Thought Leadership

Luxury brands and the pursuit of cultural capital

Why Generation Z have the cultural capital to deliver a competitive advantage to luxury brands.

Ryan Deluchi

Managing Director, SELFHOOD

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When trying to define ‘who are we for?’, many marketers are now flipping the question on its head and instead asking: ‘who are we not for?’. For luxury brands, that could be a huge mistake.  

Conventional wisdom suggests that income levels are a decent screener when it comes to narrowing down your audience as a brand that trades on exclusivity. After all, what’s the point in targeting someone that can’t afford to buy your products?

Often, this means young people. 

But what the next generation lack in spending power (or perhaps more appropriately: are perceived to lack) they more than make up for in cultural energy; and for a lot of luxury brands, that’s priceless. 

If this generation can be society’s driving force behind climate change and social equality, you bet it can also influence what people think about your brand

Ryan Deluchi Managing Director, SELFHOOD

Just ask Gucci. Their shift in recent years towards streetwear influences and collaborations (including smart partnerships with the likes resale marketplace TheRealReal) has, quite literally, rejuvenated the brand. Far from alienating their older customer bases, they’ve managed to inject a new sense of momentum and desire into their brand; a halo effect that is now being felt across the business

Word seems to have spread to LVMH HQ too. It’s clear that the Tiffany’s brand is being set-up for a charm-offensive on the next generation of luxury buyers after recently announcing high profile collaborations with Eileen Gu (17) and Anya Taylor-Joy (25).

Meanwhile Louis Vuitton’s successful foray into gaming in China shows an appetite for engaging with Gen Z and recognising the value in the cultural capital that comes from meaningful resonance with young audiences.

It’s clear there’s more than just sales at stake here (although it’s a common misconception that Gen Z don’t have money – which Gucci can attest to). Connecting with the Next Gen is about being relevant to the trailblazers, tastemakers, and culture catalysts of this world.

This generation is bringing the fire and energy that decides which brands live and which deserve to die. Despite an ever-growing bank of case studies from brands tapping into this, it’s clear that many luxury marketers still face challenges when convincing stakeholders that this is a generation worth investing in getting to know.

It’s safe to say that of all the types of capital a CFO likes to hear about, cultural is far down the list.

Ryan Deluchi Managing Director, SELFHOOD

At which point, it’s worth remembering how brands come to be defined as luxury in the first place: aspiration. Aspiration is a concept that sits at the core of every luxury category – fuelling desirability and commanding price premiums. And it isn’t built overnight. Perhaps the industry that has shown to understand this most over the years is the automotive industry.  

The likes of Porsche, BMW and Jaguar have long known that the consumer journey starts way before the first Google search or showroom visit has been made. Often, it’s decades before.

The core customer base of these brands today is made up of people whose childhood bedrooms were plastered with 911s, Z8s and E-types from wall to wall. Their purchase has less to do with smart performance marketing and more to do with the culmination of decades of pent-up aspiration amongst their target audience.

The benefit of influencing preferences in teen hood clearly wasn’t lost on the automotive execs of yesteryear, and nor should it be on today’s luxury marketers whose job it is to build brands that are relevant for years to come. The luxury brands taking note of Gen Z’s bedroom walls now are the ones setting themselves up for success - now and in the future.

Guest Author

Ryan Deluchi

Managing Director, SELFHOOD,

About

Ryan is Managing Director at SELFHOOD – the Next Gen insight and co-creation platform helping brands better understand youth audiences. After cutting his teeth in the advertising industry at the likes of TBWA and Grey, Ryan moved to You & Mr Jones’ global content network, Mofilm, heading up their UK office and overseeing their integration with in-housing expert, Oliver. Ryan is a firm believer in the power of community-led models to help marketers avoid echo chambers and build better, more relevant brands as a result.

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