Since we have great momentum on the debate on this subject, this is the perfect time to introduce next week's module - Managing Luxury Brand. The topic of "Brand Meaning" is particularly relevant in this industry and so we can carry on our debate and see these ideas through the lens of luxury brands. This has always been one of my favorite subjects and one of my most popular among my keynotes.
The natural evolution of all luxury concepts is from class to mass and it started to accelerate 8 years ago. Although the very definition of what is a "luxury" brand is open for debate, I believe that it's being expanded. Luxury is first adopted by the affluent and wealthy and inevitably translated and reinterpreted down to the mass market. So today's luxuries become tomorrow's necessities. Luxury marketers need to stay out in front of the luxury consumers, discovering new and different ways to give expression to the luxury consumers' desires. New technology creates new luxury needs and business opportunities, such as HD-TVs, iPhones and other electronic gadgets. Changes in fashion, too, are a way to continually reinvent luxury, so today's colored diamonds are hot. But to assure the greatest long-term success luxury marketers need to connect with the luxury consumers' inner-emotional lives and create new products and services to meet those needs.
Bear with me here. There’s another way to explain what’s happening is that the imbalance in our current spending patterns which perhaps may be viewed as a market failure caused by consumption externalities: (In English please?) Basically, in a little economics here, the fact that greater consumption by a group of people actually imposes costs on others. An important advantage of this explanation is that it is grounded in the very same theoretical framework that animates the beliefs of the most ardent defenders of the status quo. When one family's spending decisions impose negative consequences on others, Adam Smith's invisible hand simply cannot be expected to produce the best overall spending pattern. The good news is that if consumption externalities lead us to work harder thereby improving productivity, spending more improving this consumer-driven economy, and save little and helping the explosive growth of credit card and personal finances companies (and the now mortgage problems), that's what it is. Brand is a core part of any capitalist society.
While all these sounds good, we need to watch out for a new breed of consumer: the middle-aged ex-yuppies who, finding himself surrounded by too much stuff acquired over the years, decides to simplify life. Is this the end of our conspicuous consumption behavior and trophy culture? These advanced luxury spenders is reaching the stage that they will buy less cluttering stuff: fleeting, but expensive, "experiences", not heavy goods for the home (although Wolf and Sub-Zero kitchen is still nice and considered must-haves). This is great for those who work in the digital space as there will be lots of opportunities to design "life cache" services ( here is a million dollar idea here) or as our friend David Armano at Critical Mass puts it, "life streams" and these life streams need to be captured and preserved in roder to create meaningful experiences.
The most interesting concept to explore here is “Desire vs. Satisfaction”. This presentation here is about 6 years old with some minor updates when I talked to our clients on this subject. I have presented this in Spain, Germany, NYC, Boston and San Francisco and this is the slide (slide 53) that my audiences find most interesting. Brand advertising often provides gratification and recodes a commodity as a desirable psycho-ideological sign. In fact, it feeds the desire to sometimes the unobtainable.
Advertising feeds the desire to achieve the often unobtainable unity of the self with destabilized meanings, images that separate commodities from their original intended use and offer the opportunity to reconstruct a self by "purchasing meanings" in a Do-it-yourself fashion. Desire exists in the gap between visual / languages / symbols and the unconscious. Desire does not desire satisfaction. To the contrary desire desires desire. Images are often so desirable that things hardly satisfy. Humans have a natural ability to want, desire, aspire, yearn, and long for. Any attempt to diminish this natural desire I believe is counterproductive, frustrating, and so improbable it borders on the impossible. Some people desire desirelessness with such a passion that it actually increases their ability to desire. What we do we become stronger in, and these people yearn so much and so often to have no more yearning that their ability to yearn becomes astronomical. Postmodern consumption is inextricably linked with aspects of sexuality, both conscious and subconscious. Desires are being constructed through linkages between consumption and the human body. Visuals will continue to be the most powerful tool because they never satisfy. Calvin Klein, Diesel, Gucci and Abercrombie and Fitch built and maintain their brands based entirely on this concept. “Meaning” is created through continuous search for links between identity (social) and the self.
Ask this important question: What are the unobtainables that your brands or products are based on? Let’s hear it from Bart, Andrew, George, Morgan, Sarah, Mark, Andre, Peter, Josh, Jenny or Flavio? Also we have lots of friends visiting this site from Critical Mass, IDEO, Ogilvy, AKQA, Blast Radius, Razor Fish and W+K, I want to hear your views. Enjoy the weekend!