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Hub Culture Salon: Luxury in Monaco

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2nd Oct 2008

Hub Culture hosted the second of a series of Salons in Monaco against the backdrop of the Luxury Marketing Summit, which attracted over 120 luxury experts representing a variety of fields, from cars to boats, planes to handbags, equipment to banking. The Summit was hosted by Greg Furman of the Luxury Marketing Council in New York, with Marcus Evans. This Salon took place within the context of the event's opening dinner, so thanks to the participants attending the Summit, the Salon covered lots of interesting areas. Chiefly, we focused on the ideas of provenance and legitimacy in luxury, searching for what remains true in a world of mass consumerism.

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The Wiesmann Roadster MF-3
Hosted by Hub Culture with the Luxury Marketing Summit...

Role Call!

Olaf Sewald, Wiesmann

Florence Siebert, Initiative

Mark Whiting, Moet Hennessy

Raffaella Daino, CRN Ferretti Group

Andy Bush, Time Inc. Business and Finance Network

Maximilian Kroell, Devi Kroell

with adjacent input from: Antony Lawrence, Jumeirah Group, and Graeme Taylor, Bang & Olufsen.

Dinner kicked off with a bang, as the table pounced on Devi Kroell, arguably the Jimmy Choo of this decade and purveyor of the most outrageously luxurious items known to the modern celebrity. Devi Kroell is luxury in every sense: small, independent and original, the Founder (sister of finance director Maximilian) insisted on marketing the brand almost exclusively to celebrities from the very beginning. The strategy worked and today the brand is one of the hottest in the sector.

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A Devi Kroell creation
The impact of Devi Kroell's adoration of fur and animal skin was discussed, but frankly, the luxury world does not seem bothered by the idea of using animals in their products - just as long as they are seen to be using them ethically. (Can it co-exist??)

Which leads to the question: What does a luxury company stand for? What are its ethics? Do they matter? The topics resonated with the group, but Devi Kroell looks particularly at "provenance" as a key issue. An American brand with Italian production, they look at Italy as the key to their status as a luxury marque.

Ferretti agrees. This luxury yacht group, who's CRN division specializes in luxury mega yachts, pride themselves on being Italian and producing in Italy, something that Chinese and American yacht makers can not compete with. "It takes time to produce a mega yacht" says Rafaella, "and we find that changes occur, which means the relationship with the customer and our attention to detail are important." She further points out that a yacht may take years to build, and if an owner changes, say, a wife, during that time, it is likely to affect the entire look and feel of the vessel. Patience, a virtue.

There was lots of buzz about where fashion starts. New York? Asia? Europe? Many felt that it originates everywhere, but market considerations mean that no matter where luxury starts, its the biggest markets that matter most. For Hennessy that means the US, followed by China, then Taiwan, and Ireland (shock). The Taiwanese are evidently drinking a lot of cognac these days.

Andy and Florence hit it off with an intense debate on the direction of media and advertising related to the luxury industry. After years of media agencies ruling the media buying sector, wedged between media owners and creative agencies, the new trend is to pull it all back together for "integrated communications".

Initiative has done this, merging their digital units to become full service units agian. But the media isn't buying it, and there was no sense as to whether the new strategy serves clients better. For most luxury clients, the new reality is channel agnostic, but they are much more focused on product placement and PR than they are advertising, which is now globally produced and planned, making the process formulaic and unoriginal. They do it because everyone else does, and focus their real energy elsewhere.

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Collection Chanel eyeware
We love asking this group which brand they thought best reprsented luxury today, and we got some insight with the answers. Here are the top five luxury icons as agreed by the group:

1. Hermes

2. Chanel

3. Ferrari

4. Bespoke Pieces

5. Custom Experiences

How interesting to see that "ideas" are gaining on "brands" as luxury marques - a possible symbol of rebellion against the totalitarianism of the brand. Luxury is moving underground and more private - and soon we'll see members only brands and secret societies.

Wiesmann could agree: they produce about 200 "uber-luxury" cars a year, and like Ferretti, they know their target group down to the person.

Other sidenotes came from Graeme and Antony. Jumeriah Group is growing like gangbusters and is developing a new secret project code named Eric. Project "Eric" will go up against the W and Schrager Groups to offer a new luxury hotel experience by the end of the decade, and Jumeriah itself is growing like a weed. Dubai remains volcanic.

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Rivas line the port in Monaco's display of maritime luxury
Bang & Olufsen are also redefining their idea of luxury, and the news here is how they are re-engaging with customers to manage system additions and upgrades. Will B&O team up with Apple for a luxury ipod + phone? We Wish. Will they continue working with Samsung to hybrid their products and grow market share? Probably. Look for Bang & Olufsen in Audis this year and additional marques moving forward.

Overall, the themes were clear: provenance is the only thing saving luxury from the masses, the best merchandise is moving to private networks, and few have figured out how to make luxury work on the web.

Thanks to all our participants! The next Salon is on Technology on December 6th, 2007 in San Francisco.
Email [email protected] (This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it for details if you wish to attend.)

P.S. Dr. Concetta Lanciaux of LVMH, on whether or not Bernard Arnault will purchase Aston Martin: "Why not!" She says it could fit the portfolio well, but may be a challenge to execute. Now THAT would be interesting...