• 25th July 2018

In an increasingly crowded sector, how do luxury brands stand out?

What do you think of when you hear the word “luxury”? Fine wines, 5-star hotels and diamond necklaces – or a slightly superior ready meal range at your local supermarket?

These days, it seems like the word luxury is cropping up everywhere, used to describe everything from toilet paper to chocolate cake. This problem has extended beyond the supermarket shelves to the global luxury sector, where manufacturing brands around the world are using this term – along with “premium”, “superior” and “industry-leading” – to push products that simply aren’t that special.

With so many other companies to compete with, many genuine luxury manufacturers are struggling to stand out and progress with new competitors consistently undercutting their prices. Some people argue that luxury isn’t truly being diluted, but that improved manufacturing processes and more sophisticated technologies have allowed for greater efficiency, reducing costs while maintaining quality. While this may be true, it cannot be denied that increased accessibility undermines what the luxury sector stands for and that, inevitably, this will lead to a dip in product quality and value.

The solution for true luxury brands and manufacturers, therefore, seems to be in creating a new space within the sector that curates a different kind of consumer experience. One technique that certain brands are using is to offer personalisation or bespoke customisations, which might encourage the user to hold onto the item for longer than they normally would. While neither of these methods are off limits to competitors looking to undercut, the idea behind these techniques is helpful as it points towards a potential new direction for luxury brands: longevity.

In the eyes of Toby Wilson, COO at MW Luxury, luxury brands could take inspiration from Patek Philippe, which famously uses the slogan You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely take care of it for the next generation. Wilson argues that this “elevates a Patek Philippe watch over the trend of mass consumption, whereby consumers buy products for themselves, to use up and discard. By presenting the product as a legacy item it immediately projects the brand across generations. It’s a strangely challenging message, as it asks you to invest in something very expensive and yet not ‘own’ it, however it resonates perfectly with our emotions, asking us to take responsibility for, and be proud of, what we leave behind.”

The future for luxury manufacturers, then, may lie in carving out a new space that associates true luxury with a quality of timelessness. In this space – which Wilson has suggested may be called the “Super-Luxury” or “Prestige” sector – the value of an item will go beyond its instant use; it will become an unique emblem of status, aspiration and longevity, something cherished dearly for many years and even passed on to new generations.

One brand that has embraced this concept is Diageo, with whom Wilson and the MW Luxury team frequently collaborate. Diageo has launched a Prestige Commercialisation programme called Casks of Distinction which allows consumers to choose a cask from one their 39 whisky distilleries and have it privately bottled with their name on the labels. As a luxury offering, this service provides pleasure and value on an ongoing basis over many years.

For luxury brands like Diageo, experienced luxury packaging manufacturers such as MW can help to deliver that prestige vision, by delivering packs that build a connection with the consumer and evoke the quality of the product through the use of quality materials and refined processes.

With these innovative ideas in play, it’s unlikely that the luxury sector will disappear altogether – but exactly how luxury brands across the globe will reposition themselves remains to be seen. Watch this space.