In the second and final part of our look at Happiness and the Evolution of Luxury (first part available here) Michelle Hawkins, from marketing consultancy The Flying Dodo, discusses how the feelings of Connectedness and Meaning have developed over the course of our evolution and crucially, how luxury brands can use this knowledge to improve their offering.
Connectedness to both other humans and the planet is the next level of luxury where most luxury brands are investing in today. Because status symbols and sensory pleasures are now much easier to attain, luxury has evolved into the more intangible areas of relationships and creating communities.
Research consistently shows that the strength and number of relationships we have is the number one factor influencing human happiness. This again goes back to our evolutionary history when mammals realised the benefits from living in groups for hunting and survival.
Relationships are a key differentiating factor for luxury brands in growing loyalty. Luxury brands have worked hard to create elite communities similar to the tribes of our ancestors where consumers feel understood by like-minded individuals. Luxury in this context makes us happy because it makes us feel connected to others and that we belong. It counters the feeling of loneliness that prevails strongly in society today.
Ferrari does this well and manages two very different communities having the same passion for the brand – the community of people who own a Ferrari car and the community of people who would like to get one but cannot afford it. Using online communities, blogs and social media, they have established an engagement platform where the two communities can live together.
I believe that luxury has evolved again to add a new layer on top of those aforementioned. Luxury differentiation has moved on from providing social status, instant sensory gratification, and a feeling of belonging to contributing to a consumer’s greater life purpose.
People are looking for luxury to offer more intrinsic rewards of self worth than extrinsic rewards that enhance their environment and interactions with others. That sense of self worth comes from a feeling of contributing to a greater purpose than oneself, from using individual strengths and seeing achievements.
A great example of developing luxury through meaning is The Organic Pharmacy. Take its 50ml Rose Plus Anti-aging cream, which at £113, is double the price of Chanel’s Ultra Correction Line Repair Anti-wrinkle Day Cream. With a traditional luxury brand like Chanel already premium priced, how has the Organic Pharmacy justified this additional value? Through aligning with its customers’ values of living sustainably and protecting the planet.
The Organic Pharmacy’s motto is “Be green, but always glamorous” and 95% of every product is certified organic and free from toxic ingredients. It also supports UK farmers and reduces its carbon footprint by sourcing locally wherever possible. Buying the Rose Plus is more than just an anti aging cream. It’s akin to an act of altruism for the planet and creating a better future for our children.
Three ideas for adding meaning
Luxury must offer happiness on all levels to justify its premium price but the opportunity to differentiate sustainably lies in adding meaning. How luxury brands do this will depend on the experience they’re selling and what matters to their target audience. As a thought starter, here are three ideas for adding more meaning and equity into your luxury brand:
- Give your customers the opportunity to learn and develop their strengths. Wholefoods do this wonderfully; giving customers the chance to meet the farmers, learn how cheese is made, do a floristry course, learn about wine tasting or simply talk to one of their knowledgeable and passionate team members.
- Create a shared sense of achievement that is based on your customers’ strengths. The easiest way for everyone to do this is to solicit open feedback from customers, genuinely listen to it, act on it and then tell the customer what difference their feedback has made. Send them tangible evidence with photos of the change and handwrite the note of thanks.
- Give back together and do something for the greater good of others – an act of authentic altruism. Too often, luxury brand CSR programmes are an exercise in improving brand values with “doing good” as a secondary objective. Supporting a cause because it means something personal to your team or your customers holds so much more credibility. If you touch people through authentic generosity and kindness, people will do the marketing for you in a much more impactful and persuasive way than brand-led communication ever could.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post and my alternative view to understanding luxury. As humans have evolved, so has luxury and while some may claim luxury is something we don’t need, it also seems to be something we cannot live without.