Brands Must Rethink Luxury And Millennials, And Activism Too

Research that uses data to counter preconceptions is always a little challenging to take in, but brands need to sometimes walk away from the assumptions that are constantly peddled at meetings and conferences.

Two big ones stand out from the three assumptions that Comscore challenges with today's Beyond The Headlines research.

The third is that television is not dead, just maturing -- but that's something we've covered a lot in this blog, so I will focus on luxury shoppers and brands not needing to become activists. 

With luxury, it's easy to think that it's all about the incredibly rich getting older, amassing wealth and then finding the budget for the finest shoes, clothes, holidays, holiday villas, luggage, drinks and food.

That is true, but only partially true. There is one inescapable fact:  while people on pretty decent livings are luxury shoppers who like to look, the actual buyers tend to be on an income of $100k per year and over.

That is not a huge surprise, but there is one coming on demographics. There are two major spikes of "luxury converters" -- and one, as you would imagine, comes later on in life for those approaching or in their retirement years. The other isn't just before this time of supposed rest, but rather where millennials meet younger Gen X customers.

The demographic between the ages of 30 and 45 sees a massive spike in luxury customers that comes down again for a decade until we reach 55-year-olds and above. 

For me, the researchers hit the nail on the head suggesting that this is explained by people building up their careers and then hitting the expensive years beyond the age of 45, until they approach the age of retirement, when kids are put through college and possibly helped with rent and finding a home when they become first jobbers. 

Again, another interesting one is that luxury households with one person are a huge market for luxury goods as are households with three people while those with two people are not so much.

So people on their own are spending on luxury and so too are couples with one child. That again, would fit in with why 30-45 is a big time for luxury purchases for couples with a baby before the serious business of funding an education begins. When you're on your own, you can pay whatever you like for new jeans, but then it's time to be cautious and save up for a wedding before a new baby and a new home need to be dressed and furnished.

And now for another surprise. If you were asked to pick the employment status of luxury shoppers you probably wouldn't say the part-time and homemaker segment were the top niche, would you? I know I wouldn't have.

However, they are -- and although the research talks about the importance of not forgetting rich men's spouses, I would add that we should note forget rich self-made women who are finally enjoying the fruits of their success and perhaps taking a back seat at their business as they raise children.

Either way, luxury brands need to look beyond the typical CEO and consider people who have sold companies to swap the board for the golf course or whose consultancy advice is so in demand that they only need to work part-time. Brands also overlook successful women raising a young family at their peril. 

Put simply, for people who actually buy luxury items and don't just drool at them, the target market is $100k-a-year consumers who are either at the end of being a millennial or the very start of a being a Gen X, and then those who are approaching or are in early retirement.

Put even more simply, the target audience is rich people who have not yet, or have already, put kids through college.

As for brand activism, let's put this one to bed very quickly. Depending on which question you ask, consumers in the US and UK are very similar. Around two in three or three in four are not bothered about brands standing up for causes. The remaining quarter or a third are split fairly evenly between those who think it's a good idea and those who think it's a bad idea to bang the drum for causes. 

So all this stuff about brand purpose does not necessarily mean brands need to jump on a cause.

Brand purpose can simply be the best service, the most cost-effective product, or the most convenient retail site the web has to offer. It does not have to mean placards and joining demos.

An equal number of consumers think it's a good idea and think it's a bad one, and the vast majority simply don't care. 

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