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The Death of Luxury is Looming

18 Mar 2017

Language is the primary form of human communication.  Our words express our thinking and feelings. And, thanks to print, we use language to communicate over distance (hello, dear reader) and to millions (well, both of you).

Over time words rise and fall just like living creatures. As ideas become obsolete words die off (‘disestablishmentarianism’ anybody?).  As new concepts emerge words develop to describe them (‘twerking’) or old words adapt to new meanings (‘gay’). This process is unstoppable. However much the language police complain, words will continue to mould around our experiences.

In part, that’s why we’re witnessing the death of ‘Luxury’. But how can this be if the success of a word, like a species, is in its proliferation?  It’s the over-use of the term that’s killing the idea of luxury as a richness of experience beyond the usual. Luxury is choking to death on its own popularity.

It will remain widely-used; but simply to describe anything sold at a slight premium.  It’s heading the way of ‘unique’ which now defines general difference rather than specific singularity. ‘Luxuriating in luxurious luxury’ is no longer useful language for communicators of high-end experiences. But, then again, it wasn’t a good option in the first place…

The problem with ‘luxury’, like ‘creativity’ and ‘innovation’, is that it’s a conceptual word, anchored in rational thought processes rather than feelings. Concepts ask our brains to work – and that’s bad for brands needing to connect quickly to audience emotions. A much stronger alternative is sensory language.

Words like ‘hot’, ‘smooth’, ‘hush, ‘sweet’ or ‘howling’ switch on our sensory systems. At Linguabrand we measure sensory words as a good proxy for emotional engagement.  And what is luxury if it’s not strongly engaging the senses? So using sensory description of the experiences you offer is a much stronger option than talking about luxury. But there’s something even better than sensory language. Metaphor.

Once thought to be the realm of poets and politicians, metaphor has been proven by neuro-scientists and psychologists to define the way we think. For example, cleverness is linked to light (brilliant or dim), attraction to heat (‘he’s hot’, ‘the lead’s gone cold’) and positivity to spatial position (‘up for it’, ‘feeling down’). It’s impossible not to use them. We use 8-10 metaphors a minute when we speak.  Sub-consciously we’re asking others to share our view, using words which paint mind pictures. That’s why metaphors form the basis of persuasion.

The ways we can use metaphors in speech and writing is infinite. But they all cluster into cross-cultural, deep-rooted groups. Understanding these enables us to measure how customers frame their thinking and how persuasive brands are.  After that i t’s just a short step to reframing verbal identity to connect directly to your customers’ emotional values.

Who needs ‘luxury’ when you can link into your customers sensory and emotional preferences? Pick up a hammer and join us in nailing down the coffin of a word that’s become useless.

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