How can you harness the changing face of luxury?

category - strategy
type - features
sector - travel & hospitality
sector - luxury
While the key needs underpinning luxury remain steadfast, they are prioritised, expressed and pursued differently as time, culture and society evolve. Louise French, strategy director at The Future Laboratory, offers some strategic take-outs from our Five States of Luxury 2021

For this year’s Luxury & Hospitality Futures online event, we have refreshed our proprietary luxury framework – originally created by Chris and Martin back in 2017 – to reflect cultural changes observed since then and their impact on how luxurians seek to experience luxury.

The Five States of Luxury was originally developed as a tool to critique and examine the luxury brands we work with, enabling us to map brand journeys through the concept of stages of luxury. But, when re-examining the content of the framework, we recognised that two macro-shifts required us to adapt the function of this valuable strategic tool.

Firstly, driven by consumer trust fatigue, subsequent corporate unravelling and increasingly erratic consumption habits during the pandemic, our 2021 macrotrend, Elastic Brands, highlights the most significant shifts for brands to emerge over the past five years. Familiar and recognisable icons, generating desire for their businesses through large-scale, branded façades, are being usurped by a new breed of adaptive, elastic and creatively responsive newcomers and proactive, enlightened stalwarts. Having recognised the need for more meaningful marketing and the value of more intimate and responsive relationships with customers, this trend tells us that the brands of tomorrow will be honest, agile and continually evolving – inherently challenging traditional luxury tropes.

Secondly, as noted in our luxury macrotrend, Omnilux Lifestyles, the accelerating digitalisation and democratisation of luxury has undoubtedly changed the face of desire and aspiration, with an empowered, emerging, diverse audience of Gen Z luxurians increasingly uneasy about the traditional markers of affluence. Traditions of elitism and exclusivity have been replaced by an accessible, inclusive future vision that reflects a pervasive power shift towards creators and consumers. As such, future luxury brands must be digitally fluent, embedded in communities and open to anyone, anywhere at any time – requiring some soul-searching and bravery from an industry that has consistently relied on the exclusion of others to signify status.

Published by:

16 September 2021

Author: Louise French

Image: Priya Ahluwalia and Mulberry



To survive and thrive in this future, brands must throw off the comfort blanket of familiarity and embrace a more unorthodox luxury. To support and guide them, we have reframed two areas of the Five States of Luxury itself to offer more value as a strategic decision-making tool:

1. States, not stages
To avoid insinuation that one position on the framework is more desirable or aspirational than another, or that we should all be on a journey to the top tier, we have reframed the original concept of ‘stages’ to become equal but different ‘states’. This means moving beyond ideas of hierarchy and recognising that the different facets of luxury today are on a horizontal rather than a vertical ladder. While brands will continue to evolve and move through these states, we’re embracing the idea that the trajectory for a luxury company, hotel, brand or experience doesn’t have to be up.

As a case study, we can look to prestigious heritage brand Rolls-Royce. Unarguably at the top of the old luxury hierarchy, Rolls-Royce is now making cars to order in any colour or wild interior to appeal to a new generation of customers, and has also developed its Whispers app to digitally connect and build its community. Both brand-builds are reflective characteristics of State One, but have in no way compromised – and only optimised – the integrity, longevity and relevance of the brand.

2. Index Omni-presence
With brands becoming more elastic in nature, it is less likely that they will target just one vertical or demographic at any one time. To support this multi-dimensionality, the luxury states must allow brands to inhabit more than one state at once. We anticipate brands looking to expand their horizons and identify a much broader and more diverse range of opportunities as they appeal across the equal but different spectrum of luxury consumer mindsets.

As a case study, we’ve seen brands such as Tiffany diversify their offers and relax previously sacrosanct brand expressions to engage with their audiences in the right way at the right time. Much like Rolls-Royce, in today’s terms this can only be seen as a sensible move to create relevance and resonate with a wider, more diverse audience, where previously it would have been viewed as sacrilege.

‘To survive and thrive in this future, brands must throw off the comfort blanket of familiarity and embrace a more unorthodox luxury.’

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Key Strategic Implications for luxury brands:

Embrace more organic growth
Whether a brand is 1 or 100, think less about reaching a zenith of luxury from humble beginnings (or Maslow’s equivalent, brand self-actualisation). Instead, consider a more organic and intuitive trajectory driven by growth from learning and experience, to direct where is next available to you authentically across these luxury states.

Consider more diverse activations
Rather than consistency and uniformity, brands should use their assets to develop and adapt. Consider where the different elements of your brand sit on (or off) the Five States of Luxury to reflect on the differences between consumer targets, branded activations, approach to products versus services or master-brand to sub-brand relationships, and look for opportunities to stretch and diversify.


Our team of strategists have developed a wide-ranging set of strategic decision-making tools to help provide future-first solutions for our clients. If you would like to discuss how Five States of Luxury 2021 could support future planning for your brand, or if you have any questions about embedding our macrotrends into your business, send us a message at We look forward to accelerating into the future with you.


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