What is Meaningful Luxury?
Meaningful luxury feeds our soul and human spirit. It is transcendental. Timeless. It elevates the quality of our lives as it taps into our essential needs that we see as highly valuable to us today.
Meaningful luxury comes back to our spirit and human essence. Through its connection to beauty, aesthetics, the aura of symbolic and the intangibles, it has the power to elevate our senses, transcend the present moment and speak directly to our soul.
With the meaning of luxury changing across the world today as a new tide of radically different values is taking over, it is very important for the luxury brands to understand what makes them special, what makes them unique and valuable. In other words, what is the true essence of luxury.
The new luxury paradigm is here which makes luxury brands are now at odds with their traditional meaning and with the customer desiring different things than they did before. It's because we now perceive luxury in different things than we did in the past. But, how do we reconcile with the past? How do we come back to what we have lost? Disposed of? Forgotten? We need to shift our mindset and return to things filled with meaning. Things of essential value that add meaning to our lives. Out of the disposable culture and back to the culture of value.
The luxury sector needs to realign to come back into balance: back to creating real value that lasts. This is where the true value of luxury is for us as human beings. Luxury, as the crafter of superior value, should lead the way forward for the rest of the industry: back to meaning, real value, the core essence of things, back to beauty, longevity, timelessness, back to the intangibles.
To create Meaningful Luxury, we first need to understand what luxury means to us today.
The Future of Luxury in Times of a Global Pandemic
There is a lot of discussion about how the world is changing in the light of COVID-19 and how it’s affecting brands and businesses. An interesting outlier in this conversation is luxury, as the luxury sector was already changing greatly before COVID-19, but the global pandemic has further exacerbated those trends and made them front and centre in 2020.
Last year in The Luxury Report, I wrote about Redefining The Future Meaning Of Luxury – how the five global cultural shifts were eroding the traditional meaning of luxury and how brands could counteract these shifts by coming back to their essence and creating new meaning and relevance.
Fast-forward one year and these ideas have now become our new reality.
The COVID perspective
The COVID pandemic has impacted the luxury sector very powerfully. It has revealed the underlying weaknesses (what was not working) and the surprising strengths (what truly matters to us and holds value in time). This global pause introduced a new element into our lives: time for reflection. It has shown us what was missing from our lives but we didn't pay attention to as much as we should have.
It has revealed to us the inability of many businesses to deliver true, authentic and meaningful value to people that not only resonates with their aspirations but adds something substantial to their lives. Like fulfilling their essential needs, for instance. Those same human needs that we have neglected for decades. Peace of mind. Mindfulness. Clarity. Space. Time. Comfort. Security. Self-soothing. Joy. Together-ness. Belonging. Sharing. Self-expression. Self-care. Authenticity.
And this is where luxury quite powerfully enters the situation because everything we have neglected in our past – and therefore what has become scarce to us – is now becoming the new luxury. Our unfulfilled human needs are ushering the way for the emergence of the New Luxury paradigm.
Entering the New Luxury paradigm
The global health pandemic serves as a catalyst, speeding up the transition of the luxury sector toward the New Luxury paradigm – a direction in which luxury was already headed, but much faster than it probably would under normal circumstances.
With COVID, we now see a rise in demand for experiences with seclusion and privacy to safely distance, allowing us to disconnect from the world, connect back to ourselves, nature and the natural rhythm of life. Meaningful, authentic, culturally immersive, transformative and soon also transcendental experiences will become the things to focus on in the future.
The New Luxury opens up a new space for brands to come back to our essential needs that we’ve neglected in the overly materialistic consumer culture. It asks us to shift our focus to wellness, well-being, healing, come back to our roots, soul and spirit and human essence, develop a discerning taste, longevity, long-term mindset, and understand what truly matters in life.
This is a unique point in time that serves as a wake-up call, giving us an opportunity to refocus on ourselves and reorganize our priorities in life.
The missing context in luxury, and in consumption of goods and services in general, is coming to the front and centre of discussions on how to shape and reshape the future of brands, products and services towards a more meaningful form of consumption that adds value to our own lives.
Changing tides in luxury
As a result of these large-scale changes in society, luxury is becoming much more diversified as it means different things to different people. The meaning of luxury has become relative and heavily contextual as it’s centred on the idea of what is scarce today.
If we look back into the past, rarity, opulence and flashy status symbols were often seen as extraordinary because the majority of people had very little means to afford a comfortable lifestyle. Luxury was therefore tied to aspiration, class and status acquisition as a vehicle of social mobility.
Today, we have a very different situation on our hands. We have an overabundance of material goods, services and information which cloud our ability to focus and discern what is truly meaningful to us. The more we can buy the less it means to us. What is scarce to us today are largely things that were abundant in the past – such as time, clean air, space, inner peace, mindfulness, human touch, meaningful connections or quality time shared with others.
In the opposite context, luxury inevitably means different things than it did in the past. We have everything we need materially, what we lack are spiritual sustenance and symbolic meaning. We feel empty and unfulfilled.
Power of the intangibles
This is why the new luxury will be increasingly about the intangibles (experiences, memories, feelings, sensations, human touch, time, space, clean air) over the tangibles (material objects to worship). We are already seeing consumer behaviour, needs and preferences shift in this direction in a very powerful way, and COVID will only add to this ongoing change. It urges us to shift our perspective to what is truly important – our inner capacity to experience life at its fullest.
The turn from tangibles to the intangibles is the most important shift in consumer behaviour of the 21st century. This shift in perception opens up a whole pool of new opportunities for the luxury brands to tap into which wasn't available to them in the past because it wasn’t seen as luxury – yet.
People value meaning – the symbolic aura of a brand based on values, feelings, beliefs and desires they can identify with on a personal level. It's this invisible net of signification, culture and meaning that decides if brands and products will be successful or not.
Coming back to core value: Rethinking the luxury strategy
And this is where luxury has always been at its strongest as the leader in creating a superior value that lasts throughout time and is being passed down to future generations. To come back to this transcendental value of luxury, luxury brands need to refocus on their inner essence and understand how it locks into the human essence in the fast-changing cultural climate today.
COVID offers a great opportunity to the luxury brands and the business world, in general, to pause, reflect and do the inner alignment work in order to create more meaningful and essential value in people's lives.
The need to come back to ourselves and our human essence has become an urgent priority this year. If brands can do the same in terms of their essence, recalibrate their thinking, realign their strategy and come back to what is truly meaningful, they will be one step closer to riding the wave of change, rather than falling a victim to it.
Do you want to discuss how you can apply these emerging principles of the New Luxury paradigm to your luxury brand and in your luxury business?
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