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Luxury Unfiltered: Four key strategies to transform conventional events into exceptional experiences

May 1, 2024

Daniel Langer is the founder and CEO of consulting firm Équité.


By Daniel Langer

I just returned to Los Angeles from a whirlwind week of travel to Qatar, Zimbabwe and several Asian locations including Singapore for a number of luxury experience projects.

One event stood out. I had the privilege of presenting at a conference in Zimbabwe's stunning Victoria Falls.

There, the world's leading event planners and hospitality representatives gathered to discuss the future of destination weddings and luxury experiences.

From conventional to exceptional
The feedback I received from the audience echoed a message I gave during my masterclass: we are in an era of hyperacceleration and disruption.

As a result, the game has changed for luxury experience providers: it’s the new game of luxury.

Young millennials and Generation Z expect dramatically more when it comes to the level and intensity of luxury experiences, and sustainability is no longer an option – it's a requirement.

This contrasts with a reality where, even at the “luxury level,” many experiences disappoint.

They are too “normal,” too much “I have seen it before,” and lack one-of-one elements. In other words, many of today’s experiences are conventional at best, and most of the time, are not extraordinary.

When something is rather ordinary, the word “luxury” becomes an inappropriate descriptor.

For something to be a luxury, people must be surprised, mind-blown, and awe-inspired by it. They have to feel “wow” and, frankly, should crave more.

Again, the reality is different. Many luxury resorts’ loyalty rates are in the single digits. Hence, although paradise is promised, people don’t come back – maybe it says something about the concept of paradise itself.

To many luxury experiences, participants, guests, and clients give 60 to 80 percent satisfaction ratings, a catastrophe for anything striving to be luxurious.

To transform a luxury experience from conventional to exceptional, I recommend four critical strategies.

First, empower the team. The client-facing staff is at the heart of the luxury experience, and their impact is paramount.

I emphasize this because only a well-trained, highly motivated and genuinely passionate team creates memorable positive moments that resonate with guests.

At the conference, I shared insights into building a culture of excellence where every team member understands the brand's story, the script of the experience and feels empowered to do everything to make the guest experience unforgettable.

Exceptional experiences are delivered by exceptional people, and the best luxury brands know how to cultivate that mindset. Invest in hiring the right people, train them systematically, nurture a sense of understanding and then create magic.

Authenticity is key
The second strategy involves engaging in authentic and perceivable brand storytelling.

Brand storytelling is the blueprint of what makes an experience unique. Unfortunately, most brands and experiences are described in a generic way, and by far, are too vague.

This suppresses the likelihood of success. In Victoria Falls, I spoke about the power of a compelling narrative in creating emotional connections with guests.

To stand out in today’s world, luxury brands must articulate their story in a way that resonates with their audience's values and aspirations. It must be told through their eyes.

It needs to be inspiring and different. It's about more than just selling a product or service – it's about inspiring clients and guests to be part of something larger.

While doing it, authenticity is key. A brand story is not a marketing campaign.

It is the description of “who we are,” distinct, authentic and inspirational and, importantly, this story needs to be told with the client in mind. It’s about the value creation model for the client.

Therefore, the best brand stories are about “you can experience this differently through us,” not “we do” -- in more than 90 percent of brand and competition audits, I find that brand stories are, rather, describing a category story, but not explicitly what the brand does.

The most important questions to answer are also the hardest, from “What do we sell?” to “Which emotion do we want to inspire in people?”

Most brands fall short and just describe what they do. In today’s world, where clients want to understand the values of a brand, this is not enough.

The third strategy? Create immersive and exceptional customer experiences.

The brand story is the script for the customer experience. Therefore, differentiation and being an expression of core values is so mission critical.

Luxury experiences should engage all the senses, immersing clients in a dream world that will be relived forever. At the conference, I highlighted the importance of creating seamless, personalized experiences that surprise and delight.

This involves an attention to detail, from aesthetics and ambiance to the quality of service. Having clarity about how people should feel and deliver on their ambitions is most important.

The goal is to create an emotional journey that leaves guests feeling excited, valued and understood. Technology can play a role in personalizing the experience, but it must not overshadow the human touch.

The most exceptional experiences combine innovation with genuine warmth and care.

Reimagining luxury experiences
The fourth strategy is building long-term customer relationships. How often have I been exposed to experiences where the relationship with the brand ended afterward?

To create extreme value, it is critical to build lasting connections with guests. I spoke about how luxury brands can nurture these relationships by providing ongoing value and staying in touch with the evolving needs of their customers.

Personalized communications and exclusive events can help maintain a sense of connection. Loyalty should never depend on loyalty programs. In fact, brands that have prominent loyalty programs are often significantly worse at maintaining meaningful client relationships than those who put a significant effort in the human-to-human connection.

In the age of sustainability, it's also about demonstrating a genuine commitment to social and environmental responsibility. I have seen several recent examples of events where the organizers, often wealthy Gen Zers, want to offset the carbon footprint of the event.

Guests want to know that their luxury experience isn't just about indulgence but about making a positive impact.

These four critical aspects – inspiring the team, authentic and perceivable brand storytelling, immersive and exceptional customer experiences and fostering long-term customer relationships – are the building blocks of taking a luxury experience from the conventional to the exceptional.

As I concluded my presentation at Victoria Falls, I reminded the audience that the future of luxury is about creating truly meaningful experiences that resonate on a deeper level and about creating extreme value.

It's a challenging journey. But for those who embrace it, the rewards are extraordinary.

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.