It is generally acknowledged that western consumption of luxury in the 1980s and 1990s was motivated primarily by status-seeking and appearance. This means that social status associated with a brand is an important factor in conspicuous consumption. The baby boom generation luxury consumer has a passion for self-indulgence while maintaining an iconoclastic world view, which is transforming the luxury market from its ‘ old ’ conspicuous consumption model to a totally new, individualistic type of luxury consumer one driven by new needs and desires for experiences ’ .
The expression of ‘today’s luxury’ is about a celebration of personal creativity, expressiveness, intelligence, fluidity, and above all, meaning. LUXURY AND POSTMODERNISM Recent arguments have been sounded that aspects of contemporary luxury consumption have reflected the phenomenon of postmodernism. Postmodernity means very different things to many different people’. Postmodernism is essentially a western philosophy that ‘refers to a break in thinking away from the modern, functional and rational’. In terms of experiential marketing, two aspects of the postmodern discourse are most relevant: hyper-reality and image.
Hyper-reality refers to ‘the blurring of distinction between the real and the unreal, in which the prefix ‘hyper’ signifies more real than real. When the real that is the environment, is no longer a given, but is reproduced by a simulated environment, it does not become unreal, but realer than real’. The example of Bollywood to illustrate the so-called ‘Disneyfication’ of reality within the context of contemporary Indian society: ‘Bollywood captures not only the imagination in the form of song, music and dance but fairy tale settings, romantic melodrama and heroic storylines immerse the viewer in ‘simulated reality’.
Traditional marketing was developed in response to the industrial age, not the information, branding and communications revolution we are facing today. In a new age, with new consumers, we need to shift away from a features- and-benefits approach, as advocated by traditional approaches to consumer experiences. One such approach is experiential marketing, an approach that in contrast to the rational features-and-benefits view of consumers takes a more postmodern orientation, and views them as emotional beings concerned with achieving pleasurable experiences.
EXPERIENTIAL LUXURY MARKETING When a person buys a service, he purchases a set of intangible activities carried out on his behalf. But when he buys an experience, he pays to spend time enjoying a series of memorable events that a company stages to engage him in a personal way. Experiential marketing is thus about taking the essence of a product and amplifying it into a set of tangible, physical and interactive experiences that reinforce the offer.
Experiential marketing essentially describes marketing initiatives that give consumers in-depth, tangible experiences in order to provide them with sufficient information to make a purchase decision. It is clear that the fact that many luxury goods are almost always experiential puts luxury marketers in a unique position to apply the principles of experiential marketing to their activities. Dimensions of the luxury experience The term ‘involvement’ refers to the level of inter-activity between the supplier and the customer.
Increased levels of involvement fundamentally change the way in which services are experienced, that is, suppliers no longer create an experience and pass it to the customer; instead, the supplier and customer are interactively co-creating the experience. The term ‘intensity’ refers to the perception of the strength of feeling towards the interaction. The four experiential zones are not intended to be mutually exclusive; the richness of an experience is, however, a function of the degree to which all four zones are incorporated.
Those experiences we think of as Entertainment, such as fashion shows at designer boutiques and upmarket department stores, usually involve a low degree of customer involvement and intensiveness. Activities in the Educational zone involve those where participants are more actively involved, but the level of intensiveness is still low. In this zone, participants acquire new skills or increase those they already have. Many luxury goods offerings include educational dimensions. For example, cruise ships often employ well-known authorities to provide semi-formal lectures about their itineraries – a concept commonly referred to as ‘edutainment’.
Escapist activities are those that involve a high degree of both involvement and intensiveness, and are clearly a central feature of much of luxury consumption. This is clearly evident within the luxury tourism and hospitality sector, characterised by the growth of specialised holiday offerings. The launch of the Royal Tented Taj Spa (Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces) at the Rambagh Palace in Jaipur (India) recreates the mobile palaces used by the Mughal emperors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, with chandeliers, royal pennants and Indian love swings.
When the element of activity is reduced to a more passive involvement in nature, the event becomes Aesthetic. A high degree of intensiveness is clearly evident within this activity, but has little effect on its environment such as admiring the architectural or interior design of designer boutiques. The six-storey glass crystal design of the Prada store in Tokyo conceptualised by the architects Herzog and de Meuron has become a showcase for unconventional contemporary architecture.