The game of luxury
Tom Perkins, a VC, built his super yacht in 2006. Called “Maltese Falcon,” it has been the largest in the world that year. For the boat’s launch in Istanbul, Perkins decorated it with various flags. The flags spelled out a message: “Rarely does one have the privilege to witness vulgar ostentation displayed on such a scale.”
The message is a wink. It is meant to bring us in on a joke — the joke being that even the person who can afford to make the world’s largest vessel knows that there is something ridiculous about it. The same goes for $100K bag, a $50K kids bday party or a $10K pair of shoes. Without a wink, luxury is vulgar.
Luxury’s power is in pretend. Luxury brands don’t build worlds. They build games. Games give luxury brands customs, symbols, traditions and norms that emerge around the shared experience of playing the game.
People who spend a lot of time playing the Hermès game identify themselves as Hermès enthusiasts. This gives them a sense of a shared identity. Gucci’s unique vocabulary and language evolved around the Gucci game, including references that Gucci players communicate: “That’s so GUCCI!” The etiquette in the Chanel game refers to the rules of conduct associated with it. Talents developed in the Aman, Ritz or Cheval Blanc game get strengthened over the course of time, making it impossible for players to downgrade. In the Cartier game, memes and inside jokes go around via word of mouth. In the Patek Phillipe game, there are expectations of a certain behavior. History of the Dior game provides a shared frame of reference for gamers, like language or items that have roots in this game’s past. Rich narrative of the Louis Vuitton game got to the level of a literary tradition, enriching a shared experience among Louis Vuitton players. Rimowa players share a common lifestyle. Exclusive brand events, openings, sponsorships and celebrations are gaming conventions, where players gather to showcase their social connections, influence, talent, cultural capital, status and cosplay.
Like other games, the luxury game includes goals, rules, art, environments, stories, challenges, characters, items, rewards, and exploration and interaction between players.