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Interbrand Celebrates One Year of Meta-luxury

Posted by: Lindsay Beltzer on Wednesday, May 1 2013 05:06 PM

Ricca and RobinsPublished April of last year, Interbrand’s Manfredi Ricca and Rebecca Robins’ Meta-luxury: Brands and Culture of Excellence sets out to define a new lexicon in the world of luxury. A paradigm of “luxury beyond luxury,” Meta-luxury explores it both as a cultural and business model.

Contending that the definition of luxury has been overexposed, evident in phrases such as “accessible luxury,” “affordable luxury” and even “masstige” (a combination of “mass market” and “prestige”), the authors coin the term “meta-luxury” to define a new class of luxury. Through the concept of Unique Achievement and the pillars of Craftsmanship, Focus, History and Rarity, the authors examine what is at the heart of meta-luxury and its implications for brand and business management.

Since its release, Meta-luxury has received notable attention from top business press and trade publications alike, including The Financial Times, Branding Magazine, Popsop, WOBI (World of Business Ideas) among many others. I recently interviewed Ricca and Robins for a deeper outlook on the world of meta-luxury and what the global marketplace holds for the future of the luxury sector.

How would you articulate the difference between luxury and meta-luxury?

As we were talking with our clients and conducting research in the market, some key questions began to be raised in terms of how we articulate luxury and what the implications are for brands. Meta-luxury was born from the realities of recognising a space that is beyond luxury, as we have come to know it, one that has become so stretched and overused that it is practically devoid of meaning.

As such, we set out to define the world of excellence as a conviction rather than luxury as a convention. To define some tangible points of distinction: luxury is often a self-proclaimed status, whereas meta-luxury is always a restless pursuit. Luxury is often about showing, stretch and surface, whilst meta-luxury is invariably about knowing, focus and depth.

Through the concept of Unique Achievement and its corollary pillars of Craftsmanship, Focus, History and Rarity we look at what is at the heart of true luxury – and the implications for brand and business management. Brands that operate at the confluence of these four pillars, we identify as meta-luxury.

Since Meta-luxury launched one year ago, have you seen any luxury brands in the marketplace start to embody or embrace the characteristics of meta-luxury?

Meta-LuxuryFor some brands, meta-luxury has afforded a positive affirmation and reinforcement of who they are and the space that they occupy. We have had conversations with brands around what meta-luxury can mean for their business, looking specifically at one or more of the four pillars.

The core premise of our business at Interbrand is the creation and management of brand value and the challenges that brands face fall along every facet of that spectrum. Some of the dialogues, for example, that we’re having with brands are around how we orchestrate the customer journey. With others, we are looking at establishing metrics for tracking the performance of the brand.

A number of acclaimed artists, musicians and intellectuals are featured in the book. What was your goal in featuring these thought leaders outside of the traditional or corporate brand space?

Because meta-luxury is inherently about what is beyond luxury, it’s a natural consequence of our quest for excellence that we went beyond the accepted and expected codes in our conversations. It’s a question of unique achievement, of excellence and, very crucially, a culture of excellence.

Perspectives from academics, to artists, to creators of excellence thereby afforded, naturally, a more comprehensive and textured dialogue. What are particularly poignant and fascinating to observe are some of the common threads and points of parallel that recur across a series of conversations, which span individuals from such a diversity of cultures and backgrounds.

What do you think the future of luxury holds? What trends or market changes will define the category?

That possibly merits another book in the making! Certainly the business models that luxury brands adopt will continue to be high on the agenda as they engage with the challenges and opportunities of diversification.

Are brands making decisions based on financial benefits in the short-term, which may otherwise have long-term ramifications for the health and longevity of the brand? How do brands retain their uniqueness while continuing to remain relevant for new generations and generations to come?

Certainly value, the notion of what we value and why, has never more been called into focus than in recent years. Post-crisis we have seen that the consumer desire for and value of the experience has become one of the most compelling drivers of demand.

What can brands, irrespective of sector or industry, learn from the model of meta-luxury?

In absolute terms, meta-luxury affords a platform for the management of meta-luxury brands. In relative terms, it provides a benchmark for the management of premium and luxury brands, with some compelling lessons that challenge our notions of sustainability, innovation, authenticity and storytelling.

Lindsay Beltzer is Senior Associate, Global Marketing & Communications for Interbrand.

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