The Silk Rush: Life’s Little Luxuries Burgeon In A Challenging Economic Climate

When bonuses are cut and income is not quite so disposable consumers are turning to the smaller luxuries in life to spoil themselves with an extravagant treat. It’s a trend we’re seeing at Fox & Rose as customers choose to invest in higher value luxury lingerie pieces over functional everyday underwear. Opting for a sumptuous flash of leavers lace coupled with top quality silks designed by the likes of Stella McCartney and La Perla as opposed to traditional high street brands has provided a much needed pick me up in recent times for British women.

I like to call it the Silk Rush. During the 2001 recession Leonard Lauder, then chairman of Estée Lauder, noticed a similar trend and coined the phrase “The Lipstick Effect”, when he noted that during periods of crisis consumers still liked to treat themselves. However rather than purchasing more expensive clothing they turned to the all important lipstick to lift their mood.

The Financial Times recently covered the phenomenon in an article entitled “Fancy Pants”, quoting my theory that designer lingerie was the new ‘lipstick effect’ for 2012. Worn closest to the skin, good underwear can make or break an outfit. Lift or dampen the mood. Be that frivolous gift without tipping into debt.

In gloomy financial times it’s the smaller luxuries that come into their own as consumer spending is cut in most all other sectors. From the weekly food shop through to the luxury car market, as belts are tightened spending is squeezed. However the lingerie sector is bucking the trend again as it continues to outperform it’s sister sectors. When asked by a Monocle journalist to explain the psychology behind the trend, I thought at length about why this could be and have come to the conclusion that, among other factors including the ‘silk rush effect’ explained above, 2 overriding elements were influencing the luxury lingerie market:

1) Choosing to say at home over going out: the ‘staycation’. Dining at home instead of a restaurant. Nights in over nights on the town. During a recession people spend more time at home. And with it, they look to accessorise accordingly. Hence the success of meal deals by all top supermarket chains. Services catered specifically for home entertaining. And, of course, looking good while lounging in the house. If you’re not spending on Oscar worthy dresses for events, why not splash out a little extra on designer underwear to look spectacular at home?

2) British women are catching up with their European counterparts in the lingerie department. Once the domain of Marks & Spencers, underwear shopping has changed forever in the UK now with the arrival of smaller brands, M&S competitors and a slew of newcomers to the market which was once (and in fact still is) presided over by the high street chain. British women are paying more attention than ever to wardrobe detail. Why invest in a super glamourous suit or dress, knowing that underneath is a 5 year old faded underwear set?

I spoke with some very inspirational women at a recent DLDwomen conference in Munich. Many of them agreed that wearing the right underwear could make them feel more powerful, confident or lift their mood in the same way as going to the hairdresser would.

To end I re-quote Martin McCarthy, Worth’s business developer, who said of the trend: “I don’t think it’s about men, it’s about women wanting to feel good.” I couldn’t agree more.

Dynamo Embodies The Media Messages That Will Shape 2012’s Top Brands

In 2012 the key to successful branding will be ENGAGEMENT, RELEVANCE, AFFILIATION AND AMAZEMENT.

In its yearly study about branding “BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands 2011” WPP had some interesting observations about the companies making the biggest mark on their fans.

You can download the document on SlideShare here.

A key element that really struck a cord with me was how the changes in media and message influenced the very notion of brand. From the report: “Digital media enabled brands to become more present and interactively involved in the lives of consumers. Prompted by a shift in consumer values, brands pursued their commercial interests in a larger context, if not with a higher purpose.”

It’s something I’ve been noticing a lot with ANY kind of successful branding. From consumer retail, tech start ups and large pharmaceuticals through to personal branding developed by performers of all kinds there has been a definite shift in 2011 towards branding and reality.

How “real” is a brand? Does it reflect the issues affecting our culture, our well being today? Is it accountable for its actions? Transparent? Does it make its audience / consumers feel better about themselves for using its products or services. Does it speak directly to me? Does it know me?

The mechanics and purpose of building connections have changed and, thanks to the immediacy and intimacy of social media, the way brands are speaking to customers with it. In WPP’s report the following media messages ran through all of their top 100 Brands for 2011:

Assertion of individuality: The surge of personal expression empowered by the Internet was matched by a consumer preference for personal expression in apparel and other products, resulting in a trend to the bespoke (for those who could afford it) or mass customization (for everyone else).

Concern for personal health and wellness: Consumers, across economic groups, paid more attention to the food they put in their bodies (improvements in fast- food menus) and the products they put on their bodies (changes in personal-care ingredients).

Concern about the environment: Consumers weren’t willing to pay any price for environmentally friendly products, but being “green” became a hygiene factor in some categories (the introduction of more hybrid and some electric cars).

– Concern about product provenance: Consumers wanted to feel good about their possessions. They wanted peace of mind, knowing that any pleasure they derived from owning a product did not come at the expense of the people who made it.

It will be interesting to see how these values adapt for 2012 and which messages will prove  the most potent. No prizes for guessing that concerns about safeguarding finance, sustainability and trust could be high on the list. This has been seen in the advertising world for some time as brands revert to old marketing campaigns, evoking an era when there was theoretically more ‘ethic’ in business. Or making a lot of noise about the fact they have been in business for X million years. Marks & Spencer campaigns since 2010 often focus on their commitment to providing top customer service since 1884 for example. Returning to London Gatwick the other day also reminded me of British Airways’s revert back to their original slogan and branding ‘To Fly To Serve”.

So what of 2012…and more importantly how does Dynamo fit in? For me, in 2012 the brands that will have the highest success rate with consumers will be focusing on:

Engagement: consumers pay more attention to the way brands deliver messages and how far they go to interact with them. High levels of engagement equal trust and commitment, a quality highly regarded by today’s consumer

Relevance: Consumers are less willing to be lead by brand ideals and need a higher level of personalisation from the brands they buy into. Personalisation in this instance meaning speaking to them on their level, using their language, in their location.

Affiliation: Consumers need to see that a brand is affiliated with the issues or people that they care about. More than ever, clever placement, partnerships and positioning are impacting a brands success on a scale never seen before.

Amazement: Consumers need to believe in something. During a time of unrest, the brands that will attract large audiences will provide consumers with something that gives them a moment of amazement, of belief or of hope;

If you wonder why I’ve linked to a Dynamo video, for me this newcomer to the UK entertainment scene embodies all of those aspects: Engagement, Relevance, Affiliation and Amazement.

For those interested, WPP’s top 10 most valuable brands in the world for 2011 were: