In a general context of gloom and recession, the global luxury industry continues its insolent growth fueled largely by the accession of BRIC citizens (Brazil, Russia, India, China) to millionaire statuds. The members of this growing club of affluent people do not just acquire designer objects symbolic of their class as they are now more interested in unique or even transformational experiences.
According to the Boston Consulting Group, trips, vacations, expeditions, cruises, this year represent the fastest growing segment in front of handbags, watches, clothing, jewelry and other turbo charged cars.
Like the influence of haute couture on prêt-à-porter, the luxury sector is certainly at the forefront of a trend that is interesting to decipher in terms of communication and marketing .
LIVE VS. OWN.
Nowadays it seems that possessing the exterior signs of wealth is no longer sufficient. The acquisition of exclusive and high-end goods is within reach of an ever growing number of individuals. These objects are manufactured and even counterfeited in large numbers thus diminishing the perceived value. The ability to take advantage of tangible goods is limited by our physical abilities while our ability to experience emotions is infinite. That may be what drives this search for non-reproducible and exclusive in the intangible, in the intimacy of the experience. Space tourism is probably the most extreme example of this trend, but the number of applicants crowding the waiting lists is a good indicator of its relevance.
A stratospheric flight or a stay aboard a space station are bigger than life experiences that sell for themselves. For players offering more earthly packages, differentiation in a highly competitive market is a strategic issue. Relevant concepts being implemented at the speed of the Internet, everyone now offers “experiences”. As the premium for the novelty of the concept is no longer a competitive advantage, the challenge, especially for resorts, is to attract demanding customers wishing to live a unique moment.
As it is no longer sufficient to communicate on the register of hedonism or on the exotic character of the place with a glossy or virtual brochure other means must be invented.
DIFFERENTIATE TROUGH EMOTION
A spectacular view, a sophisticated cuisine, a sumptuous room, a refined spa, enchanting gardens, attentive staff, are clichés literally and figuratively, which present a level of reality, but that does not reflect the emotion, the singular identity of the place. This is perhaps the greatest challenge in terms of communication, to convey an emotion, to translate the essence of a space or a concept allowing customers to project themselves and begin to feel what they could live there. The idea is not to sell a package, but to offer a “decor” with which the client “will come into resonance” to experience the unique story that he will write there. The communication becomes the creation of storytelling anchored in reality. To materialize this scripted reality, the full range of narrative tools can be used.
A communication experience of this kind was conducted in September 2011 by Portraitgraphy with « Les Terres M’Barka » which is a resort near Marrakech. In order to translate the spirit of the place, a cinematic video portrait was produced. The portrait shows the property developer who plays his own role and expresses the vision that preceded the genesis of the project. The character evolves in its creation and invites the viewer to discover his universe through his eyes. The border between reality and fiction disappears to make room for emotion. The video is presented on a dedicated website and is accompanied by a poetic text that offers an alternative approach to the vision. Video capsules offer sensory samples of the place and making-of photos highlight the cinematic flavor of the project. The hotel and surrounding landscape are only suggested and used as the setting in which the character evolves.
This original communication approach has been very well received by customers and professionals gathered at an international conference in Marrakech in October 2011 and whose theme was appropriately “The importance of storytelling.”
Poetry and cinematics techniques are perfectly coherent for this type of project because they are original creations adding value to another creation. The “client / actor” is exposed to several works which he is invited to contribute by its presence. This approach seems to satisfy the desire of unique, intimate and therefore non-reproducible experiences on the part of ” luxury consumers”. The experience of the place can become the contribution to a creative process and not a simple act of consumption.
Taking this concept to the next level, “Les Terres M’Barka” plans to offer the cinematic portrait experience to its customers. The “client / actor” becomes the subject of his own movie in the “decor” he chose because of the emotion it inspires. The loop is closed.
Pushing this even further, we may see appearing in the near future the concept of “Designer Life”: your life “designed” as a succession of personal and exclusive experiences in a scripted reality 24/7/365.
BEYOND EMOTION, MEANING
Will emerging communication techniques used by the luxury industry spread to other sectors?
Can poetry and cinematic portraits apply to other markets?
It is surely too early to tell, but beyond the tools, the emergence of a consumer trend oriented toward being more than having is an indicator, probably revealing, of the troubled period of transition we are going through. The hierarchy of needs seems to be evolving from the material to the intangible, from the object to the experience, and beyond the experience the search for meaning.