Recently I was invited as a panelist to talk about sustainability and luxury. Together with fashion and jewelry designers, we discussed the future of luxury. During the Q&A, a participant asked me how I think consumers will evolve.
We are living in times of acceleration. This means that the change that is happening around us is increasing exponentially. In fact, most people don’t realize how fast things change. It is like sitting inside of an airplane and not being able to sense the outside speed.
Just look at how the pandemic expedited the adoption of Zoom and Microsoft Teams, making both platforms now almost ubiquitous in regards to working or connecting. On its heels came the death of the office, which in turn is allowing people to decouple the place of work from the place of living. The metaverse will just compound a trend that is already happening.
Web3 introduced tokens as its currency, leading to crypto and NFTs. When crypto emerged, it became the fastest adopted technology ever in human history despite its volatility. Then came NFTs, the non-fungible sibling of crypto tokens. The adoption rate was even faster, from coming out of nowhere in 2020 to accounting for roughly 20 percent of the global art market in 2021, with dramatic growth potential going forward. The emergence of NFTs in the mainstream will change architecture and luxury real estate (think walls as screens to display digital art), luxury hospitality (travelers will want to see their NFT collections on the go), as well as the way art is traded.
There will be no future for most galleries, and NFTs will become the digital twin and easy-to-trade proxy of any physical art. All of this may seem far away, but brands need to validate their strategies now in order to be relevant in the future.
All of this has massive implications on sustainability as a more technology-infused reality will force brands to come up with radically new solutions on how to manage the effects of rapidly aging technology while building up the long-term value of luxury.
The way to create sustainable luxury solutions is not to make consumers feel bad about buying things, or to advocate using less. External motivations never work, and people don’t like to be told what to do. Instead, the focus needs to be on redefining the value creation model of a brand.
Take Bugatti. The French luxury hypercar maker is famous for its 16 cylinder engines and has just launched Mistral, a limited edition roadster that the brand described as its last combustion engine car. It’s a signal that the quest for extreme performance (in Bugatti’s case, speed) can’t be matched with the goal of sustainability, at least not without major trade-offs.
The way forward for brands is to redefine the narrative. To build brand stories that resonate with clients and create a new form or rarity and desirability. A brand story that allows for innovative and inspiring sustainable solutions. This is creating desirability in the age of acceleration.
Challenges for brands and society at large are non-linear. Linear approaches cannot solve exponential disruption. Luxury brands need to leave their comfort zones and become bold agents of change if they want to inspire the audiences of the future. In my view, it’s not optional, but an imperative to stay relevant.
This is an op-ed article that reflects the views of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of Jing Daily.
Named one of the “Global Top Five Luxury Key Opinion Leaders to Watch,” Daniel Langer is the CEO of the luxury, lifestyle and consumer brand strategy firm Équité, and the executive professor of luxury strategy and pricing at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. He consults many of the leading luxury brands in the world, is the author of several best-selling luxury management books, a global keynote speaker, and holds luxury masterclasses on the future of luxury, disruption, and the luxury metaverse in Europe, the USA, and Asia. Follow @drlanger