How luxury is reinventing experience

In a time when almost every brand is doing ‘experiential’ marketing, how can luxury brands stand out?

It’s no secret that for the past few years experiential marketing has become the strategy du jour of savvy brand managers seeking to hook people away from their screens and engage them on a more profound level. After all, we find ourselves in the experiential consumer age, where as many as 74% of US consumers now say they prefer experience to products, according to Expedia.

But where does this leave luxury, an industry that, by its very nature, is designed to afford people extraordinary moments that lift them from their everyday lives? Well, with the aid of modern technologies and some creative thought, a handful of brands are now findings ways to differentiate once more and reinstate the industry’s ability to provide these kinds of exceptional experiences.










Credit: Rémy Martin

New Enlightenment

One way this is happening is through the addition of educational elements alongside an otherwise transactional purchasing process.

Luxury group LVMH has attempted this through its growing e-commerce website Clos19. Customers of its wines and spirits selection are able to not only purchase high quality tipple, but additionally buy experiences, such as winery tours, that enable them to gain a first-hand understanding of what exactly has gone into the making of their drink.

Borrowing from modern technology, other high-end brands are now dipping their toe into VR as a way to offer an immersive glimpse into their brand narratives. Chicago bar Baptiste & Bottle, for instance, has created a multi-sensory cocktail experience that combines VR with IRL. Customers of its $95 whiskey-based cocktail, during its serve, place an Oculus Rift headset on their head, which sees them become immersed into a Scottish forest landscape scenery that depicts the origins of the Macallan whiskey used to create the cocktail. Alongside this visual stimulus, a wood and moss shallow box, which the drinker can smell and touch, provide a more tactile sense of the drink.

Credit: Baptiste & Bottle – Clos19

Health as Wealth

With material items – particularly those with more obvious cues to wealth – receding in value to consumers, one important shift has been the growth of wellbeing as a status symbol. Luxury brands are now capitalising on this, and using health activities as the basis of new experiences.

Many are taking a holistic approach, combining the benefits of both mental and physical health. Stella McCartney ‘s ongoing collaboration with Adidas has seen the pair work with ChromaYoga, a light-based therapy process, for a yoga event in New York that celebrated the launch of the athleisure partnership’s new collection. The event saw guests take part in chromatherapy, a small but growing kind of therapy that surrounds people in different coloured lights in order to influence their mood and body.

Other brands are taking a more medically oriented approach. In Thailand, luxury resort Amatara has launched a brain clinic that offers advanced health treatments alongside its regular wellness rituals.

Credit: Amatara, Phuket – Adidas x Stella McCartney x ChromaYoga

Ephemeral Experiences

Part of what makes a great experience is the knowledge that the particular moment in question may only happen once – the sort of sensation that luxury brands are tapping into with exclusive ‘drops’, where merchandise is only available at a specific time and date, thereby elevating the sense of exclusivity around the purchase.

In a similar spirit, luxury hospitality brands are building one-off experiences that exist one minute and are gone the next. Danish restaurant Noma, led by renowned chef René Redzepi, captured this perfectly with its temporary restaurant venue in Tulum, Mexico. Over one hundred skilled chefs created a one-off,15-course tasting menu that used ultra-local ingredients sourced from nearby markets. All of the ¢750 tickets to the experience, which only lasted for two months, were sold-out in just three hours of going on sale.

This search for complete rarity has also taken hold of hotel companies seeking to offer travellers genuinely once-in-a-lifetime moments. Boutique travel agency Black Tomato created a temporary accommodation service called Blink, where a pop-up hotel hosted avid adventurers in previously uninhabited places, therefore offering the most exclusive travel experience available on the market.

Credit: Blink by Black Tomatoe – Noma, Mexico

Elective emptiness

As affluent consumers find themselves inundated by their hectic lifestyles, moments of isolation and contemplation are becoming more desirable.

The most naturally contemplative experience – sleep – is having a wellness makeover at some luxury resorts. Six Senses has developed a special sleep programme, which aims to help guests with sleep issues in order to provide them with a truly replenishing sleep experience while on the property. A resident sleep therapist offers guests a sleep diagnosis and corresponding sleeping solutions during and after their stay.

Slow travel experiences are another facet of this contemplative trend – a process where the journey becomes part of the same luxury experience as the destination itself. Luxury hotel group Belmond, for instance, has harked back to the days of classic railway travel with its range of luxury trains that operate a handful of special journeys around the world. One of its trains, Belmond Andean Explorer, takes explorers through Peruvian landscapes while they enjoy three-course dinners, a luxury spa, double-bed accommodation, and cultural excursions along the way. These upscale train journeys focus on the slow discovery of scenery that travelers normally miss when taking their typically fast transportation.

Credit: Belmond Andean Explorer – Six Senses

With there being a growing need to innovate around experience, we expect to see a greater number of luxury brands focusing on indulging their customers with the rare, profound, and deeply transformative.


– Margaux Caron

Title picture: Christopher Campbell