I want “luxury” to die. Not actual luxury from an economic standpoint, but a lot of how we use the actual word “luxury.” Allow me to set up this topic just a bit, and explore my ideas with you. I promise that in the long run my suggestions will benefit everyone, and this is free advice to an industry that I think needs it.

I write about timepieces, lots of different timepieces including many that are high-end. “High-end” having the association that they are perhaps well-made, use expensive materials, are exclusive, and cost a lot. You know… “luxury.” What cheapens many of these brands is that they attach the term “luxury” to their image and products. Cheapening not only the word “luxury,” but also the products themselves. Things aren’t “luxury” because you insert that word into your slogan. Nothing is worse for luxury watches than the term “Luxury Swiss Watches” next to a brand name as a slogan. Real luxury is earned through attaining and meeting the various qualifications that define the concept. You don’t get to be a luxury item just by calling yourself “luxury.” My hope is that in the future only brands that are insecure about their products will call themselves “luxury goods” to the consumer. Everyone else that has a high-end, exclusive, well-made good will simply evoke luxury, rather than state it.

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The effect on consumers, I believe, is a steep erosion of the term “luxury.” Just like “organic” or “natural” or “fine.” It becomes worse then generified, it becomes ignored and valueless. It also sounds cheap – as though a brand is so unsure about its own image that it needs to remind itself what it is. Don’t just say “luxury,” BE luxury. And if you are, people who enjoy luxury will find you. Otherwise your image to the educated world of buyers will be of a brand seeking to sell only to the ignorant.

This problem is almost a marketing epidemic. It is by no means secluded to just timepieces. Many things, from food to automobiles throw around the term “luxury” like it suddenly will get people to spend double on the products. Consumers are pretty savvy. When something is clearly NOT luxury, but says it is, we discount our own personal value of the term “luxury.” You even have luxury-named potato chips, but that doesn’t make them better than Lays. You can actually call anything you want “luxury.” No one will stop you. There is no luxury police to look-over use of the term.  Luxury is merely a economic principle that like many things, has been so abused in colloquial use, that its meaning has been raped. Luxury as a concept is a shell of what it used to be.

Some might make the argument that use of the term is a good idea to help educate consumers on a product’s market position. Really? Well the potential to abuse this concept (which has been done) is too great. The only outcome of this practice is for cheap products to jack up their price, slap on a gold colored “Luxury” stamp, and hope for ‘ma and pa moron’ to walk in with bloated wallets. This practice does no good for helping to maintain a “realistic market.” I personally prefer not to live in a pure “caveat emptor” style marketplace where words mean nothing.

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So what is to be done? Marketers must stop using the term “luxury” (and those like it) unless it is absolutely necessary. If your product is really well-made/rare/valuable/etc… then charge the price you need to, and market its inherent values. Talk about how good it is and why. Don’t just dress it up and call it “luxury.” That hurts your own image, the market as a whole, and is pointlessly lazy.

The luxury market is a bloody mire. There is so much crap mixed in with the good that it takes real experts to sort it out. Sure this is good for people with “luxury” products, that get to benefit from the image of the best brands – but those who work the hardest at it are the ones who are hurt in the end. We need to make use of the term “luxury” faux pas when it comes to marketing and product descriptions. If someone uses it, they automatically lose credibility.

I too have been guilty of using the term too much. It took me a while to realize what I was doing. Referring to items as “luxury Swiss watches,” etc… But from now on I will only use the term luxury when referring to groups or products, market placement, or economic principles. Consumer will be able to gather the merits of any particular product and walk away with a tacit message of whether that item is “luxury” or not. I urge watch brands to closely evaluate this concept, and to drastically reduce harmful over-use of “luxury.”

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