ‘How to build a luxury brand’ by Lyle Maltz

‘(Not) Made in Italy: Can Sustainability and Luxury Co-exist’ Vertica Bhardwaj & Sergio Bedford


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