The Rule of New Rules

by Daniel Levine

Social trends refer to the collective way that groups of people act. They reflect what people are thinking, feeling and wanting and are some of the greatest socioeconomic drivers.  Trends are the grand forces that motivate people to purchase products and services as well as make all kinds of lifestyle decisions. Unlike fads, which can be shallow and temporary, trends often point to relatively permanent shifts in behavior that can be successfully harnessed by businesspeople to win customers and increase sales.

Importantly, social trends are not specific to any one industry. Trends reflect needs, and customers are looking for those same needs to be answered in all parts of their lives: in the cars they drive, the foods they eat, the clothes they wear, the electronics they use and the products they surround themselves with.

In North America and Europe, especially, the economic downturn is causing consumers of luxury to re-examine just what luxury means to them. In short, people are reassessing what is really important to them. And, it turns out that what is really important to wealthy consumers are things like self-improvement, personal growth, physical and mental health, making soulful connections and being socially responsible. In short, meaningful experiences that endure, without regard to the ups and downs of bank balances.

Our research shows that, although Americans and Europeans are becoming more value-conscious, they are also becoming more conscious of their values. People are being more selective about they buy. Importantly, however, they are still willing to spend freely on things that are really important to them. What we're seeing is that luxury consumers are less motivated to spend on hedonistic luxury and superficial pampering, yet happier to spend on activities that promise physical, spiritual and mental well-being. Businesspeople can appeal to these changing sensibilities by altering their marketing – or developing new products – that speak less to "indulgence" and "splurging" and more to personal growth and self improvement.

Four of ways of attracting luxury consumers with new sensibilities are creating products that incorporate:

The luxury industry is employing creative marketing strategies to attract luxury consumers. The marketing department at Mercedes-Benz, for example, recently made the strategic decision not to focus on stylish luxury, as they have for decades, but on safety. They understand that in today's economy, people are still willing to spend lots of money on a car but they need different reasons to do so. Customers who are balking at paying a lot for showing off how rich they are, but they are willing to spend the same amount on protecting themselves and their family.

Similarly, almost any luxury supplier can respond to this trend by selling a myriad of truly meaningful benefits alongside expensiveness. Instead of selling the features of your product, tell your customer how they will benefit from using it. For Mercedes Benz, it's safety; for other industries it might be better physical health, improved mental well being, a sense of spirituality, educational opportunities, and so on.

Some of the ways of turn these trends into action may include taking the following steps:
 Don’t just sell experiences. Sell meaningful experiences
 Give your customers more personalized products
 Integrate learning opportunities into your offering
 Create products that invite participation and togetherness
 Sell benefits, not only features
 Create products that bring people together
 Create/promote green initiatives that make you say “wow”
 Sell quality, health and safety

In short, the sea-change in the meaning of luxury now means that consumers are searching for meaningful experiences from the products and services they use. The reason that we think FORMIA is a leader in its market is because the company understands this, building it into many of the products they create. A terrific example of this is the pilgrim's Hajj amenity kit that includes a prayer mat and a tally counter, packaged in a wearable, safety bag. This is a meaningful kit that tells its users that they have unique needs that are truly understood by FORMIA and Turkish Airlines.