Exclusivity, status and price are no longer enough to define a brand as luxury. People are hungry for experiences, yearning for fantasy, emotion and excitement. Not only have we become more sophisticated in our tastes and aspirations, we make more considered choices with the way we spend our time and money. The idea of luxury is no longer limited to the ownership of physical objects, we are rapidly losing faith in the ability of objects alone to help us stand out from the crowd. We’re looking for experiences, not just as a way to celebrate our exciting, globe-trotting lifestyle, but also to promote the breadth of our understanding and knowledge of the world.
For luxury hospitality brands is it enough for you to know your food provenance, have a great cocktail and a lovely pool? This level of experience has begun to feel less relevant, as people want brands to display local knowledge and a natural understanding of their surroundings; what experiences can brands provide beyond afternoon tea that are going to elevate the guest experience? This leads the world of travel towards the experiential; and how do you look to take products and create a stronger story and experience around them?
White Line Hotels is an example of a brand which entices you, and takes you on a journey in every interaction. A tightly edited collection of creatively inspired hotels, they believe that –
The language they use on their website, in newsletters and their publication ‘The Aficionados’ all take you on a journey away from the expected and beyond just the plain ordinary. Their website is designed to transport the dreamers and the wanderers on an online voyage to beautiful destinations, creating a site which is both an emotional and tactile experience within the digital environment, something very much lacking with some of their competitors. This is continued in print with The Aficionados – encouraging a sense of exploration. With an editorial feel and a richness of storytelling enhanced by the personal touch of interesting, unique and sometimes unexpected connections. With subtle design elements such as the rawness of the paper texture, brushstrokes and hand drawn illustrations contrasting with the beautifully refined photography that all helps to enhance the experience.
Luxury brands outside of hospitality are also thinking even harder about how to entwine the experience within their product-customer relationship. VINIV Bordeaux offers you the chance to make 288 bottles of your own bespoke wine, but their brand proposition is a whole lot greater than that. They open the door to the closed society which is the Bordeaux winemaking community, a place where there are normally only two ways to enter — either be born into it or risk millions buying land there. They have made history by creating the first way for people from beyond Bordeaux to experience the region like an insider. They don’t just show you around, they enable you to make your own wine in the heart of Bordeaux, under the guidance of the area’s best winemakers.
Their brand is centred around this adventure from vine to bottle, and the customer is the ‘hero of their own story’. Guided through the process of winemaking, from harvest to bottling, all in the creation of their unique wine tailored to their own taste, using their nose, palate and imagination. This personal story is brought out in all their communications – through the use of handwriting and sketches to communicate the experience from the perspective of the protagonist, representing notes in their diary. While the watercolour washes and brushstrokes evoke thoughts of the deep palette of swirling wine in the glass, alongside bold expressive brushstrokes. All centred around beautiful photography and captivating copy, telling the story of every detail of the adventure.
Taking this even further are brands offering complete immersive experiences such as Secret Cinema. Specialising in ‘live cinema’ experiences they create 360-degree participatory worlds where the boundaries between performer and audience, set and reality are constantly shifting. They describe themselves as –
When first launched attendees would not even know what film would be shown, and even though it has now grown to large-scale productions in some of the most spectacular spaces worldwide their brand still plays on this secrecy. You ‘enter a secret world’ on their website where information is sparse and videos entice you with brief glimpses or their secret worlds. While their social media feeds are rich with movie references, exciting their fans with endless possibilities of upcoming events. A secret club for those in the know, and we all know how alluring that can be.
All of these brands draw you in, entice, seduce and excite you with the possibility of new and unexpected adventures, with brands that are rich with detail and nuance, subtly helping to define and support the message at every interaction. As the demand for luxury experience grows, brands that do this will lead the way, though the real winners are surely the customers who will have access to ever richer, more interesting and engaging experiences.