Experiential luxury is not a new concept—in fact, we’ve been seeing it gain momentum since before the onset of the recession. However, it is something that is becoming more and more relevant as our attitudes towards luxury evolve.
What sparked this shift? There are several factors, but essentially the luxury consumer wants more. In the 1980s and 1990s, a logo-heavy handbag/jacket/watch was a direct indication of social status, but now, partly due to a more pared-back, post-recession mindset and partly due to a been-there-done-that attitude, there is less of an emphasis on material goods and more attention being paid to self-enrichment. Don’t get me wrong: this is not to say that the desire for luxury goods has been completely replaced with the desire for lavish experiences, it just means that it has become equally important.
“Today there is less of an emphasis on material goods and more attention being paid to self-enrichment.”
Another factor is the rise of emerging economies such as China and Africa. People in countries where travel was very limited are now extremely interested in experiencing destinations in terms of Michelin-starred restaurants, yacht excursions, safaris and luxury spas. A report released by The Boston Consulting Group in 2012 (mid-recession, mind you) found that $980 billion (roughly £583 billion) was spent on experiential luxury, while luxury goods (cars, apparel, watches, jewellery, and so on) totalled only $830 billion (£494 billion) combined.
We shouldn’t underestimate the effect of counterfeit goods on the experiential sector. They have undermined the luxury industry not just with handbags, but with fine wines, clothing, technology, and so on. Experiences are much harder to fake and so people still feel that they are investing in something exclusive.
The democratisation of luxury
Perhaps even more relevant has been the democratisation of luxury, which has in turn attracted a younger consumer. It has happened across a number of sectors: think designer collaborations with retailers like H&M and GAP, Gucci partnering with mid-range car maker Fiat and the very marker of an elite lifestyle, champagne. Many brands are now touting it as a drink suitable for everyday consumption, no longer reserved for celebrating special occasions.
And of course, the meteoric growth of social media has had a major impact. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram – these outlets allow a consumer to share luxury differently, making knowledge and self-betterment a new status symbol and, in turn, sharing these experiences online.
There has been a positive side to this swing in public consciousness – it has directly benefited the luxury travel industry. Five-star hotels, luxury spas, yachting companies, private jets – all have seen a marked growth in interest. It has also encouraged brands that were only known for their designer clothing or jewellery to diversify. Think Roberto Cavalli wines, the new Ferragamo hotel and even Land Rover has recently partnered with luxury travel specialists Abercrombie & Kent to offer driving holidays.
Luckily for editors of luxury publications like myself, this shift has carried over to the way we are introduced to new launches, whether it be a new spa, hotel, or in the case of Dom Pérignon Champagne, the release of its latest vintage. Brands understand that not only will we communicate to our readers differently having truly experienced a product, but we will also want to share it with friends, family and our followers on social media. Not because we have to, but because we want to.
“Brands understand that not only will we communicate to our readers differently having truly experienced a product, but we will also want to share it with friends, family and our followers on social media.”
The perfect example is a few weeks ago, when I accompanied Dom Pérignon to Iceland for Sphere magazine, where we were awed by the incredible effort made to allow us to experience the release of Dom Pérignon P2-1998. As the company said: “P2, the Second Plénitude of Dom Pérignon, is an intense, precise and vibrant facet of the wine, like the landscapes of Iceland. The experience revealed Dom Pérignon’s Second Plénitude around four magical places in Iceland: Seljalandsfoss waterfall, Gígjökull glacier, Dyrhólaeyjarviti lighthouse, and a private party in a secret place.”
As we travelled between the otherworldly lava fields, majestic waterfalls, dramatic cliffs overlooking black beaches, historic lighthouses, active volcanoes and melting glaciers, we drew parallels between the layered complexity of the Champagne and that of the country’s spectacular landscape. Much like this island of only 300,000 people, the opening of a bottle of P2 is like embarking on a journey thorough a new universe. No longer is a glass of wine just a glass of wine or a holiday just a holiday – these are journeys to be experienced and shared. With that in mind, here is a peak inside our Iceland adventure.
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