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- 1 Nov 2011
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Luxury Brands, Masters of Time

Cécile Gorgeon, head of insight and innovation at Added Value, explores the ways luxury brands use paradigms of time in their communications

Premium brands are strongly anchored in a contemporary and modern reality, whereas luxury brands have a much more complex, deep and holistic approach to time. Luxury brands shape their identity thanks to and over time. While, with the passing of time, others go out of date or wear out, luxury goods mature, acquire a patina and absorb the imprint of their holders.

In the world of luxury, time is an essential dimension. Luxury brands are eternal; they are the masters of time, for today, yesterday and for tomorrow. The challenge for luxury brands today is to maintain and express their unfailing and unique link with time in an ever-changing world where cultural referents are constantly evolving.

The analysis of the dynamic of luxury codes perfectly illustrates how luxury brands narrate, capture and reinvent the powerful relationship they have with time. This dynamic currently enfolds three dimensions which can be expressed in different manners:


Luxury brands draw on their history, their heritage, their icons and their symbols to show and claim their superiority. This is a hegemonic and historical posture which tends to be slightly dated, overused,


A discourse focused on perfection, on the precious and exceptional aspect of Luxury goods and conveyed via symbols or through the most representative icons of the brand. For example, Rolls Royce:



A discourse relaying the expertise and experience of the brand, its quality, its materials, its unique know-how. For example, Hermès:



Use of codes and symbols of a conspicuous, wealthy and glamorous life style. For example, Gucci:


Urban Knight

The brand is tacitly embodied in the character of a lonesome hero in a modern and futuristic environment. For example, Bleu de Chanel:



Luxury brands go beyond reality and invite us into the worlds of fantasy and dream. This is a dominant dimension, widely used by Luxury brands today.


A magical and enchanting world, more or less directly referring to traditional legends. For example, Hermès referencing Cinderella:



A mystical and fascinating world, imbued with a mystifying magic that can be disconcerting, even frightening. For example, Lanvin:



A world of fantasy and creativity where reality is distorted, reinterpreted. Again, in the case of Lanvin:



Luxury brands reassert their modernity by establishing a more intimate and personal connection with their clients. They use cultural codes from different periods and no longer only ones centered on their own past history.

This is an emerging dimension which demonstrates Luxury brands strong desire to remain culturally relevant.


The brand takes second stage to the brand’s patron, emphasizing the return to basic values, discretion and humility. For example, Julianne Moore for Mont Blanc:


Here and Now

The brand presents itself as the partner of intense and precious moments of life, both everyday ones and those more exceptional. For example, Tiffany & Co:


Cultural Heritage

The brand takes us back to the past using codes and symbols emblematic of past periods (Renaissance, 60s, 70s …). For example, Christian Louboutin:


To always ensure the pertinence of the stories they tell, Luxury brands must take into account local references and codes. For instance, our experience of Luxury on the Indian market showed that whereas some Luxury themes remain relevant, their expressions and codes are very specific locally (i.e. Fairy Tales that don’t have the same traditional resonance). Some expressions are even only relevant on this market.

In the challenge of differentiation from Premium brands, ‘time’ is a powerful ally for Luxury brands. Indeed, their power over time gives them infinite opportunities to reinvent themselves and to tell stories, whether ordinary or extraordinary, always emotionally charged.


Added Value provides consultancy on brand development and marketing insight for iconic and luxury brands, both big and small, around the world. We help solve clients’ central marketing questions about market, equity, positioning, innovation and communications.