The media sensationalizes the exploits of the rich. In the last couple of weeks alone, we’ve heard about Disney “tour concierges,” detectives being hired as drivers and serving as parents’ eyes and ears on the ground to keep kids out of trouble, and haute pizza parties—not to mention the relaunch of A Small World, a super-exclusive social/travel network for the well-heeled set.
It’s easy to get caught up in this noise if you’re following the affluent market and trying to figure out what these stories mean. We’re all on, all the time, and if marketers aren’t following the buzz, we risk missing out on The Next Big Thing.
Of course, the pursuit of what’s next leads to a lot of me-too ideas. We see something successful. Like Groupon. Then we decide that we can do it differently, and better. We develop a service or product that aims to appeal to a wide audience, with a point of differentiation that makes a lot of sense in the boardroom, but less in the marketplace. We watch the market get filled with other ideas like ours. Then, before you know it, there are more copycats than you can wave a stick at and 24/7 Wall Street is predicting that LivingSocial won’t last out the year as a brand.
As marketers of luxury goods and services, we have an obligation to our clients to avoid being clicky-cliquey. It’s important to separate fashion from fad, and understand what is happening in the global luxury market from a psychological perspective. There’s a lot of data out there that tells us what affluents are thinking about the definition of luxury, where they want to invest their money and time, and what they worry about. But we need to put that together with the insights that come from observing a hyper-connected world.
When we look back at what’s been in the news of late, there is a clear thread that ties the trending stories together. It’s the experience, the desire to live life to its fullest in a way that others can’t – even when living life to the fullest is "slumming" over greasy pizza or skipping lines at Disney. This desire isn’t something unique to the luxury market, but the manifestation of it is. As luxury evolves from being about ingredients and materials to value and experience, we’re going to see currents like this ripple through the marketplace. It’s our job to understand the intentions driving the behavior and then figure out how to apply what we know to the product we’re responsible for. Otherwise, we run the risk of Groupon-ifying a really bad idea.