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'Cultural codes' key for luxury brands

News, 20 September 2016

CHICAGO: Luxury brands should consider factors such as timeliness, self-expression and "cultural codes" as they seek to engage younger consumers, a leading industry executive has argued.

Jon Potter – who left Moët & Hennessy USA in August 2016 after four years spent first as Chief Marketing Officer/EVP of Brands, then Managing Director for Chandon California – discussed this subject at a conference held by the Brand Activation Association (BAA), a unit of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA).

"Luxury is changing, for many different reasons," he asserted. (For more details about changing consumption habits in this sector, read Warc's exclusive report: Moët Hennessy's new look at luxury.)

More specifically, while younger consumers still want to buy premium products that reflect quality and discernment, they display several traits which are distinctive from earlier generations.

"Luxury's still desirable, but it needs to be more attainable. Cultural codes are more important than status. Having a status symbol still resonates, but having something that says, 'I understand culture; I'm connecting to a place' is more important," said Potter.

"'Self-expression' is certainly one of the biggest trends of the word 'luxury'. As is timeliness – the ability to actually access [a product or service] rather than having to wait now has become a luxury," he added.

Another source of change across the industry inevitably involves the rise of digital, which is transforming how people discover, purchase and spread the word about high-end products.

"Digital has definitely changed the word 'luxury' ... [It] is transforming the way we're thinking about luxury, the way consumers are engaging with the word 'luxury', and how we need to respond," Potter said.

"Our consumers are spending more time finding out about brands online," he added. "They are buying our brands more and more online … They're telling their friends about the experience they've had with the brands online."

That experiential focus feeds into a wider trend of relevance to Potter both in his role at Moët & Hennessy and new position as Chief Marketing Officer at the Boston Beer Co.

Premium-brand consumption, he suggested, is increasingly related to "finding unique experiences that say something about you."

Data sourced from Warc