Book excerpt | The mythical value of luxury
The word luxury comes from the word luxury, which means “to dazzle”. The glare is the most glaring when the mythical value of luxury is the highest. Therefore, the degree of the mythic value will determine the Luxury Quotient and the Luxury Factor. The greater the degree of contradictions embodied by a brand, the greater the mythical value, the greater the Luxury Quotient, the greater the Luxury Factor. This is where perception plays a crucial role.
Why are contradictions called contradictions? Because within our belief systems and the conditionings of our family, society, geography, ethnicity, among other factors, we are more comfortable with certain combinations and uncomfortable with certain ones. Those we are comfortable with fall into the conventional quadrants and those that are not fall into the unconventional quadrants. For example, we plot classic and contemporary on the Y axis and young and mature on the X axis. The quadrants of young and contemporary as well as classic and mature are the conventional ones. We are quite comfortable with these combinations. However, classic and youthful as well as contemporary and mature fall into unconventional quadrants. It is the quadrants that interest us. Our belief systems have made us believe in certain comforting combinations and so the uncomfortable ones give rise to contradictions. For example, the combination of body and mind – the two greatest contradictions embodied in The Thinker. A person who cares more about physical appearance is by convention not cerebral and vice versa. Rodin was able to capture this in his timeless creation, more than a work of art it is thought that is revolutionary, the dazzle or the luxury of the Thinker has therefore been maintained for a century.
Let me talk a bit about the Luxe Quotient and the Luxe Factor, measures that I devised in my first book Decoding Luxe.
Glare is a matter of perception. So there is no universal luxury quotient or luxury factor. It all depends on the sample you choose to determine the ‘Luxe Quotient’ or ‘Luxe Factor’ of a luxury brand. Luxury Quotient or LQ is a unique measure to capture the desire and desire of a luxury brand. It has the ability to capture the relative glare factor between two or more comparable brands from a customer’s perspective. So if we choose in a sample two brands of watches say Rolex and Omega, Luxury Quotient will tell you which is the most dazzling (for the same customer) in the chosen sample. This will determine a higher luxury quotient for you for that brand. This classification can be made even for a customer segment, for example for experientials or connoisseurs or strollers or aesthetes. So basically a segment is chosen and the brands are compared. The higher desirability for this segment of customers for a brand means that Luxe Quotient carries more weight for Rolex than for Omega for the Flaunters segment. You can also take a weighted average across the four categories of customers to understand the Luxury Quotient of one brand versus another. Dear reader, you may recall from my apple to apple comparison earlier, my dazzle with a Cartier ring or a Louis Vuitton scarf just looks very dull when looking at the Cartier crown of the Maharaja of Patiala with a De Beers diamond of 234.69 carats or the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir customized 30 Louis Vuitton trunks. This difference in radiance is captured by Luxe Factor.
It’s from the perspective of the brand towards the customer. So it will be the same brand and different customers and their glare factors. For Louis Vuitton, who is interested in two customers, sincerely say yours and Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, I have a higher luxury factor for LV compared to Maharaja. For me, the glare factor for the same brand is much higher. Likewise, for Cartier, my Luxe Factor is higher than that of the Maharaja of Patiala. The degree of glare is a crucial catalyst that every luxury brand must understand very clearly. As stated earlier, when you want to own a luxury item, you are well aware of the premium you will have to pay. If you are price sensitive, this will be a very difficult proposition, justifying the premium. So, the best way to justify the premium charged is through value for money. So let’s first look at the ways in which a luxury product can be great value for money. The premium is charged because by purchasing this product you will be part of an elite and exclusive club, you will be part of the heritage of this brand. So you also pay to be part of the history of the legendary brand. Then comes the experience. When you pay a high premium for a luxury purchase, you’re paying for the experience. However, it is above all the factors that really encourage you to make the purchase: the Luxury Quotient and the Luxury Factor. These measure how much the product hypnotizes you, attracts you. The Luxe Quotient and the Luxe Factor are simply the Razzle-Dazzle factors. The history woven around the brand, the heritage associated with the brand and the experiential gratification attached to it all contribute to creating this luxury and increasing this desirability.
This desirability determines the extent to which you can practice indulging in the luxury brand. The urge, the eagerness, the desire, the desire, it’s all captured here. The degree of glare is very personal and therefore there is no universal degree of luxury quotient or luxury factor for any particular brand. It depends on the sample chosen, and therefore while comparing the sample remains the same and the Luxe Quotient determines which brand is the most dazzling, the most desired and Luxe Factor shows from the brand’s point of view which customer is the most desirable for that particular brand. Luxe Quotient and Luxe Factor are great tools for brands around the world to use to study their brand vibrancy and customer desirability, then they can rework their brand story accordingly to achieve their Luxe Quotient or Luxe Desired factor. The Quantum of Luxury matters.
How to create the mythical value of a luxury brand
The degree of the mythical value of luxury holds the key to the durability of the myth of luxury brands. Therefore, every luxury brand must deepen its purpose and identify its inherent attributes.
So how do you create and communicate mythical value in luxury brands?
1. The first step is to identify brand attributes as well as brand associations.
2. Second, identify the opposites of these attributes. So if an attribute is young, the opposite will be vintage.
3. Now is the time to plot the opposites and identify the new window of opportunity. For example, if the other two opposites are economical and expensive. Then, if the norm or quadrant where the brand is operational is young and economical, the brand must now find a new window of opportunity that cannot be a conventional quadrant, for example vintage and expensive. It should always be an unconventional, young and expensive or vintage and economical quadrant. Something that seems impossible.
4. Only once you have identified the window of opportunity eg vintage and economy does the branding and communication planning begin.
5. Thus, the new positioning and its communication will be done with the new attributes in the new window of opportunity.
So once you’ve been able to grasp the contradictions of your brand, the key is to work on creating a new niche. After all, it’s all about communication.
1. Whenever you communicate, make sure both contradictions are highlighted.
2. It should be suitably designed to highlight more of one contradiction than another. However, never forget to highlight both because the mythical value is created only with the coexistence of contradictions.
It’s time to create your own myth!
— The author, Dr Mahul Brahma, is Professor and Dean of the School of Media and Communication at Adamas University and Fellow of the University of Bath Spa, UK. He won the 2022 Sahityakosh Samman Award for his book, The Mythic Value of Luxury’. He has been a prominent advocate, through his writings and TEDx talks, for the inclusiveness of luxury.