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Brilliant Thinking: Language, insight and luxury

Luxury brands are a constant source of inspiration. Their case studies and experiences should be required reading for any forward thinking communicators, because of the challenges they face.

To be successful they have to create a desire in a large audience, but ensure that only a few people can access them.

The techniques that the most successful luxury brands deploy to engage their audiences at these different levels, and stand out in complex and apparently fickle global markets are sophisticated and brilliant. Just take a look at our brand heroes Burberry and Porsche for amazing work developing digital-first, earned-first programmes of activity.

In the Brilliant Noise office, we were engaged and inspired this week by a presentation from Tim Stock of research and trends firm scenarioDNA. What makes this firm’s work stand out is its deep understanding of network theory and the relationship between social networks and culture. Right up our street…

I recommend taking some time to read through the whole presentation on Slideshare, but I’ll highlight the following themes.

Rank and being informed

Stock rightly points to social rank being the “last bastion of conspicuous consumption”.  As luxury evolves, however, paying a lot for something isn’t enough. You have to be in on the secret, part of the story, a holder of the flame…

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“Rank relies on how informed you are.”

This idea resonates with work we have done recently in the area of consumer discovery. Many people abhor the homogeneity of overly-SEO’d sanitised Google results when they are trying to find things they want to buy.

Discovery via curated spaces and social networks is becoming more important for them. They crave ways of being informed about things that are relevant to them, that allow them to set themselves apart from a perceived mainstream.

Everyone has wants their little luxuries. Not the top-priced, most-most-expensive-ever, luxuries, but the things that are theirs because they know the story, are in on it, are better informed than others as to why it is the best. It is sometimes about status, but also about belonging, about identity, about being something other than a demographic class in the MOSAIC system, a little unpredictable, a little unknown.

Cultural taxonomies

The other theme that got us a little exercised was Stock’s idea of of “cultural taxonomies”, that is finding the real language that connects brands to their communities of interest.

“We are exhausting language,” one of the slides cries out.

I couldn’t agree more. This morning I read an interview with a departing executive from Google who said he had become “fairly passionate” about the company, remind me of how “passion” has been spent, as it were, through over-use. And when it comes to the once majestic word “awesome” – well it couldn’t denote less awe these days if we replaced it with “nice”, which is often what we mean by it…

In our own industry words like “social”, “engage” and “content” are almost meaningless, squeezed dry. Some brands seem to have no shame in forcing this jargon on their audiences – just last night a Virgin Media ad came on while I was browsing the achingly slow EPG declaring that I was lucky to have access to multiple “channels of great content”. Yuk.

But I digress, Stock’s point is brands need to understand “…language from the culture to the brand… not packing the latest buzzwords and hoping for the best.”

Developing brand taxonomies – not just for luxury brands – is a vital part of the work we do at Brilliant Noise developing of brands’ Earned Media systems. It’s an incredibly powerful way to organise content, and indeed the thinking around content, social media and SEO efforts.

More on that in another post, coming soon…

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You can take a look at the whole presentation here:

The Culture of Luxury 2011 (Brand Packaging)

View more presentations from Tim Stock
Via Ross Dawson’s excellent Trends in the Living Networks blog. Thanks, Ross…

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