What Does Luxury Mean to You?

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When you think about luxury, and a luxury brand, what comes to mind?

Perhaps you are thinking of some of the usual suspects: Mercedes Benz automobiles. Mont Blanc pens. Anything you can buy at Bergdorf Goodman. These are just some examples; I’m sure you have your own.

Luxury brands are the best at defining value for the brand. For example, convincing people to pay $20 for a bottle of shampoo (which, no matter how it smells, is really just liquid soap) requires some branding skills. So too selling a German taxi cab in the United States for over $60,000 is quite an achievement in marketing and branding.

More than anything else, building a luxury brand is about communicating the experience of the brand in a way that is clear, compelling and (above all) a special event. Luxury, by definition, is reserved for the few, the elite, the ones who desire something more. Whether it’s a pen, or a pomade, or a perfect dining experience, luxury is defined by its uniqueness. The luxury experience is one that is removed from the commonplace, and defined by something extra. Something special.

But what if that luxury brand is somewhat…excessive?

Actually, excess is something that often defines a luxury brand. Wouldn’t you agree?

However, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

In my past life, I had the pleasure of working with some of the top luxury hotels in the world. So, from the high-roller suites at Caesars Palace and Bellagio, to the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, to the St. Regis Monarch Beach, I had the distinct pleasure of sampling some spectacular luxury environments.

Have you ever stayed in a hotel room where your personal butler knocks on your door? That’s the kind of place I’m talking about.

But one thing I realized: there was a limit to the amount of “luxury” a person can consume.

For example, you know how luxury hotels will place a few chocolates on your pillow, as part of a turn-down service?

Well, what if (instead of a few chocolates) the hotel placed 60, 70 or even 100 chocolates on your pillow?

I love chocolate, but no one (in their right mind) would be able to consume that many chocolates.

Similarly, what if the hotel wanted to provide you with additional pillows for your bed, as a symbol of a luxurious sleeping experience? If your bed was loaded with 12, 18 or even 32 pillows (could that even be possible?) your experience would not be enriched – it would simply mean that you needed to clear the deck, and choose the number of pillows that made sense for you.

Between the sheets, you have your own idea of luxury – the experience that defines luxury for yourself. For luxury brands, creating that experience is their magic – and also their branding challenge.

Because over the top means excessive – or it can sometimes mean, “just right” – when that experience is part of the promise of the brand. Knowing how to define luxury – and creating that experience that is indulgent without being preposterous – is central to the brand’s value.

(And it’s up to the individual to decide what’s perfect, and what’s preposterous.)

Whether you work for a luxury brand, or just like to frequent luxury brands, consider this idea: the experience is what matters most. The experience of a Ritz Carlton hotel, or a Lexus automobile, a Paerai watch, is different. Special. Unexpected.

What is it that’s special about your brand? What unique qualities are so compelling, when it comes to the brands that you prefer? Capturing that unique story is the key to captivating more customers – as well as a better understanding of your own tastes.

Would you care for a chocolate, by any chance?

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