Five cultural shifts no luxury brand can afford to ignore

Through deep relationships with its thousands of worldwide members, and the businesses that serve them, Quintessentially is uniquely positioned to take the pulse of the global luxury market. Its findings were revealed in a recent report, ‘The New Era of Connection’. We discovered more from Quintessentially CEO, Annastasia Seebohm.

Connection. Authenticity. Self-betterment. Activism. Like shifting sands on a beach, luxury is changing with the demographic tide. And brands that sit, like pebbles, rooted to the spot risk losing out as millennials and Gen Z grow to dominate the marketplace in the coming years.

Annastasia Seebohm, CEO of Quintessentially, offers some numbers that support this view.

“By 2025 these younger demographics will represent some 55% of the luxury market. And they will contribute 130% of the market’s growth in the period between now and then. So we have to focus on the cultural shifts they are bringing about,” she says.

The report selects five crucial shifts:

  • Activism – Conscious Consumption
  • Connectivity – Seeking Meaningful Connections Through Technology
  • Philanthropy – Establishing ‘Living Legacies’ Through Targeted Giving
  • Health – Health-based Decision-Making
  • Self-transformation – Bespoke Self-Betterment

Annastasia notes that each of these shifts was already occurring before 2020; but they’ve been turbocharged by the seismic events that have gripped the world this year.

“These are the shifts that we feel are here to stay, and which will have the most significant impact on luxury businesses,” she says. “A lot of these shifts are driven by technology. Millennials and Gen Z are using social media to signal their brand choices. These so called ‘digital natives’ are simply more aware of the impact of what they buy, and brands have had to adapt. Brands are increasingly seen as indicators of belief systems, and accordingly we’re seeing the growth of conscious consumption, and of more purposeful brands.”

Activism – tread carefully

Annastasia acknowledges the potential minefield that surrounds the shift towards brand activism. Brands can come under fire for hypocrisy, inaction or ending up unwittingly on the “wrong” side of a controversy.

She counsels that authenticity is key to success. “Rather than trying to cover every single cause, it’s much better to think about what type of business you are. Can you make one significant, iconic move in the right direction: a choice in an area where you can make a difference? It’s not about trying to tick every box, but younger people are increasingly voting with their wallets and supporting brands that are leading on issues they identify with.”

As the report’s name underlines, the need to connect with others, and our own selves, is becoming the great challenge of our times, and one where technology has to play a leading role.

It states, “Technology designed to connect us has driven us apart. Now the backlash has matured – we’re seeking out technology that truly delivers a more human connection. A deep yearning to connect with both others and ourselves has been building. Therefore, we predict the value of goods, services, and experiences will increase with their ability to leave us feeling more connected to others or to ourselves.”

For luxury brands that have traditionally focused their financial and intellectual resources on the face-to-face element, whether in boutiques or through services such as dedicated concierge in hotels, this is far from an easy shift to adapt to.

“For some brands the technological capability has not caught up with the in-store capability. Whereas others are doing this really well,” says Annastasia. “One example (of the latter) is Gucci, with its Gucci Live virtual shopping service. Gucci live manages to feel human and personalized without being invasive as the service works via one-way video chat. And outside of technology you can still create relationships even in a pandemic. For example, we’ve seen brands like Boucheron holding intimate, one-to-one dinners in their Place Vendôme flagship in Paris. It’s not as straightforward as pre-pandemic but it can be done.”

“Feeling connected is a fundamental human need – this has only been heightened by the Covid-19 lockdown”

Annastasia Seebohm

A new mindfulness

Within the umbrella of personal connectedness come the twin areas of health & wellbeing and self-transformation.

The report notes that Quintessentially has seen a 144% increase in health and fitness related requests, and a 120% rise in requests for new and continued education, in the 2016-2020 period.

“We’re seeing the younger demographics increasingly shunning party lifestyles in favor of experiences that nourish their physical and mental wellbeing,” says Annastasia. “And this is now focused on truly transformational experiences. So not just spending time in a yoga retreat any more – now it is a week of personal growth with a shaman in Peru. It’s about doing a survival course, where you learn how to live alone in the jungle. At Quintessentially we’ve handled requests for ten private lessons with Japan’s finest sushi chefs and we’re seeing more requests for self-development retreats.”

“This is not just health from a ‘looking after myself’ perspective; it’s also about how can I transform myself through skills to be a happier person holistically? So considering our wider mental development as well.”

This is one of the key trends which has been accelerated by the pandemic-related lockdown scenarios imposed in many countries. Annastasia notes that with less social activity we’ve had more time to think about ourselves, and in particular how we can feel our ‘best self’.

This has not just been an inward-looking process. Philanthropy is also named among the five key shifts, and although this activity has always tended to go hand-in-hand with wealth, it is also becoming more about personal connections, as Annastasia explains.

“There’s still room for the traditional philanthropic model where money is donated to build a library or a school wing. But now the younger generations with wealth to share are getting more invested as individuals. They are giving to causes that they closely identify with, to enable them to create their legacy earlier on in life. It’s an opportunity to connect with others. They’re not waiting until they die to donate.”

She cites the example, quoted in the report, of British rapper Stormzy, who has pledged millions to fight racial inequality, including offering scholarships to enable black students to study at Cambridge University.

Don’t lose that connection

This article can only scratch the surface of what is a thought-provoking and insightful report. To conclude, Annastasia returns again to what she sees as its key takeaway.

“Even with all the social and economic upheaval we’ve been through this year, luxury brands must not underestimate the importance of connectedness. Working together and forming relationships has been an integral facet of the human condition since the dawn of mankind.

“Feeling connected is a fundamental human need – this has only been heightened by the Covid-19 lockdown. By being deprived of human interaction, we have come to appreciate it that much more. As more of our relationships and interactions move online, luxury brands must not lose that vital element of human connection.”

To download your free copy of The New Era of Connection, click here to visit the Quintessentially website



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