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WhisperThe MBLM Brand Intimacy 2019 Study* was released a few days ago and it’s not good news for the luxury sector.  The results clearly show luxury brands have quite a lot of work to do to build emotional connections with their customers.

Brand intimacy is defined as the science that measures the emotional bonds we form with the brands we use. The MBLM study is the largest study of brands based on emotion. Out of the 15 industries reported in the study, the luxury sector fell from last year’s 13th position to 14th place. Luxury was beat out for last place by the airline and travel industry. The overall Luxury Brand Industry quotient is 18.7 – far behind the cross-industry average of 31.

MLBM derives the Brand Intimacy Quotient by factoring six characteristics of intimacy:

  1. Fulfillment: always exceed expectations; deliver superior/quality service; good value for the money
  2. Identity: values the customer identifies with; projects a desirable lifestyle
  3. Enhancement: makes life easier; helps the customer be more effective, smarter, more capable, more connected
  4. Ritual: becomes a part of the customer’s daily routine, as a vitally important part of their lives (more than a habit)
  5. Nostalgia: reminds the customer of fond memories and associated warm feelings from the past
  6. Indulgence: pamper the customer with a sense of personal luxury; appeals to the senses

with three stages of brand intimacy:

Mario Natarelli & Rina Plapler. Brand Intimacy, A New Marketing Paradigm, Hatherleigh Press, 2017

According to Mario Natarelli, author of Brand Intimacy: A New Paradigm for Marketing, “Brand Intimacy results in greater longevity, more growth, and higher price resilience.” These sound very much like goals any luxury brand would want to achieve. So what’s the problem? 

In a statement to Luxury Daily, Rina Plapler, a partner at MBLM, proposed one reason luxury brands scored so poorly was that they can appear “aloof and untouchable.” Promoting a sense of exclusivity while simultaneously creating a warm and welcoming environment has always been a challenge for even well-established luxury brands. I addressed this conundrum a few years back in an article titled “The Devil Sells Prada… and Burns the Customer!”  At the time I wrote the article on the heels of another study that reportedly said snobby customer service increased sales in luxury brands. Upon further analysis, that study’s results showed the sales bump was temporary and snubbed customers ultimately regretted the rude experience and returned their purchases. Perhaps it’s time luxury associates replace the cold shoulder with a warm smile.

Luxury scored dead last in the Sharing and Bonding stages of building Brand Intimacy and scored next to worst in the Fusing stage. The upshot is that luxury brands continue to fail at forming an emotional connection with the customer. I’ll be talking soon with Mario Natarelli to gain a better understanding of the three stages of brand intimacy with the goal of defining specific skills and behaviors for sales associates to builder stronger emotional customer connections. Stay tuned for Part 2!

In the meantime, I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Horst Schulze, co-founder of The Ritz-Carlton Company:

Elegance without warmth is arrogance.

Luxury should never be snobby; it should always be inviting.

*The report and rankings from the MBLM Brand Intimacy 2019 Study can be found here.