What is holding? What is held? What is memory? What is valued?
I gave a talk this past week to the Luxury Marketing Council in NYC, and this overview, in recollection, was about truth. Actually, it was about the weaving of truth in product portrayal. And it reaches deeper to the concept of the lineage of the authentic in the context of presentation of product, in the actual making, the heritage of the manufacture and the implications that there’s something meaning full, something worth paying the extra for, that luxury implies.
What I’d suggested in the intimations of this discussion comes down to a couple of things — for one, paying more for something implies that there’s something in the experience of that acquisition that allows that heightened pricing. And we know what that is. It’s better made. The materials are better. There are associations with the brand; there’s history that suggests that how something is made is actually bettered in the context of the expertise in manufacture. And there is aura. That’s the vibration that luxury suggests — that it’s nearly irresistible in the quality of making that says: “this costs more, but it’s worth it”. The reasoning is varied, culturally. As we know from Chada Radha’s exposition in her “Cult of Luxury” positioning, there are certain components in the east, that may not be quite the same in the west. However, I’d offer that there are still psychic alignments between the two.
By purchasing luxury, to postulate:
• The purchaser is showing a self sense of worth. The person is valuable, self valued, therefore I’m purchasing this.
• Because this is a famous brand, that over time has accrued a sense of enlarged value (as a brand and business entity) there are halo attributes that elevate the purchase(r).
• This is a commodity — you can buy this commodity (a hand bag, for example) anywhere, but you can’t buy this brand except at…Exception — and inclusion in the exceptional.
• Luxury purchasers, in their varying models of power, are about exclusion from others, and inclusion in their own tribe(s). It’s a (self) knowing cult and lends itself to the conceptions of refinement and connoisseurship.
• By purchase, the person enters community of like values, there is elevation.
If you place this framing over luxury clientele in the east, or the west, they are primarily suggesting the same grouping of psychic links.
From a spiritual standpoint, these are all simple distractions, really. But to the contemplation of beauty, and the savor of that which is exquisitely made, however, there are links of relevance. What I mean is that sense of beauty can be found in the handbag made by hand for 2000 hours or in the raku tea cup, from the experience of cha do, the ceremony of tea. It’s not for me to contemplate the sense of the exquisite in experience — what is more valuable. Some resonate to the handmade brooch of silver found in a valley in Bhutan, others — Yves Saint Laurent’s newest dress, others find the beauty in a classical French portraiture from the 18th century Paris. To each, their own. Each are, to each, luxurious.
But what is happening now is that there is questioning of luxury (NY Times article). If there is a challenge in the market, a downturn, spun in the character of a recession in the US; it’s conceivable, and now has been shown to suggest challenges that will ripple outwards. At the IHT Supreme Luxury Summit in Moscow, 2007, Bernard Arnault suggested that the market can go two ways, up or down — it’s a 50/50 split to the outcomes. My sense is that it’s a less that, than a situation of assessment. Luxury needs to be doing something that is more about increasing the deepening of the magic of the implications of the relationship — and the products and experiences offered — to the varying strata of their purchasing audiences (from the lower rungs of opening access market relationships, to the upper tiers of expanded wealth).
It’s about focusing on the psychic spaces of holding [attention] for the person, and how that implication can be recharged. Looking over the positioning, studying the anthropology of the purchaser and relationships, it is about gathering closer that which holds the person. It’s about attention.
These are, then:
Expanding on the concept of worth and worthiness. It’s important to deepen the links to value — what are the characters that range to this level of offering?
Enlarging value. Now is the time that the valuation, the character of the valuable, the rare, should be enhanced.
Halo. The thinking that surrounds the product should be more about definable experience, that is, if there’s a gesture to the world of luxuriation, there should be a story that relates immediately. The current campaign of Louis Vuitton speaks more to real life — Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf in repose from the vagaries of travel (the luxury of the moment found), Catherine Deneuve’s waiting at the train station (the protective stability of material treasures gathered and well contained) gather some glimpse of these psychic states of being. Abstractions to inspire are less quickening to arousal. Relevance. Resonance.
Inclusion. The community of purchase(rs) should be a sense of gathering invitation, less to exclusion — now is the time of gathering in, not excluding out, the shifting community.
Refinement. What is refinement but things made in a distinctly different and refined manner — holding to the character of the handmade, the specialized, the customized is a continuing sense of application that is crucial at this point in time. If this is no longer focused on, then what is the difference? Why pay more, in deed?
Connoisseurship. The mental distinctions of sophistication suggest that gathering these types of objects are a matter of knowledge. Now is the time of reflecting what true connoisseurship is about — there is reasoning to why these are especial; it’s truth, not hype.
Elevation. By entering into the space of the luxurious, you are not only showing the capacity to pay more, but it’s more — the purchase(r) shows depth of knowledge and worldliness.
The summary is about finding the heart of the story, the inherent soul of the branding differentiation and focusing on enlarging the depth of that character, never cheapening the telling with mere hyperbole.
I, and we, look for what lies beneath, what deepening can be found. And how to tell that story meaningfully. Meaning. Fully.
tsg | decatur island