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Luxury Unfiltered: Are brands delivering pure emotion, luxury’s key tenet?

May 29, 2024

Daniel Langer is the founder and CEO of consulting firm Équité


In today’s hypercompetitive and fast-changing luxury reality, brands face an increasingly complex challenge: capturing the elusive essence of emotion.

At its core, luxury transcends tangible attributes, tapping into clients' deepest desires and aspirations. Luxury is pure emotion, and the true power of a luxury brand lies in its ability to evoke emotion and create a sense of belonging and personal significance.

But the question remains: is your brand delivering this emotional experience?

Emotional appeal
When I audit brand experiences across categories and regions, I mostly find shortcomings in two dimensions: first, significant inconsistencies in the emotional experiences provided by brands. In other words, experiences don’t feel the same across stores and sometimes even in the same store when provided by different salespeople.

Second, the experiences often feel transactional and lack the emotional component. This makes it hard for clients to develop an emotional response and become brand loyal.

This comes at a significant cost to luxury. In a saturated market for high-end products and services, differentiation is paramount.

What sets one brand apart from another is the emotional connection it creates with its audience. This connection is the currency of the luxury sector and is what creates desirability.

Consider the most iconic luxury brands. Their allure is not solely based on product features but on their brand story and the feelings they evoke.

The digital age has intensified the need for brands to master emotional engagement. Social media, influencers, and personalized marketing have amplified the expectations of luxury clients.

Today’s luxury buyers are not passive recipients. Instead, they seek experiences that align with their values, aspirations, and identity.

Engaging authentically
Creating emotional resonance requires a deep understanding of your audience.

It’s about listening to their needs, aspirations, and pain points. Luxury brands must move beyond traditional market research and delve into the psychology of their consumers.

This means leveraging data analytics, AI and other advanced technologies to gain insights into consumer behavior and preferences. But more importantly, it means fostering a culture of empathy and authenticity within the brand.

Authenticity is the cornerstone of emotional engagement. Consumers today are savvy and discerning; they can spot inauthenticity from a mile away.

I often remind managers in my master class sessions that there is no such thing as 90 percent authenticity. A brand’s story must be genuine, its values transparent and its actions consistent.

This authenticity builds trust, which is essential for any emotional connection. A brand that stays true to its ethos and delivers on its promises will cultivate a loyal and emotionally invested customer base.

Moreover, the experience of luxury must be holistic. It’s not just about the product but the entire journey, from the first point of contact to post-purchase interactions.

Every touchpoint should reinforce the brand’s emotional proposition. This includes personalized services, immersive experiences and thoughtful customer care.

A seamless and emotionally engaging journey will leave a lasting impression, turning clients into loyal brand advocates.

Ensuring allure
One critical aspect often overlooked is training. Luxury brand training should never be generic—I hear so often the word “world-class service,” but if it’s not defined with precision, it means nothing—or solely focused on sales tactics.

It must include a strong, dedicated focus on individual brands' distinct brand experience markers. This tailored approach enables sales teams to embody the brand’s unique story, ensuring every customer interaction is infused with the brand’s emotional DNA.

Generic training fails to capture the nuances that set one luxury brand apart from another, risking a bland, undifferentiated customer experience. When an experience is underwhelming, it will never feel luxurious.

Many luxury brands are falling short because they lack clarity on their distinct emotional markers. Without a well-defined understanding of what sets them apart emotionally, training cannot effectively convey these nuances.

Brands must invest in clearly identifying and articulating their unique emotional propositions. Only then can they train their teams to deliver a truly differentiated and emotionally resonant experience.

In a market where emotional connection is everything, this clarity and tailored training are not optional—they are imperative. The future of luxury lies in emotion.

Brands that can deliver a powerful and authentic emotional experience are thriving in today’s competitive landscape. It’s time to ask yourself: is your brand delivering the emotion that defines true luxury?

If not, it’s time to rethink, reimagine, and reconnect with the very essence of what makes luxury luxurious.

Luxury Unfiltered is a weekly column by Daniel Langer. He is the CEO of Équité, a global luxury strategy and brand activation firm. He is recognized as a global top-five luxury key opinion leader. He serves as an executive professor of luxury strategy and pricing at Pepperdine University in Malibu and as a professor of luxury at New York University, New York. Mr. Langer has authored best-selling books on luxury management in English and Chinese, and is a respected global keynote speaker.

Mr. Langer conducts masterclass management training on various luxury topics around the world. As a luxury expert featured on Bloomberg TV, Financial Times, The New York Times, Forbes, The Economist and others, Mr. Langer holds an MBA and a Ph.D. in luxury management, and has received education from Harvard Business School. Follow him on LinkedIn and Instagram.