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  • Posted by: Lindsay Beltzer on Wednesday, May 1 2013 05:06 PM | Comments (0)

    Ricca and RobinsPublished April of last year, Interbrand’s Manfredi Ricca and Rebecca Robins’ Meta-luxury: Brands and Culture of Excellence sets out to define a new lexicon in the world of luxury. A paradigm of “luxury beyond luxury,” Meta-luxury explores it both as a cultural and business model.

    Contending that the definition of luxury has been overexposed, evident in phrases such as “accessible luxury,” “affordable luxury” and even “masstige” (a combination of “mass market” and “prestige”), the authors coin the term “meta-luxury” to define a new class of luxury. Through the concept of Unique Achievement and the pillars of Craftsmanship, Focus, History and Rarity, the authors examine what is at the heart of meta-luxury and its implications for brand and business management.

    Since its release, Meta-luxury has received notable attention from top business press and trade publications alike, including The Financial Times, Branding Magazine, Popsop, WOBI (World of Business Ideas) among many others. I recently interviewed Ricca and Robins for a deeper outlook on the world of meta-luxury and what the global marketplace holds for the future of the luxury sector.

    How would you articulate the difference between luxury and meta-luxury?

    As we were talking with our clients and conducting research in the market, some key questions began to be raised in terms of how we articulate luxury and what the implications are for brands. Meta-luxury was born from the realities of recognising a space that is beyond luxury, as we have come to know it, one that has become so stretched and overused that it is practically devoid of meaning.

    As such, we set out to define the world of excellence as a conviction rather than luxury as a convention. To define some tangible points of distinction: luxury is often a self-proclaimed status, whereas meta-luxury is always a restless pursuit. Luxury is often about showing, stretch and surface, whilst meta-luxury is invariably about knowing, focus and depth.

    Through the concept of Unique Achievement and its corollary pillars of Craftsmanship, Focus, History and Rarity we look at what is at the heart of true luxury – and the implications for brand and business management. Brands that operate at the confluence of these four pillars, we identify as meta-luxury.

    Since Meta-luxury launched one year ago, have you seen any luxury brands in the marketplace start to embody or embrace the characteristics of meta-luxury?

    Meta-LuxuryFor some brands, meta-luxury has afforded a positive affirmation and reinforcement of who they are and the space that they occupy. We have had conversations with brands around what meta-luxury can mean for their business, looking specifically at one or more of the four pillars.

    The core premise of our business at Interbrand is the creation and management of brand value and the challenges that brands face fall along every facet of that spectrum. Some of the dialogues, for example, that we’re having with brands are around how we orchestrate the customer journey. With others, we are looking at establishing metrics for tracking the performance of the brand.

    A number of acclaimed artists, musicians and intellectuals are featured in the book. What was your goal in featuring these thought leaders outside of the traditional or corporate brand space?

    Because meta-luxury is inherently about what is beyond luxury, it’s a natural consequence of our quest for excellence that we went beyond the accepted and expected codes in our conversations. It’s a question of unique achievement, of excellence and, very crucially, a culture of excellence.

    Perspectives from academics, to artists, to creators of excellence thereby afforded, naturally, a more comprehensive and textured dialogue. What are particularly poignant and fascinating to observe are some of the common threads and points of parallel that recur across a series of conversations, which span individuals from such a diversity of cultures and backgrounds.

    What do you think the future of luxury holds? What trends or market changes will define the category?

    That possibly merits another book in the making! Certainly the business models that luxury brands adopt will continue to be high on the agenda as they engage with the challenges and opportunities of diversification.

    Are brands making decisions based on financial benefits in the short-term, which may otherwise have long-term ramifications for the health and longevity of the brand? How do brands retain their uniqueness while continuing to remain relevant for new generations and generations to come?

    Certainly value, the notion of what we value and why, has never more been called into focus than in recent years. Post-crisis we have seen that the consumer desire for and value of the experience has become one of the most compelling drivers of demand.

    What can brands, irrespective of sector or industry, learn from the model of meta-luxury?

    In absolute terms, meta-luxury affords a platform for the management of meta-luxury brands. In relative terms, it provides a benchmark for the management of premium and luxury brands, with some compelling lessons that challenge our notions of sustainability, innovation, authenticity and storytelling.

    Lindsay Beltzer is Senior Associate, Global Marketing & Communications for Interbrand.

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  • Posted by: Dominik Prinz & Eric Morrison on Monday, October 15 2012 10:25 AM | Comments (0)

    Piggy BankOver the past two years, a curious trend has emerged amongst luxury brands.

    Across Italy, numerous high-end fashion brands have championed efforts to restore cultural landmarks. In January 2011, Tod’s CEO Diego Della Valle pioneered the trend when he announced a $34 million donation to restore the Colosseum in exchange for advertising rights. More recently, Gucci and Prada have continued the trend by broadcasting their investments in historic landmarks across Venice in return for commercial retail rights.

    Just as Italy’s consumer protection agency, Codacons, publicly challenged Tod’s role, many have responded to the brands’ initiatives with skepticism - questioning if the brands’ real intentions are purely “good” or rather calculated. Also, many wonder if this is a case of “good intentions gone bad” – especially if restoring cultural sites results in them being turned into high-end commercial stores that drive away local vendors.

    Such attacks indicate multiple tensions; one amongst them is the inherent challenge that luxury brands face in undertaking corporate citizenship. How can brands predicated on premiums and status for the select few amongst us credibly give back to society at large? And does the exchange of funding for promotional rights undermine this effort after all?

    Yet, the branded initiatives offer insight into how the luxury category can align corporate citizenship with the strategic objectives they have defined for their brands and business – as long as they take into account some critical considerations:

    First, the brands need to be strategic in aligning themselves with such momentous real estate. By linking themselves to iconic cultural sites, brands like Tod’s, Gucci and Prada can emphasize relevant associations such as tradition, sophistication or exclusivity. But they also need to be cautious in pinning down their messaging. Once consumers get the impression that these efforts are merely driven by commercial self-interest, advocacy can quickly turn into skepticism and distrust.

    Second, in working to preserve Italian heritage, brands have a chance to demonstrate “authenticity.” It is easy to identify the cultural and aesthetic synergies between such brands and their renovated sites. As Interbrand’s recent publication Meta-luxury: Brands and the Culture of Excellence argues, "Brands that have created value across generations are a valuable part of our culture." Yet, even on a tactical level, such brands recognize their own stakes in maintaining their nation’s architectural and cultural distinction, as “Made in Italy” claims and Italian roots in turn substantiate the brands’ premiums.

    Ultimately, luxury brands can step up to take on parts of the responsibility that public institutions can’t always live up to in an age of public deficit and funding cuts.

    If done right, luxury brands can demonstrate good Corporate Citizenship and close the gap between perception and performance. And they can venture beyond restoring important cultural heritage; they can restore consumers’ trust in a brand’s positive impact on society.

    Eric Morrison is an Associate Strategy Consultant and Dominik Prinz is as an Associate Director of Strategy for Interbrand.

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  • Posted by: Katy Buckley on Wednesday, December 15 2010 11:52 AM | Comments (0)

    December has arrived and I've opened the first doors on my advent calendar. The familiar flavour of chocolate can mean only one thing, Christmas has landed.

    This year, an exclusive few are in for a different experience when they pull back one of Porsche Design’s million dollar calendar’s advent doors: they might just find a speedboat. Not since Bullseye has such an extravagant prize been awarded. But this is just one of the delights in what has been billed as the worlds most exclusive advent calendar — one of just five available worldwide, one for each continent (a considerate foresight).

    Other highlights hidden in the six foot tall tower include a Porsche designed rose gold watch, a pair of gold sunglasses, cufflinks and running shoes — not forgetting, of course, a designer kitchen (just how they fit it all in is not clear).

    The calendar has been on display for purchase at Harrods which, according to managing director Michael Ward, “has long been associated with unveiling innovative and highly exclusive products.”

    Because Porsche has issued so few, they are all likely to be sold. And while some may be outraged at the blatant display of wealth, it may prove to be a smart (and playful) move for the luxury car brand to leverage its exclusivity.

    I'll have to resign myself to cheap chocolate this year, but I've high hopes for extraordinary treats in 2011.

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  • Posted by: Interbrand on Wednesday, June 9 2010 02:15 PM | Comments (0)

    Interview with Jean-Baptiste Danet, CEO Interbrand Europe
    Published in La Tribune, May 31 2010

    (Lire en français ici.)

    Over the past few years, the luxury category has been influenced by a phenomenon called “accessible luxury.” How has this affected the luxury world?

    “Accessible luxury” is an oxymoron enabling those brands with a weaker heritage and less anchorage in the tradition of luxury to proclaim themselves as icon brands.

    This phenomenon has shrouded the luxury sector in a cloud of contradictions, made even denser by the economic crisis. It has shown how it is possible to either focus on dreams or on reality—but never simultaneously on both.

    How have the luxury brands reacted to this?
    Some luxury brands, like Ferrari, have chosen to control their growth and even limit production in order to maintain their legendary status. Others, like Armani, have deliberately adopted a volume strategy and endeavored to enlarge their customer base, thereby relinquishing the traditional notion of luxury. These two contrasting strategies have both paid off. It is important to highlight that the way in which consumers have reacted to the crisis proves that luxury is not a category a company can decide to enter. Rather, luxury is born of product excellence. Myths are based on reality, not the contrary. Today, it would seem that “genuine” has become “the exception.”

    Is this why some brands have returned to their origins over the past few months? 
    Genuine is the key factor of demand and therefore the factor that generates value. Those brands that have surfed on the “luxury for all” trend are no longer considered to be luxury brands per se. Well-established, historical brands have had to focus on their prestige/past glory—on what has made them legendary. Louis Vuitton has strengthened its “traditional” luxury status, notably with a well-inspired and successful advertising campaign highlighting its savoir-faire.

    For other brands, demand for perfection and excellence has enabled them to reconstitute a coherent positioning. This is, for example, the case with Hermès (see video below), which has always clearly expressed its positioning based on craftsmanship and the pursuit of the highest quality for its perfectly structured product catalogue.

    This endeavor to be genuine has also had an impact on distribution modes. All top brands—Gucci, Prada, Burberry, as well as Vuitton—have invested in expanding and/or realigning their distribution network. When it comes to preserving or communicating a brand image, sales outlets are just as crucial as the products themselves.

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  • Posted by: Patrick Stal on Thursday, April 8 2010 02:04 PM | Comments (0)

    China is without a doubt a pressing point on any CEO's agenda. Luxury brands, in particular, have an invested interest in the region.

    On a recent trip to Shanghai I was not only impressed by the number of luxury flagship stores, but by their size and the number of people shopping in them. Specifically, I was amazed that so many luxury stores have plans to open soon.

    With the World Expo in Shanghai set to start in May of this year, it appears that global luxury brands have kicked their China expansion plans into high gear.

    There’s impressive architecture all round. Just a few examples (all located within 20 meters of one another), include a temporary facade that resembles the iconic Tiffany's box, a pinstriped, four-story, architectural statement by Ermenegildo Zegna, and a LED technology facade for Cartier’s upcoming store.

    With projections that show that China is poised to show growth rates of over 10 percent for luxury goods (Bain & Company) in 2010, this expansion should not come as a surprise. However, while the careful first steps of several, iconic flagship stores might be expected, it now seems like a full-scale market rollout is in progress. And among the predictable, international players you can also find several up and coming brands with Asian roots such as Annabel Lee and Shanghai Tang.

    The next phase in China's luxury story, looks like it will not revolve around what is going into China, but what is coming out of it. With a credible heritage of exceptional tailoring and even more exceptional fabrics, Chinese luxury apparel brands will have fertile ground to build remarkably strong global brands.

    Besides a strong heritage, Chinese aesthetics have always been attractive to the West—perhaps more so than the other way around. We will need to stay tuned to find out who the winners will be.

    It will take some time, and more importantly, it will take international brand building skills. But there will be winners, and they will likely come from China.

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