Travel was once a luxury, the preserve of an elite few who could afford to embark on adventures abroad. Today, this exclusivity has been largely replaced with affordable, accessible travel options. And, when it comes to products, exclusivity is increasingly difficult to achieve; there are fewer things that money can’t buy. Today, the challenge for luxury brands has become a battle of how to stay ahead of the curve while continuing to offer exclusive experiences.
The richest memories are created when we are truly engaged and immersed. Contemporary consumers recognize that experiences offer a way to forge identities and create feelings of fulfillment that outlast the fleeting experiences. Across the spectrum, from gastronomy to automotive, industries formerly focused firmly on products are increasingly turning their attention to innovative experiences in response.
Subscribing to this premise is high-end cognac maker Remy Martin, which toured major US cities with an immersive pop-up experience. The project presented the work of French kinetic artist and composer Vincent Leroy, who created multimedia interpretations of the brand. The experience allowed visitors to blend their own cognac and sample cocktails, thus producing a more valuable touchpoint with the brand that went beyond simply sipping quality brandy.
When former tenets of luxury have become commonplace, the quest begins to set the new standards of value. This shifting definition of luxury has proved fertile ground for innovation.
Heritage is another avenue which is not so easily replicated, and many brands have begun to harness the history of their cities to add a little je ne sais quoi. Famed Parisian shoemaker J.M. Weston has taken over a historical theatre on the Champs-Élysées, turning the iconic building into a sumptuous space for visitors to explore while engaging with the brand in a tangible way.
Building on the glory of a city’s history is especially well-suited to the travel industry. The InterContinental Bordeaux Le Grand Hotel is housed in a newly renovated 18th-century building that mirrors the grand Opera house, sweeping the guests into the culture and history of the locale.
To add to this sense of place, the Clefs d’Or Wine Concierges of the hotel craft personalized routes of the Bordelais’ exceptional vineyards and world-famous chateaux according to their guests preferences.
Heritage commands long relationships, and with them experiences become selective, one-of-a-kind memories. The magic ingredient is often an added sense of exclusivity.
In this sense, big-name car brands are pushing the boundaries of this transformation of values. Lamborghini offers once-in-a-lifetime racing experiences to a lucky select few, while Land Rover, in collaboration with renowned novelist William Boyd, has produced a pioneering interactive adventure story on Tumblr.
What separates one culturally informed experience from another? What makes a moment luxurious? The rise of social media has diluted the value of being in the moment. Constantly equipped with portable cameras and video recorders, travelers can capture moments and share them instantaneously, making permanent and public what was once momentary and private.
In these experiences, the insider angle is essential. When it comes to engagement, a passionate and knowledgeable expert becomes the vehicle for exchange, bringing the context and insight that transforms an encounter into something emotional and three-dimensional.
Part of InterContinental Insider Experiences, a gourmet lover traveling to Paris can fulfill a dream to meet Ladurée’s famed macaroon makers and learn a few of the secrets of the iconic French pâtisserie. Additionally, one can experience an exclusive food and wine tour in Tel Aviv’s mythical Olf Jaffa with renowned Israeli chef Yaron Kestenbaum or have the opportunity to witness the bespoke hand-blending techniques of the Queen’s perfumer in London.
Curating precious behind-the-scenes moments is the height of experiential luxury for brands such as Hermès, which regularly transforms its flagship stores across the globes in real ateliers, inviting clients to try their hands at the centuries-old techniques of the Maison’s master selliers. Similarly, storied fashion house Gucci has started to invite a select few to discover the Florentine workshop, something that 180-year-old Spanish label Loewe has been doing in one form or another for the past decade.
Immersion in exclusive moments makes for lasting memories, enabling customers to appreciate anew the blend of life-long skills, time-honed traditions and cutting-edge innovation that defines contemporary luxury. As a matter of fact, we are increasingly defining ourselves by what we have done and where we have been rather than by what we own.
Aristotle once wrote: “Leisure of itself gives pleasure and happiness and enjoyment in life.” The same truth applies today. An immersive experience is ultimately about going deeper, creating memories, and building a richer inner life.