How do you define luxury? According to a new study from Horizon Media, the U.S. media agency, the perception of luxury is changing dramatically. Most people will never reach the wealth of today’s one per cent – even ten per cent. The study, called New Codes of Luxury: Aspirational Shifts in North America, builds on previous studies they conducted, revealing a feeling that the promise that each generation will fare better than their parents is no longer attainable.
There is a growing resentment of the wealthy, and how that wealth is obtained. The pandemic, followed by the economic challenges most people face now, like choking inflation, a widening pay gap, loud movements like Occupy Wall Street, have re-shaped people’s definition of luxury. More than half of people across the U.S. and Canada see necessities like being debt-free, owning a home, or having money to retire, as luxuries. That’s especially true among Gen Zers.
Comfort No. 1
What’s emerging based on the study are three modes of luxury: Traditional Luxury, rooted in opulence, like expensive jewelry, fine watches, Italian sportscars; Contemporary Luxury, reflecting modern values favouring technology and sustainability, like electric vehicles, lifestyle brands cutting-edge technology; and Personal Luxury, a more recent mode, defined by the individual, and personal experience, and not brands, covering things like financial circumstances, life stage and social world.
Nearly half of people believe luxury is an intangible and subjective feeling. Sixty-six per cent view luxury as an occasional treat, while 34 per cent see it as a daily self-indulgence. Respondents across the U.S. and Canada ranked Comfort as their top luxury attribute, consistently placing it at #1 in all surveyed categories, including Travel, Dining, Fashion, Groceries, Wellness, Auto, and Tech.
“In a world filled with uncertainty – whether global pandemics, mass shootings, war, climate events, inflation, economic uncertainty and beyond – comfort is now aspirational, and understanding what worries people will help brands lean into how they can help people find comfort in ways big and small,” said Maxine Gurevich, SVP of Cultural Intelligence of Horizon Media’s WHY Group. “This is critically true for luxury brands wanting to market to Gen Z, who are experiencing the most turmoil and therefore are looking for comfort and support in the brands with which they interact.”
How do you define luxury? Head here for the study.