Experiences and story, the foundation of luxury marketing offers

in On Entrepreneurship

Exceptional experiences that pack a story to tell are the new luxury marketing offers. (And there is a lesson here for all businesses, marketing to the affluent or not, so read on.)

People with disposable, six-figure incomes are spending money on luxury goods that used to be reserved for the “upper crust” of society. These are the mass affluent, and they have been written about in exhausting detail.

Ages ago, in order to come away with that uber-trendy LV bag, you had to go to a boutique where you were treated like a king or queen before receiving your prize. At full retail price. Nowadays, it is as likely to have been purchased at CostCo or a discounter on the web.

This democratization of luxury goods has destroyed a major selling point: Exclusivity.

Cynical or not, most luxury goods are sold at a premium in large part due to the social message they communicate. When “everyone” has access to what used to make your social group “unique” … the symbols begin to lose their meaning.

BTW, in case you have your nose up at the “snobs” who would drop $2k on a handbag to show off … keep in mind that everything from tribal tattoos, hybrid vehicles, fair trade coffee and Apple Computers are sold the same way.

Identifying your “tribe” through your “stuff” isn’t a rich person’s disease … it’s a condition of social humans. You and I included. Deal with it.

So … with luxury goods becoming less exclusive and more available with every passing day, their value as symbols decreases. When that happens, the people who used to value the symbols seek out the next big thing.

Today, that “thing” takes the form of experiences.

The value of an experience is not limited to the experience itself. It includes the story you get to tell about the experience from that point forward.

Two weeks ago, I flew home from a speaking gig in Dallas.

I’m not a “suit guy” … but the man sitting next to me had a stunning suit on and I told him I loved it. What followed was a 30 minute discussion about how he had flown three times to London, spent the better part of a day each time with a Saville Row tailor, and almost 9 months later this suit was the result. Good story.

He almost certainly paid upwards of $10,000 for the entire experience.

Could he have have received a similar quality suit from a Washington D.C. tailor (or a Saville Row tailor who travelled to DC)? Certainly. For less money? Absolutely. But would it have been nearly as good a story to tell? Not even close.

Let’s turn this to geek culture.

Everyone in the blogging world is aware of Hugh’s project with Thomas Mahon, English Cut. Is there anyone out there who does not believe that an English Cut suit does not carry a premium in Silicon Valley … not only because of the quality … but because of the story it allows the wearer to tell? Ozwald Boateng may be hot stuff in LA, but my money is on English Cut being the one people in the cutting edge world of tech “get.”

In case you are wondering, I’m not writing all of this to talk about going bespoke.

I don’t care what you sell. When you engineer your offerings to include an exceptional experience and a great story to tell about it … you have a point of differentiation and the seed of incredible word-of-mouth marketing it’ll take ages for the competition to catch up to.

{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anonymous September 12, 2010 at 1:29 pm

Great article, very useful. Thanks

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2 Anonymous June 1, 2010 at 2:51 pm

Every time a customer comes in contact with your company you have an opportunity to create value. And everyone in your company needs to focus on providing what customers want. Every single person in your organization is crucial to the level of success from your Virtual Assistant on up to you, the CEO.

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3 juliacassidy May 21, 2010 at 11:01 am

Great article, and btw, .@Kelly O'Neil, excellent comment, outstanding insight.
I agree with the general message, especially with the part in which you say how important word-of-mouth marketing is. Very good stuff.

Thanks for sharing.

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4 Nap Dee November 30, 2009 at 3:00 pm

Zzzz… Never would you see LV at “CostCo or a discounter on the web.”

I stumbled upon this sight and that statement alone will ensure I never return.

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5 sikis_izle August 24, 2009 at 10:14 am

great article , thanks

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6 peterurne August 14, 2009 at 2:17 pm

The experience and the story is certainly a major factor now in luxury items.
Good one!

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7 Anonymous July 17, 2009 at 9:07 pm

These launching an entire program about teaching entrepreneurs to Market to the Affluent next month.  What you said is so true!
Every time a customer comes in contact with your company you have an opportunity to create value.

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8 Veyton July 7, 2009 at 4:24 pm

Amen to that! great articel. thanks for sharing this. keep on the good work.

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9 Anonymous July 1, 2009 at 9:19 pm

Great article Mike. Nice Blog!!

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10 John Fontana March 3, 2009 at 9:02 pm

Very well written. I love your blog Mike.
I work with Affluence.org and the challenge I’m currently overcoming is an overflow of “high net worth” leads and finding products to market to them.

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11 Kelly O'Neil February 22, 2009 at 7:32 am

Michael, long time no see.  Great post!  As an expert in marketing to the affluent, I am launching an entire program about teaching entrepreneurs to Market to the Affluent next month.  What you said is so true!
Every time a customer comes in contact with your company you have an opportunity to create value. And everyone in your company needs to focus on providing what customers want.  Every single person in your organization is crucial to the level of success from your Virtual Assistant on up to you, the CEO.
The Golden Rule as it is most frequently expressed is: “Do onto others as you would wish them do onto you.”
Creating a VIP experience—the kind you would like to experience yourself—is the secret to acquiring affluent customers, keeping them coming back AND making them raving fans who will tell their friends all about you.

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12 Anonymous December 11, 2008 at 10:54 pm

Great article, interesting..Good one Michael!

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13 Anonymous December 11, 2008 at 12:54 pm

Great article, interesting..Good one Michael!

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14 Anonymous November 13, 2008 at 4:33 am

Well democratization means that luxury goods can be accessed by a wider range of consumers. In my opinion that’s what a marketer really aft
<a >girly tattoo</a>

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15 Anonymous November 13, 2008 at 9:33 am

Well democratization means that luxury goods can be accessed by a wider range of consumers. In my opinion that’s what a marketer really aft
<a >girly tattoo</a>

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16 Anonymous September 12, 2008 at 6:10 am

Well whats the point of living and not enjoying you only live once and besides its not like when you die you take your cash with you!

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17 Anonymous September 11, 2008 at 8:10 pm

Well whats the point of living and not enjoying you only live once and besides its not like when you die you take your cash with you!

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18 Anonymous August 16, 2008 at 4:14 am

Great article and very well said.  I’m definitely going to pass along to a few folks grin

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19 Anonymous August 16, 2008 at 9:14 am

Great article and very well said.  I’m definitely going to pass along to a few folks

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20 Anonymous August 15, 2008 at 10:31 pm

The experience and the story is certainly a major factor now in luxury items.

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21 Anonymous August 15, 2008 at 12:31 pm

The experience and the story is certainly a major factor now in luxury items.

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22 Anonymous July 14, 2008 at 8:58 pm

This is simillar to the Shawn Hogan law suit..WHile the suit itselt might cost you some money, it is well worth the pain..

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23 Anonymous July 14, 2008 at 10:58 am

This is simillar to the Shawn Hogan law suit..WHile the suit itselt might cost you some money, it is well worth the pain..

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24 Anonymous April 9, 2008 at 5:58 am

Nice opinions wink

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25 Anonymous April 9, 2008 at 10:58 am

Nice opinions

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26 Anonymous April 6, 2008 at 12:30 am

Clause is perfectly made, it is useful to esteem.

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27 Anonymous April 5, 2008 at 10:32 pm

It is complex to judge such act…

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28 Anonymous April 5, 2008 at 2:30 pm

Clause is perfectly made, it is useful to esteem.

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29 Anonymous April 5, 2008 at 12:32 pm

It is complex to judge such act…

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30 Anonymous February 25, 2008 at 10:08 pm

Wow could have not said it better myself.

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31 Anonymous February 25, 2008 at 12:08 pm

Wow could have not said it better myself.

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32 Anonymous February 24, 2008 at 9:54 am

I think the removal of exclusivity for luxury goods may have some benefit.

Democratization mean that luxury goods can be accessed by a wider range of consumers. In my opinion that’s what a marketer really after.

This way, the product can be sold more rapidly.

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33 Anonymous February 24, 2008 at 2:54 pm

I think the removal of exclusivity for luxury goods may have some benefit.
Democratization mean that luxury goods can be accessed by a wider range of consumers. In my opinion that’s what a marketer really after.
This way, the product can be sold more rapidly.

Reply

34 Anonymous February 22, 2008 at 1:44 am

Amen to that! A suit maybe cost ten thousand bucks but it says ten thousand things about you.

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35 Anonymous February 21, 2008 at 3:44 pm

Amen to that! A suit maybe cost ten thousand bucks but it says ten thousand things about you.

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36 Anonymous February 16, 2008 at 4:40 pm

I agree. There are many products I buy which I like but don’t talk about. If any product or service includes an experience of some sort, perhaps created to make people talk positively, then it can only be a good thing.

I suspect that adding this experience to most companies delivery probably won’t cost that much.

This has inspired me to look again at ways of improving our experience at the point of consumption to make people’s experience superior.

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37 Anonymous February 16, 2008 at 9:40 pm

I agree. There are many products I buy which I like but don’t talk about. If any product or service includes an experience of some sort, perhaps created to make people talk positively, then it can only be a good thing.
I suspect that adding this experience to most companies delivery probably won’t cost that much.
This has inspired me to look again at ways of improving our experience at the point of consumption to make people’s experience superior.

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38 Anonymous April 14, 2007 at 8:11 am

What I’ve found surprising in my work with clients serving affluent markets is that there are two kinds of affluent buyers:  1) truly affluent and 2) “aspiring” affluent.

It’s the aspiring affluent that’s spending money to keep up with Jones and appear affluent.  When you look closely at their finances, they are spending money they don’t have, on things they don’t need, but desperately do want.

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39 Anonymous April 14, 2007 at 1:11 pm

What I’ve found surprising in my work with clients serving affluent markets is that there are two kinds of affluent buyers:  1) truly affluent and 2) “aspiring” affluent.
It’s the aspiring affluent that’s spending money to keep up with Jones and appear affluent.  When you look closely at their finances, they are spending money they don’t have, on things they don’t need, but desperately do want.

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40 Anonymous March 13, 2007 at 2:55 pm

I fully agree with Michael that people are looking for the experience.  I am always advising my clients to look for ways to enhance the buying experience for their customers.  People also want to be a part of something “cool”, which is where the story comes in.  Bring the customer into the story and you will have him.

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41 Anonymous March 13, 2007 at 7:55 pm

I fully agree with Michael that people are looking for the experience.  I am always advising my clients to look for ways to enhance the buying experience for their customers.  People also want to be a part of something “cool”, which is where the story comes in.  Bring the customer into the story and you will have him.

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42 Anonymous February 26, 2007 at 4:46 pm

This is exactly the trend we’re seeing in insurance sales. High-end services like a concierge service is now becoming the “norm.” I spot trends in the insurance industry and this case illustrated above is certainly not one vendors and agents should miss! Great post.

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