Bits of Atoms
Being Good for Business: Admap Prize 2013

Highly Evolved Luxury

A while back I gave the keynote at the Luxury Marketing Council Summit in NYC. 

As is so often the case, I was asked to talk about the future of...

[this often, in turn, really means the confusing present.

As Wiliam Gibson recently pointed out...

{I haven't used a Gibson quote for ages, because I used to hammer his distributed future present line so much.} 

...the present is so weird, we spend a lot of time, leveraging our collective imagination, crafting theory and story to help explain it to ourselves.

But, then again, we always have.] 

luxury, and how luxury and social media might intertwine. 

In order to look forward, we must look back.

Not just because history repeats, either as farce or burp...

Does history repeat iself, the first time as tragedy, the second times as farce?  

 No, that's too grand, too considered a process.  History just burps, and we taste again the raw-onion sandwich it swallowed centuries ago.

- Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending

...but because without knowing what came, what was, how can we undertstand if things are different? 

I looked at the history of luxury brands, using Louis Vuitton and Prada as cases.  

Louis Vuitton is the world's most valuable luxury brand, and has been for the last 6 years.

Mr Louis Vuitton Malletieir was a French luggage designer who noticed that traditional luggage trunks had rounded tops [because, when travelling by horse drawn wagon, it was useful to have a top that rain slid off] but that in the new age of steam and rail, they were a headache because you can't stack them. 

So he invented, or at least popularized, a flat top canvas trunk, for the modern world.

It was so succcesful, it was widely imitated. 

In fact, the LV ligature was something he came up with to stop people copying his design, or passing off on his reputation. 

Yes, there are obviously Jobsian parallels here, and it's an historical burp that one of the most imitated, copied logos in the world was invented precisely to prevent such knock offs [as all logos were in some sense] but they in turn became the easiest thing to copy and stick on anything to create knock-offs.

When you saw the LV you knew you were getting the craft of the master, not some other flat top trunk imitator. 

At least, back then. 

Luxury brands still hark back to craft, and provenance, and exclusivity, to justify the incredible mark up on the cost of production they charge.

This is why luxury brands have been historically reticent to play online.

Inherently democratic spaces make them feel uncomfortable

But, as the Murikami LV Mercedes in the deck was intended to show, luxury brands have evolved way beyond this, to symbols. 

[When an artist and another company makes the product the symbol is on, it's hard to argue it denotes craft or provenance, but clearly it means something.] 

So, as department stores did before them, a new set of intermediaries have sprung up, disintermediating the customer from the luxury brand. 

And, in the final act, I suggest gently that social media can be and are being used to diseminate the stories of luxury brands in a direct, modern way, that is enhancing their symbolic value and indeed changing the boundaries of and players in what is considered 'luxury'. 


Were you surpised that APPLE was the number one top of mind luxury brand for young high net worth consumers?


If you are interested in booking me for a keynote, you can check out what some people have said, see some examples and get in touch here