Redefining Luxury for the Millennial Market

May 14, 2013

fashionscollective

Gone are the days of “prestige” and “social status” as indicators of desirability in luxury brands—millennials want authenticity, singularity, and social value from the brands we choose to champion. Everlane, along with brands like Warby Parker, Indochino and even the newly launched ‘How About We’ (a dating site that provides members with a complimentary concierge service) are doing something compelling in the prestige space. They offer all the consideration and it-factor of a luxury experience, but with a sense of innovation and transparency a lot of the ‘traditional luxury’ brands find hard to achieve.

This wave of “one-foot-in-the-door” luxury brands is cutting through the noise and pushing boundaries—not just of what it means to be a “brand” in this category adjacent to luxury, but also of how to create a “share-and-repeat” worthy experience. It’s clear that this category of brands is disrupting the way millennials think about luxury… but how?

A high degree of product quality is a given, but the true standout factor is that these brand platforms echo millennial generation values—what we want from the brands we “like”.

1. Digital Brands for a Connected Generation: This category has upended the traditional brand model entirely—goodbye brick and mortar, courting buyers, building a reputation through advertising, sharing space in high-end department store lookbooks, and so on. It’s not so much that digital is a key component of this sort of brand—digital IS the brand. Of course, there are other, slightly older, brands that have grown up digital—take Gilt Group or Fab, for example, and what’s intriguing about these in particular is that they’re now taking advantage of, or resorting to, traditional mediums (e.g. TV ads). In the case of Gilt, their commercials still catch me a little off guard. It’s as if it’s hard to make the connection between the brand I check daily on my iPad, and the clothes parading across my television. I do feel as though these digital brands are bound to and ought to take the next step—but the transition is new and a little unfamiliar right now, to brands and consumers alike.

2. Responsive by Design: When it comes to forging a connection with a generation that’s unafraid to experiment with technology (let’s be honest, you switched on your new iPhone to figure it out, while your parents went searching for the manual hidden deep in the box), this category has knocked it out of the park. Free of traditional retail restrictions, these brands are listening to their loyalists, and responding. And it’s not with a Facebook post or an Instagram feed. Indochino hosts travelling tailor events, Everlane is opening a pop-up shop in Canada for it’s vocal followers, and the list goes on. There’s undeniably an element of connection and social share-ability that even the best-trained team of brand ambassadors would find hard to recreate.

3. Concise Storyline: We’re busy and constantly connected—brands need to cut through the noise, offer something different and better, stand for something and tell that story clearly and concisely. This category of brands doesn’t have a long history to stand on, so they need to hook their loyalists through honesty and a personality that resonates with a generation always looking for the opportunity to share. It seems that transparency + worthy product + value proposition + a cohesive digital and social experience = success. On the note of transparency, millennials don’t really care that these brands may not be as uninterested in profit as they claim, because they offer us a package we want, and a brand mission we identify with.

4. Curated Content: In this marketing/branding world, we all know the immense value attached to content marketing—it’s the golden goose of every company out there, and it’s no surprise to millennials that it’s caught on like wildfire. We live public lives, sometimes in parallel to our private lives; sometimes altogether different. Point being, millennials are in the habit of curating their public presence for the online world, and expect brands to do the same. It’s not just about blogging about happenings, it’s about pulling in outside content and offering it up in a curated and thoughtful manner—these brands let their personalities show in a personal way, and their loyalists can’t get enough.

So, that’s ‘one-foot-in-the-door’ luxury in a nutshell. It’s not about a luxury price tag; it’s all about a considered experience. These brands are like a custom made suit for an entire generation—and I expect they will grow and adapt to be just as enduring mainstays in our consumer culture.

Kristen Dillman is the resident millennial at The O Group, a boutique luxury branding agency in New York City. You can follow her on The O Group blog.

Photo Credits: Lifesize