Luxury is relative, they say.
A certain oligarch can buy a 3,999 metres long mega yacht, with chopper on the roof and African buffalos in the back yard, then stuff it with 1,287 guests, dancing to Rihanna – she was booked in extremis, and couldn’t refuse the offer, therefore left 75,000 kids high and dry in Canada, where she was supposed to “sing”, that night – for the ultimate end-of-the-word party.
On the other side of the planet there is a man with a dream: to be the first non-jellyfish to see two giant squids mating, twenty thousand leagues under the sea.
For the occasion, he calls Graham Hawkes, the father of the Deep Flight Super Falcon; ‘This machine could take passengers over a 1,000 feet below sea level allowing them to explore marine life rarely seen by the world. As this type of technology evolved, Hawkes noticed an increased interest from billionaires and wealthy clients.
“These machines give their owners capabilities that no one else has on the planet,” says Hawkes. “To be able to move with big animals to be the first human being to have that freedom, what’s that worth? If you’re a billionaire it’s certainly worth that chunk of change.”’
(video courtesy of Forbes)
Two billionaires, two different styles, two ways to understand luxury, two antithetic lists of priorities: a dancing crowd vs. the solitude of the Abyss, Rihanna vs. mating giant squids.
It might sound like the cheapest and most obvious analysis ever, but the following three points should be set in stone on every brand’s instruction manual, especially when it comes to luxury:
– Find your niche
To reach everyone everywhere is not only impossible, is useless and pointless, too. Chris Anderson’s Long Tail theory is enlightening, in this case. And God bless the Internet for its capacity to reach the dark Abyss and to fathom the customers’ ocean of desires.
– Know your customers
Who are you talking to? Oligarchs, patricians or members of the aspirational class? You’d better know before you try to sell squids to people who want to buy expensive umbrellas (Ella ella, ay ay ay), and so on.-
– In case of doubt, ask yourself: “What would Beau Brummell do?”
Stay true to your values / philosophy / heritage. Markets change, customers’ tastes can vary, fashion comes and goes. But you will never see Eminem as Bottega Veneta’s brand ambassador. Not in the next 5 years, at least. Hopefully.
Luxury as sophistication for a niche market – The legend of Riva.
It was kings, queens and actors’ favourite, as their website put it, it was ‘a true object of desire for noble people, actors, sports champions, businessmen and celebrities. Among them, it is enough to mention Sophia Loren, Brigitte Bardot and Liz Taylor, Sean Connery and Jean Paul Belmondo, Richard Burton and Jackie Stewart, but there are also royalties, princes and sheiks from all over the world.’
Its name is legendary, and the story behind the brand is almost a fairy tale: “1842. Lake d’Iseo. A sudden storm wreaks what appears to be irreparable havoc: damaged boats, disheartened fishermen with no means with which to work. But a skilled young carpenter, newly arrived in the area from Laglio on Lake Como, accomplishes a miracle, managing to repair most of the boats, earning himself the esteem and admiration of the people of the town.
This is how the Riva story began – from a man who became the master of his own destiny.
The skilled carpenter was Pietro Riva, who had just arrived in Sarnico.”
The guys at Riva know where their customers are; therefore they decided not to be on Facebook, and to go instead for an app for mobile devices, the iRiva.
‘Through multimedia navigation it is possible to appreciate Riva’s perfect blend of mastery craftsmanship, technological innovation, performance and cutting edge design which characterize the Italian brand, one of the icons of the Made in Italy worldwide for over 160 years.’
There lies the difference between an app (see the Sports Car Challenge app) that allows the user to virtually test drive luxury cars (which targets Oligarchs and members of the aspirational class), and one that lets you appreciate a chef-d’oevre in detail, focusing on key words like “craftsmanship” (a concept patricians appreciate and value).
We said elsewhere that a good reason for a luxury brand to be on Facebook – among many others – is that otherwise someone else is going to speak on their behalf; in this case, the product is so niche they don’t need to panic. The unofficial page counts less than 4k fans, 21 of which are “talking about this”.
Recently, though, Riva was purchased by a Chinese company, which bought a 75% position in the brand. Things are probably going to change, and many fear the worst; the “Ferrari of the sea” could become something very different, closer to the nouveau riche’s taste.
Have you seen the fleet of turquoise and pink Rolls-Royce Phantom cruising around London’s wealthiest areas? That’s what I’m talking about.
What do you think?