Diageo adapts to changing definitions of luxury

Andrea Sophocleous

"From the Chinese government's anti-extravagance campaign to the American public's revulsion at the antics of The Wolf of Wall Street, there seems to be, in many parts of the world, a cultural rejection of old luxury," James Thompson, global managing director of Diageo Reserve, told delegates at the World Federation of Advertisers' (WFA) Global Marketer Conference, held in Sydney in March 2014.

That attitudinal shift poses a problem for Diageo Reserve, which sells premium alcohol brands with an entry-level price of US$40 a bottle, a total rising to tens of thousands of dollars at the high end. But while this cross-border transformation has led some commentators to ask if the notion of luxury is "dead", Thompson argued the reality is much more complex.

"The concept of luxury is too alluring to be banished altogether; it fulfills a fundamental human need or desire, if you like. It may not be as healthy as it was, but I don't think it's dead. In fact, it is sitting up and asking for another cup of tea," he said.