When it comes to automobiles, luxury is largely defined by cost and amenities.
With the market now crowded with a plethora of choices, there’s much more to it. Infiniti, Nissan’s luxury brand, has its own unique view of luxury, in that it should be “lived in,” used and enjoyed.
Phil York, Infiniti’s senior director of global marketing and brand, shares his thoughts on luxury with MediaPost’s DriveTime in a two-part story. The second half will be published next week.
Q: In a broader sense, what does luxury even mean anymore?
A: What’s important in luxury has been changing for quite a while. If you go back a few decades, luxury was really about possessions. It was about showing your wealth to a certain extent.
What we’ve seen is a shift over recent decades from luxury [being] about what you own, to about how you live. It’s much more about experiences, much more about well-being, and, essentially, time.
Time is almost the most important luxury nowadays, which you never would have heard in the 1980s, when status was the priority. Now, it’s turning off your WiFi, turning off your phone, getting your time back -- and what you do with it is today’s ultimate luxury.
This is partly because luxury goods have become more accessible to a wider population and are, therefore, less of a status symbol now. We’ve seen quite a lot of clothing brands, for example, that have become mainstream and have lost their once-exclusive position.
Affluent people are finding other ways of living in luxury and showing their status -- and, more often than not these days, that’s through experiences more than possessions.
Q: What else is driving this redefinition of luxury?
A: What’s interesting, I think, when we look at global consumer trends is that we see people are looking for greater simplicity and authenticity in what they purchase and what they do. There’s a greater sense of social responsibility as well.
Those overall macro social trends then come through into the luxury sector. People are looking for genuine experiences in products and services where they feel they don’t have to justify themselves. In other words, they feel good inside if what they are buying has less of an environmental impact or has been produced by fair trade, people-first companies. These types of criteria are increasingly important for consumers.
Q: What’s an example of this authentic, socially responsible version of luxury?
A: People who are looking to set themselves apart are doing less so by the brand or the label or the badge they wear, and more by the choices they make and the experiences they have.
In the automotive sector, we can see that with the rise of the hybrid vehicle in the U.S. and the electric vehicle in other markets. There’s a sense of superiority in being an early adopter, someone who leads the pack to a new technology. It’s almost a status symbol in itself, which is completely different from the bling and the gold and the glitz that we might have associated with luxury in the past.
It’s about confidence and a feeling of social responsibility but marked down in a different feeling of superiority.
Q: What were the insights behind the “Luxury Should Be Lived In” positioning?
A: We looked into a number of different insights. First, we looked into the luxury car category, where much of what is communicated is all about showing aspirational products and an aspirational lifestyle to which people might want to belong. However, that type of message resonates less with today’s consumers, who are less likely to want to buy into somebody else’s lifestyle.
From this key learning, we realized that what we want to do is inspire our customers -- inspire them to make their own path rather than following the traditional, conventional path shown by a lot of advertisers.
We have a very clear idea of the kind of people that buy an Infiniti. We know they tend to be self-driven, open-minded and forward-looking. Looking at these qualities, we know they are much more likely to be inspired by what they can contribute, how they can stand out and how they can reflect their own personality rather than conforming to any view that comes across in advertising.
“Luxury Should Be Lived In” is a belief that luxury isn’t about owning something. It’s much more about living and what you do with it that counts, which is consistent with how the brand started out. Now, we are simply reasserting that as a clear signpost for our consumers.