Insights for Destination & Leisure Marketers

Luxury Is a Four-Letter Word

is luxury dead?

Luxury brands need to change the way they think because luxury is a four-letter word. Something that should be avoided in certain company instead of shared. 

Who are the people that are targeted today when the word “luxury” is bolted onto the marketing message? Almost anyone. Which means it resonates with no one. Especially millennials.

Is Luxury Dead for Millennials?

“Luxury” is particularly a problem for millennials, who view the word as a turn-off instead of an enticement. The word luxury (and its gilded promises) is hollow and unfulfilling in their minds.

That’s the problem that American Express has right now. They built their brand on the strength of convincing us that whipping out the Platinum Amex shows the world (and your dining companions) that you have arrived. Generations of loyal Amex users have paid their fees, year after year, so that they could reap the rewards of luxury brand association. 

But 35-year-olds don’t want any part of conspicuous consumption. They would sooner use their Chase Sapphire Reserve card, which offers value and flexibility instead of prestige.

And millennials aren’t the only ones who are unimpressed with the word “luxury” and the brands that use it relentlessly. Particularly in the world of luxury travel, millennials and boomers (who should not be discounted by any means) have very similar mindsets.

This is by no means a new discovery. Publications have been asking: “Is luxury dead?” for years. Yet many brands have not heeded the call for a new perspective.

“The idea of luxury no longer exists. It is a bygone word. You can go to Tesco and get luxury sausages.” That quote appeared in The Financial Times over a year ago, and every day since then the luxury star has just kept falling.

Forbes went even further last year, stating that “Luxury Isn’t Dead – It just Has A New Name.”  They see the growth of terms like “Authentic” and “Relevant” to replace it.

So What’s a Luxury Brand To Do?

What luxury brands need to do is figure out who they are. Who they really are. Luxury is no longer unique or even coveted. Which means your brand needs to determine its Unique Selling Proposition. If luxury is just a label, what is the meat? Is it authenticity? Or craftsmanship? Perhaps it’s corporate responsibility. Something more solid, more real, than luxury.

The best way to determine who you are is research. Either research you’ve already completed that can bare new fruit. Or a new study that determines:

  • What your core users like most about your brand
  • How they talk about you to friends
  • What you do well and what you need to improve
  • Where your brand fits in the lives of your users
  • What sets you apart from your competitors


Until you determine these things, you cannot have a brand positioning that will resonate with those who can afford your products or services.

Is luxury dead? No. You just need to figure out a new way to sell it. It’s time to wash that dirty word out of your mouth and discover life beyond luxury.