Luxury Has a Brand-New Style, and Apple Gets It
Apple has just released its first smartwatch, offered in three editions including the upscale and luxurious Apple Watch Collection in 18 kt gold. I can just hear the talk in board rooms of the heritage luxury brands, “Apple is not a luxury brand. Apple isn’t our competitor.” In fact, a reporter for a major newspaper who interviewed me yesterday along with some of those executives told me that was just what they were saying.
But I have news for those traditional luxury brands: Luxury has a brand new style. Apple gets it and will profit greatly from it. They need to get it too.
The Apple Watch Is Luxury in a Brand New Style for a Brand New Luxury Generation
Despite what heritage luxury brands might believe, if you ask the consumers, the only people’s opinion that really matters, Apple is already a ‘luxury brand.’ It is luxury in its class of electronics and it’s a luxury in the consumers’ world. NetBase did a recent study of luxury brands in social media and found that Apple was ranked number two after only Louis Vuitton.
The Apple Watch is perfectly in tune with the new style of luxury emerging today. Surely it’s not luxury in the old style, which to many of the young creative-class affluents looks elitist, over-the-top expensive, and just not for them. For this young generation of creative-class consumers, who are already affluent or on the road to affluence, their brand new style of luxury is accessible, personal, and connected.
They want a symbol that proclaims a new style of status: status based upon who the individual is and what they value, not how much money they have to spend.
Apple is hitting the market at just the right time, with just the right product, for the right customer today and tomorrow. It is a digital-age luxury watch for a digital generation of affluents.
Apple Watch Fills a Void in the Market
The smartwatch category as a whole is emerging as a strong competitor to traditional luxury watch brands, simply because smartwatches offer added functionality in keeping with the needs of today’s connected consumers.
And Apple’s watch is filling a void in the market. Unity Marketing’s most recent Affluent Consumer Tracking Study of n=1,200 affluent luxury consumers found that only 13% of those surveyed owned any type of wearable devices, including a smartwatch. Among the affluent Millennials in that survey, only 20% owned a wearable.
For those who owned a wearable, most were only ‘somewhat satisfied’ with their performance, fewer rated their experience as ‘very satisfied.’ I suspect that will change once they start buying the Apple Watch.
Of course, heritage luxury watch brands will continue to have a following, but these brands will inevitably move toward the collector’s market, not the consumer market.
For consumers, especially the younger customers who will matter in the future, a new style of status watches are emerging and Apple is in the lead. It’s a style of luxury that says I am hip, cool, contemporary and on the way up, not old, moneyed, stodgy and on the way out.
Traditional Luxury Brands Can’t Ignore the Reality that Luxury Has a Brand New Style
Brands Need to Learn that New Style and Evolve to Embrace It
Unity Marketing is on the forefront of researching the emerging new style of luxury. In our recent study of millennials on the road to affluence, specifically those with high levels of education and pursuing career paths that will lead to high incomes, such as law, medicine and health, engineering, tech and business, one young lawyer said the status symbol watch at his law firm was the Ironman Triathalon, not because it costs a lot of money to buy, but what it said about the one who was wearing it, i.e. I am a triathlete and this the the watch I need. For Millennials true status comes from who you are, what you value and what you have achieved, not simply having a lot of money.
Unity Marketing offers a variety of market research and consulting services that will help brands market to the new style of luxury. We can help brands develop new luxury-targeted strategies that will build a loyal and lasting relationship with the affluent customers today and tomorrow.
- Get started: Unity Marketing just published a new study entitled Millennials on the Road to Affluence which will help traditional luxury brands map a path to the next generation of customers. It is the essential guide to the future of the luxury consumer market between now and 2026-2029 when demographics predict the potential for the next luxury boom, but it may well go bust for brands that aren’t on the leading edge of luxury for this generation. Click this link to learn more.
- Develop a system: Consumer insights aren’t a “once and done” effort; it takes on-going program to track and monitor brand connections with the target customer as he or she changes buying behavior or brand preferences. Unity Marketing offers the Affluent Consumer Tracking Study which includes a sample of Millennials, as well as HENRYs and ultra-affluents, to give marketers at the high-end data about their customers’ shopping and brand buying behavior, as well as affluent consumer confidence every six months.
- Intensify and focus: With experience in collecting, analyzing and using market research information and insights, Unity Marketing can help not just in gathering consumer insights, but uncovering the nuggets that will yield the best return to marketers in strategies and tactics. Call me at 717.336.1600 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a confidential discussion of where the gaps are in your customer understanding and how Unity Marketing can bridge the gaps.