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Luxury Unfiltered: The imperative role extraordinary experiences play in elevating luxury

June 26, 2024

Daniel Langer is the founder and CEO of consulting firm Équité


By Daniel Langer

In practically every conversation I have with leadership teams across luxury industries, there is one common thread: delivering extraordinary client experiences is no longer optional, it is essential.

Yet, many luxury brands today remain stuck in the “sea of sameness,” offering predictable and uninspired experiences that fail to captivate increasingly younger and more discerning clients. Brands are understanding that what was sufficient, even just a few years ago, needs a significant transformative shift.

Following the 4Es of the luxury framework that I introduced in previous publications — emotion, experience, engagement and exclusivity — is an excellent starting point for creating the extraordinary.

The “sea of sameness” problem and the role of the 4Es
Many luxury brands adhere too closely to industry “best practices.” I advise companies vehemently against these, as they do nothing else than create more of the same, resulting in experiences that are indistinguishable from one another.

I cannot even count the times I have sat in first class on an airplane and been underwhelmed by experiences that are elevated but seldomly extraordinary. The same goes for car purchasing experiences, high-end restaurants and hotels, buying fashion and jewelry — the list goes on and on.

Most experience audits produce an experience that is solid but not extraordinary. This adherence to category norms creates a mediocrity that leaves clients unimpressed.

By playing it safe and predictable and by doing what competitors do, many brands fail to deliver the unique, memorable experiences that truly define luxury. Those who do often struggle to deliver the extraordinary consistently and across all client touchpoints.

Extraordinary experiences are like theatre performances. They require a unique story, a well-defined script, incredible and passionate actors, rigorous training and rehearsals, well-orchestrated teamwork and total dedication to delivering an unforgettable, exclusive moment for the audience.

The 4E framework is pivotal in transforming luxury brand strategies. While emotion, engagement and exclusivity are vital, the focus here is on experience and how to elevate it from expected to extraordinary.

Scripting unique experiences and prototyping
To stand out, luxury brands must script their experiences to align with their unique brand story and core values.

This involves meticulous planning to ensure every touchpoint reflects the brand story and resonates emotionally with clients. A well-scripted experience is about making certain that clients feel core emotions.

I always like to remind brands that a brand story that lives in a PowerPoint deck is worth nothing. Brand stories need to be felt by the clients; at that point, they can unlock extreme value.

Before rolling out a brand experience, prototyping and optimizing is crucial. This iterative process allows brands to refine their offerings based on client feedback and observations, ensuring that the final experience is flawless and impactful.

I often find that brands underestimate the delivery by the staff members. What often feels easy and intuitive on paper, makes many people feel uncomfortable.

In a recent experience audit in the fine alcohol category, some VIC ambassadors told me flat out that they did not believe in the brand story and what the brand expected them to do, and therefore they created their own experience based on their personal best practices.

It is easy to understand why clients cannot feel the brand if, at the point of service delivery, the brand experience becomes dependent on the personal preferences of the staff.

Training for empathy and emotional intelligence
Continuous training (see story) and retraining of staff are essential, yet most brands cut corners here.

Investments are done into real estate and marketing, but the critical human factor is often neglected. Employees must be extremely well-versed in the brand story and equipped with the skills to deliver personalized and empathetic service.

When I train even some of the most experienced sales teams, I regularly observe that unlocking the emotional key of clients and creating emotional connections and empathy are among the hardest things to deliver.

Empathy towards clients is critical as arrogance is never luxurious - as I often remind companies. Staff must be trained to understand and respond to the emotional needs and desires of clients.

This involves active listening, emotional intelligence and the ability to connect on a personal level. Understanding the emotional keys of clients enables staff to tailor experiences that resonate deeply and create lasting impressions.

Aligning KPIs with client satisfaction
Many brands also struggle to deliver extraordinary experiences because they apply the wrong key performance indicators (KPIs) and, as a result, negatively affect client experiences.

When KPIs focus solely on short-term sales targets or efficiency metrics, they drive behaviors that undermine the quality of long-term client relationships. Instead, KPIs need to be, in many cases, drastically simplified.

They must align with long-term client satisfaction and loyalty and, importantly, with delivering experiences that express the brand story, encouraging staff to prioritize the quality of the experience over immediate and transactional sales outcomes.

Urgent call to action
Luxury brands must act now to elevate their client experiences from expected to extraordinary.

By embracing the 4E framework they can differentiate themselves in a crowded market and build lasting emotional connections with their clients. Radically client-centric approaches dramatically enhance the perceived value of brands, fostering desirability, loyalty and long-term success.

It is time for luxury brands to move beyond the mediocrity of best practices and create truly extraordinary experiences that resonate deeply with their clients. Luxury is about the emotion, the story and the experience that make it truly special.

Are you ready to transform your brand’s client experiences and lead the change? The time to act is now.

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.