We’ve been hearing about it a lot lately. But what is Post Aspirational Luxury? And is it really a thing?
By Dr. Martina Olbert
Post Aspirational Luxury has become a widely pondered topic in the marketing and business circles recently. Many experts and consultants have been seriously thinking about post-aspiration as the new marketing term, expressing the shift in consumer behaviour and aspiration from lusting after material objects towards more sustainable values and lifestyles.
This doesn’t surprise me. The marketing industry has a peculiar way of identifying social macrotrends, only to commodify, package and misinterpret them. They often completely twist what they actually mean and what the underlying human values that they carry are pointing to.
Post Aspirational Luxury isn’t a real thing. We don’t ‘post-aspire’ to anything. Rather, we are becoming more conscious in our everyday lives, paying more attention to our mind-body-spirit connection and taking an inventory of what our values are. To live happier, healthier and more fulfilled lives, we are inevitably slowing down, cutting down on flashy materialism and turning our focus inward.
This new-found clarity propels us to make more centred and balanced decisions as to what we want to consume and fill our lives with. This is why material objects are now being replaced by experiences, and useful essential items that help us stay more grounded and productive. We are finally giving our mental space a priority over our physical space, opting for the things that last, that are important, valuable and meaningful to us.
This concept, then, clearly points to a much larger shift than just post-aspiration. It marks our turn away from brands and mindless consumerism, towards regaining our lost humanity.
Post Aspirational Luxury Is A Return To Ourselves
And yet, aspiration is inevitably intertwined with (luxury) brands as historically luxury is rooted in aspiration. This is why it’s so crucial that such businesses understand the meaning of ‘Post-Aspiration’ correctly. In light of the changes brought on by COVID, which have sped up the transition towards a new luxury paradigm, consumers are now starting to behave much differently. It would seem as if we stopped aspiring altogether, but that would be far from the truth. Instead, we aspire to much different things than we did before the pandemic.
We are now entering a new space in luxury, experiences and lifestyle, where who we are and how we feel takes priority over what we own and how we appear to others. Thanks to spending more time with ourselves and reconnecting with our own needs during the lockdown, we are now aspiring to live better, higher-quality lives, instead of owning more branded things to enhance our social status.
This sudden self-empowerment marks a fundamental turn back to humanity and the essence of who we are as human beings and what makes us come to life. This, in turn, shifts the market dynamic from luxury brands to people to help us elevate our own identities and add meaning to our lives.
Meaning is critical for us in restoring our forgotten humanity to be able to appreciate the things of lasting value again and turn away from disposable purchases. True sustainability is respect. Respect for humanity, respect to the environment and animals, and respect for the planet. It is equally about the ethical values ingrained in the production cycle and the supply chain, as well as instilling the long-term values of proper care and appreciation in the minds of the consumers. Without the education and retrieving the lost knowledge of luxury, we cannot make the luxury industry truly sustainable.
The COVID pandemic has sent our society in search for its very own meaning and has forced us to reinvent our lives to become the best and most authentic versions of ourselves. In many ways, it has shown us that Authenticity is the new luxury.
The New Luxury Paradigm
These social shifts, reorienting us to our human essence and lasting values, are leading to an emergence of the New Luxury paradigm. This paradigm is reversing the dynamic between brands and consumers: from embracing materialism to embracing humanity. It is empowering us to reconnect with meaning in our own lives, instead of trying to find it in the illusory worlds of brand aspiration.
We are moving away from the previous conspicuous luxury consumption towards the new conscientious, meaningful luxury. The things and experiences we now consciously choose to consume and surround ourselves with need to become extensions of who we are, to compliment us. We now aspire to luxury products as value enhancements of our lives that can transcend the present moment and connect us to something deeper and more spiritual that is long-lasting.
What Is Transcendent Luxury?
This paradigm shift has given rise to Transcendent Luxury, connecting us back to our lost sense of human spirituality.
Luxury is and has always been about transcendence. It has the divinity element to it that transcends the present moment and through the beauty and perfection of both its form and essence transports you somewhere else, to a higher state that uplifts your spirit. When done right, luxury is a deeply spiritual practice that is about uplifting our life experience by connecting us to the deeper parts of ourselves, rather than gaining social meaning and self-worth through others. Luxury objects should be spiritual objects for everyday use. That’s why they’re full of meaning.
This sudden twist back to the spiritual roots of luxury gives luxury brands a unique opportunity to come back to their inner transcendent nature and tell the story in the right way, to reconnect people with the true essence of luxury.
The New ‘Meaningful Luxury’ Strategy For Brands
These quickly changing values and patterns of consumption have powerful implications for how luxury brands need to create, present and communicate their products moving forward.
To stay relevant to their consumer audiences and remain profitable, luxury brands need to rethink the role they play in people’s lives. They need to provide new meaningful value and unique experiences that radically improve and elevate the quality of our lives. This also changes how brands need to think about their future strategy, nudging them to revisit their own meaning.
Brands need to understand how we, people, assign meaning to things and what meanings we assign to them. They need to meet us in the middle, at a place where what is meaningful for the brand and the consumer naturally connect. They must create the meaning the consumers are searching for, or risk losing their value.
About the author:
Dr. Martina Olbert, Founder and CEO, Meaning.Global and Meaningful Luxury Expert. She is the world’s leading expert on meaning and cultural relevance. Martina is the author of The Luxury Report on Redefining The Future Meaning Of Luxury, and an advocate of the New Luxury, with an upcoming book on the subject. You can learn more about her work here.