What keeps Luxury Brand Dazzling Over the Ages

The word luxury comes from the word luxe, which means “dazzle”. What creates that dazzle? The core element of that dazzle is that it represents something unique. So what keeps the luxury brand dazzling over the ages? The unique element that luxury brands that have stayed on for ages is mythic value. They have been an embodiment of contradictions passed on as a legacy of the heritage they were a part of.  

[Book Cover] The Mythic Value of Luxury
[Book Cover] The Mythic Value of Luxury

The tales of luxury have a deep root in heritage and have always been a story of embodying contradictions. As stated earlier, the greater the contradiction, the greater the appeal of a luxury brand. The legend, the heritage continues to lure, continues to create awe, continues to remind the contradictions it represents – both simultaneously. That is why the heritage remains the greatest USP of any luxury brand even today. Thus, it is the mythic value stemming from the heritage that makes a brand iconic or legendary. 

Let me explain with a few examples of how heritage plays a critical role in creating mythic value. The heritage is primarily originated from our Royalty. 

In 1926, the Maharaja of Patiala gave Cartier its largest commission till date the remodeling of his crown jewels, which included the 234.69 carat De Beers diamond. The result was the Patiala necklace weighing 962.25 carats with 2,930 diamonds. In 1928, the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir placed 30 orders in six months for trunks from luggage maker Louis Vuitton. Not to mention that a certain Nizam had procured 50 Harley Davidsons for his postmen to deliver his messages. 

Let’s look at the case of the Maharaja of Patiala. An Indian native Maharaja adorning the most expensive Cartier crown necklace with the biggest DeBeers diamond that you can ever imagine. This would not have created such a legendary visual if the King were a Brit or European because here two contradictions meet — East meets West. Moreover, the popular perception is that of diamonds as a girl’s best friend. But, a man’s best friend? So this imagery has in itself another contradiction – Man and Diamonds. This was the image of Maharaja of Patiala, who commissioned the largest order to the epitome of Western brand Cartier back in 1926. Now this B/W photograph is carefully showcased in all major Cartier showrooms, some of which I have visited, especially abroad. Cartier executives are trained to carefully mention the story to key clientele, to make the client buy into the “mythic value” of Cartier’s luxury heritage. The client is made to feel one with the legacy of the brand that it carefully has chosen to showcase, as if the product is the conduit to the imagined community of royalty.

An India native Maharaja buying the epitome of reputation in Western culture – a Rolls Royce. And converting it into a garbage collector for the city. Had a European done this to an Indian brand, it would have been commonplace. Again, experience the visual appeal of East deconstructing West by embodying it. These visuals when analysed deeply show that they capture an embodiment of contradictions. These contradictions together create a mythic value in these brands that make them iconic. No wonder these legendary stories are alive for over a century and still able to generate awe. 

If we look deeper into the case of the Nizam and his postmen, we will see the heritage and contradiction as well. If it were horses it would not have been made through time. If is easy to connect horses with Indian Nizams, given the time and the heritage of royalty. But the moment horses are replaced with Harley Davidsons. Heritage meets modernity creating mythic value. 

Thus it is the heritage that helps luxury brands identify and unlock the value of their myth.  

Creating mythic value for GenZ: embodying contradiction of technology and heritage

The times are a changing. So luxury brands need to innovate and change with the changing consumers. The contradiction today is experiential luxe that stems from heritage versus UI/UX of luxe ecommerce. And it is the task of the brands to identify this mediation.

The challenges ecommerce, in its existing avatar, faces when it comes to luxury brands. Luxury shopping is steeped in heritage and experience. The constant reminder of heritage, ambiance, the visual treat, the attention of the staff treating you like a king or queen, offering a beverage, even Champagne, and simultaneously sharing the tales of its myth, its legacy and its heritage. For traditional ecommerce, the shopping is primarily for value, the biggest discount. This is just not the premise where luxury brands operate.

Most luxury brands have started investing heavily in social media to generate a market for the millennials or rather millennial millionaires. Suddenly, UI/UX has become an important brand parameter. A mix of both worlds of our heritage and our future in technology is the way ahead. In addition, personalised service to key clienteles is a key element for creating loyalty.

In June 2017, global luxury goods company LVMH launched its own multibrand eCommerce portal, 24 Sèvres, named after its Paris address (24 rue de Sèvres) and inspired by its Parisian luxury department store Le Bon Marché. Featuring not only LVMH’s own portfolio of brands (including Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior) the eCommerce site also curates luxury fashion, accessories and beauty products outside of the Group. 

There is a role that AI (artificial learning) and ML (machine learning) can play. Using analytics, the clothing of the customer can be analysed and options suggested from what is available in the stores. AI spend is all set to rise to USD 7.3 billion in 2022 from USD 2 billion in 2018. 

With the rise of millennial millionaires, technology has a greater role to play as a mediator between the contradictions of experiencing luxury and using ecommerce. The technological advancement of SAP is joining hands with the epitome of heritage Harrods to develop technology for creating a personalised shopping experience, which will have the heritage of Harrods and the power of technology – a perfect example of mythic value. 

Therefore, in the new world order for luxury, innovation towards mediation will play a key role. Innovative formats like Zero Inventory Stores or Pop Up stores are quite in vogue, creating the mix of ecommerce and physical stores. Around 800 stores are lined up in the next five years by top 100 firms.

In the midst of the crisis, however, new opportunities will arise. 

It is heritage that stands tall as the father of mythic value in luxury. What changes are the contradictions that mythic value embodies over centuries. So today, post the Covid crisis, in the world of luxury the embodiment of contradictions will be experience and technology. The mix of physical and digital or phygital. This phygital, driven by AI and ecommerce, will pave the way for the new mythic value of luxury to survive the test of time. 

Creation of new myth will be powered by luxury’s embodiment heritage and technology, mediating between the age-old legacy and the future. 

The above article is an excerpt from the book, “Mythic Value of Luxury”, by Prof (Dr) Mahul Brahma.

About the Book

The Mythic Value of Luxury, is a study of myths and what creates mythic value in luxury, which survives the test of time. The book decodes how philosophical, sociological and anthropological concepts can be applied in the study of luxury to bring out the critical role played by contradictions and how luxury brands can take advantage of it to survive centuries. Therefore, the study unveils how mythic value helps in brand positioning, increasing brand equity, brand value, including brand asset valuation, eventually making it one of the most valuable luxury brands, which is timeless, even in this day and age of e-commerce. This book looks into a more serious academic perspective of luxury, delving deeper into the raison d’etre of the luxury brand. The objective is to look past the myopic view of luxury defined by “price tags” and find the true meaning of luxury that is defined by its heritage and mythic value, which makes it timeless.

The book has various examples of such embodiment of contradictions used by luxury brands like Cartier and Rolls Royce to create mythic value. It also elucidates the concept with an example from the art world, The Thinker or Le Penseur by Auguste Rodin which is one of the greatest examples of mythic value of luxury, a priceless piece of art created in 1904 that withstood the test of time. It embodies the greatest contradictions of all, that of mind and body. The book has also delved deeper into metrics of mythic value explaining the concepts of luxe quotient and luxe factor. It also has a quick manual on how to communicate mythic value for luxury brands. 

Click here to read more

About the Author

Dr. Mahul Brahma, The Author.

Dr. Mahul Brahma is an author, chief editor, TEDx Speaker, professor, dean, columnist, luxury commentator, and the creator of The Luxe Trilogy, which comprises 'Decoding Luxe', 'Dark Luxe' and 'Luxe Inferno'. He has authored 'The Mythic Value of Luxury', 'How to Communicate Strategically in the Corporate World' and 'Quarantined: Love in the time of Corona'. He is a Professor of Crisis Communications and Dean - School of Media and Communications at Adamas University. He is an award-winning CSR, communications and branding leader and was heading three verticals in a Tata group company. He has held senior editorial positions in leading national and international publications. He is an award-winning filmmaker, actor and painter. He holds a PhD in Economics, a DLitt in luxury and Communications and is an alumnus of Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, St Xavier’s College, SSSUTMS, MICA, and University of Cambridge Judge Business School.

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