The world is a big place, filled with diverse people. In turn, global branders have long been faced with decisions about how to take a finite amount of dollars and allocate them effectively over an expansive universe. Recently, these decisions have been made more challenging as a result of the Great Recession, when marketing budgets diminished while the need for growth and ambition has risen. And so, the question for branders has been heightened: “How do we gain more access to a big world with less financial resources?”
For those working on premium brands, answering this question has had its unique challenges since there has been a shift in wealth; changes in those who have lost versus created wealth. Now, on top of the global issues of size and diversity, there is also a need to be more fluent on the subject of emerging affluence. Faced with this reality, branders could elect to allocate their finite budgets in more places by whispering to many, or spend their finite dollars in fewer markets by shouting to a few. Or we could rethink the problem.
Rather than solving for how brands can make flat or diminishing budgets travel further, what if we asked, “How do we transform a big world into a smaller one?” It was this rethink that motivated a unique study that we launched and have sustained since 2010 examining the degree to which today’s high net-worth-individuals are best understood by the factors that divide or unite them. As part of our study, we researched in the United States, Western Europe, Japan, Brazil, China, India, Russia and the Middle East.
What was not surprising is that when we went looking to find differences, they were plentiful. For example, following the recession, we saw affluent Americans demonstrating more resourcefulness in spending in areas of high personal value while saving in other areas. In contrast, in the Middle East, there was more conspicuous consumption; personal value mattered, but public recognition mattered as much or more.
What was more surprising was that when we went looking to spot similarities, they could also be readily found. One good way for spotting patterns through the complexity was to apply the model surrounding the cycles of affluent luxury:
Acquisitive: Showing off new money with flashy logos.
Inquisitive: Showing a more considered approach to luxury.
Authoritative: Showing extreme connoisseurship.
Meditative: Showing a belief in rich experiences.
Ultimately, what was most inspiring in our research was that when we went looking for something strongly unifying, we not only found it, but distilled it in a powerful way. So, what was the answer? To focus on these five emerging values that bonded global affluents the world over:
Mobility: It’s not just about portability, it’s about freedom.
Success: It’s not just inherited, it’s created.
Status: It’s not just about rare objects, it’s about rare experiences.
Belonging: It’s not just about exclusion, it’s about a kind of inclusion.
Consumption: It’s not just for show, it’s meaningful.
When we looked past the obvious signifiers of division and focused on these unifying values, our research revealed the emergence of a Global Affluent Tribe: A group more united by what they love than by where they live. A number of iconic brands including Louis Vuitton and The Ritz-Carlton are already connecting around these shared tribal values. Instead of navigating around the big world, brands applying this thinking serve as lighthouses for the tribe to navigate around them.
The world is a big place. The brands that understand how to speak to the shared values of the Global Affluent Tribe can transform that big world into one that is smaller, more united and more within reach.