Why the topic, “Uber Masstige”? “In today’s retail marketplace at any level of distribution, the consumer expects ‘Premium’ at any price,” Rosen explained before pressing "play" and turning to the screen on stage, saying, “Take a look at this Cadillac commercial that aired last Fall, with the theme, The Evolution of Luxury.
Rosen stated, "Beauty executives are experts at delivering luxury. We are expected to build the ‘DNA of Luxury’ into each new product. In the arena of consumer goods, we have been the talisman of luxury branding - in products, in packaging and promise." He continued, "Beauty is the benchmark that all other industries have followed.”
Next, Rosen asked the esteemed panel of beauty industry executives to explain their definition of luxury, and show how a brand can succeed at delivering it - at every price point. The panel included: Jim Berkrot, senior sales executive, Bentley Laboratories; James Gager, senior vice president and group creative director, MAC Cosmetics and Jo Malone Worldwide; Veronique Gabai-Pinsky, senior advisor, Estee Lauder Companies and creative director, Veronique Gabai Inc.; and Theo Spilka, global vice president, strategic licensing and business development, Firmenich.
Designing Packaging for Consumers Who Are Trading Up
Rosen called our attention to the cover of last February’s WWD titled, “Shrinking Mass.” The article reported that women’s fragrance sales have dropped 6.7%, while the prestige segment as a whole was up 2%.
Panelist Theo Spilka, global vice president, strategic licensing and business development, Firmenich, pointed out that Luxury and Niche brands are the fastest growing fragrance categories right now, with a recent 22% rise in sales.
“Consumers will pay more for a better product,” Spilka said, explaining that fragrance shoppers are responding favorably to brands with “a better image, more exclusive distribution, more novel concepts, and ingredient stories.”
Spilka cited Viva La Juicy by Juicy Couture as one example, saying, "this is an example of luxury design elements trickling down to the prestige level retailers, with a broad distribution." Next, Spilka pointed out that celebrity fragrances, designed for masstige customers, are utilizing custom packaging components as well. "Look at Someday by Justin Bieber and One Moment by One Direction - marketers are bringing more luxurious package designs and engineering achievements to all channels of distribution now."
In skin care, panelist Jim Berkrot, sr. sales executive, Bentley Laboratories, explained that the “luxury” experience that consumers want right now include products that solve a problem, make life easier, and feel ‘exhilarating’ to use.
Berkrot said, “Consumers are trading up to more luxurious, expensive and efficacious skin care products.” Mass consumers are now buying masstige, and masstige consumers are moving onto prestige." He added, “Mass beauty sales were flat from 2013 through 2014 - but prestige beauty sales were up 3 percent.”
Rosen explained that understanding and addressing the consumer’s aspirations and expectations is key to increasing sales in any product category - but especially in Fragrance. He emphasized one sure way to do this: “Create original, luxury packaging at every level of distribution…no more ‘tarted-up’ flankers.”
Before setting out to create luxurious packaging, however, marketers need to define what “luxury” means - and that is presenting a challenge today, because that definition continually changes with each new generation of consumers.
Experiences Are the New Luxury
Panelist James Gager, sr. vice president and group creative director, MAC Cosmetics and Jo Malone Worldwide, began to explain what luxury means to him - and then explained how his team at MAC defines it. (For a more in-depth viewpoint on the topic, written by Gager, see Beauty Packaging's Expert's Opinion: What is Luxury? How MAC Defines It)
Gager referred to an article about home décor by trend forecaster James Wallman, (author of the book, Stuffocation), who stated that the wealthy are the innovators - and their notions of luxury trickle down to the mainstream.
So what are the wealthy innovators doing? "Young billionaires - mainly the start-up entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley - are literally taking a holiday from 'luxury' in favor of a unique experience,” said Gager. He continued to describe why an experience is 'priceless,' as the commercial goes. Sometimes it's not the type of thing that can be purchased, which is what makes it so valuable. (Gager elaborates more on this in his article mentioned and linked above.)
Next, Gager mentioned the Glamping Trend - glamorous camping, in luxurious high-end tents, teepees or cabins. “And think of the rise in Airbnb – where staying in someone’s 'home sweet home' supersedes the classic white-glove room service.”
How does this new definition of luxury affect a package designer - and relate to a brand?
Gager’s answer: “We have to create something that connects to each of us, or what we know our consumers to be. And as we’ve seen, not only is the very idea of luxury itself in flux, but each person’s perception of it is so radically different.”
So, how does MAC Cosmetics view 'luxury' - and deliver it? Gager explained, “At MAC, we have a lot of experience celebrating the individual. As a brand, we are for All Ages, All Races, All Sexes – for consumers aged 12 or younger, to 93 or older. The notion of creating one idea of luxury for all these people would not be possible - our celebration of the self could be considered a luxury all of its own.”
How Sustainability and an Ingredient Story Can Convey Luxury
Some consumers see “luxury” as supporting a brand that conveys a message of sustainability - and this is exactly how some brands, and suppliers, are defining it.
Spilka said Firmenich is a leader in eco-friendly efforts, explaining that the company uses new 'green' methods of extraction and ethical sourcing standards for fragrance ingredients. Firmenich has ways to measure sustainability at an ingredient’s source - and some of these methods benefit crop plantation workers in some of the world’s poorest countries. “This is the type of ingredient story that is piquing the interest of both consumers and fragrance marketers right now,” he explained.
The Digital Generation Equates Luxury with Pleasure
Panelist Veronique Gabai-Pinsky, senior advisor, Estee Lauder Companies and strategic advisor/creative director, Veronique Gabai Inc., explained that the increasing number of global and economic issues happening around the world force everyone to re-think, “What do I really care about?”
Gabai-Pinsky shared this insight: “We are experiencing the biggest change since the invention of print - the digital revolution. With this, everything in our lives has transformed, including the way we learn, communicate, shop, and interact with others. The consumer has all the information he needs - he can share views with his friends, Like or Dislike on a click, and buy at the best possible price in the most convenient way...the consumer is the one in power.”
This means that brands have to understand the first digital generation of consumers - and Gabai-Pinsky does. She explained, “For the sake of staying on topic, I will just mention one thing - they are NOT into possessing stuff or keeping anything for the long term - take a look at Rent the Runway, Airbnb, and Uber. They want to feel.”
So, what is ‘luxury’ for the digital generation? “Is it about Rarity? Is it really about price positioning? Is it still about the status of a brand reflected in its logo? I don’t think so.
The word ‘luxury’ comes from Latin word luxus, and it means ‘what excites the senses, and gives us pleasure,’ Gabai-Pinsky explained.
Final Words of Advice for Brands - Deliver ‘Magic’
So, how can a brand deliver the experiences that the digital generation is craving? “Craft, creativity and culture,” Gabai-Pinsky advised. “Craft, like the un-compromised quality and the taste for work done to perfection, no matter the time or the cost. Creativity will create a desire for something you might not really need, but you will absolutely want. Culture, or a system of values, will create legitimacy, authenticity and therefore a deep and emotional bond between the brand and its public.”
All of this must be delivered by a product, as well as the experience around it, Gabai-Pinsky said. “Luxury stands there…” she stated. “Where there is outstanding quality, inspiring story telling, a compelling value system, and un-parallelled service - where there is something you want to believe in and be enchanted by…there will be magic.”
Read More: What is Luxury? James Gager Explains How MAC Cosmetics Defines It
Read More: Juliane Camposano, Brook Harvey Taylor, Bruno Lebeault and William Russell sare insights in Experts Dispel the Myths About Eco-Friendly Packaging