It's the hottest wrist-candy going and for good reason. The Panerai Submersible Chrono Guillaume Nery Edition has just 15 pieces, and with it you buy yourself an experience. You'll be invited to Moorea in French Polynesia where Guillaume Nery, one of the greatest global ambassadors of the sea world, lives; you can dive with him, even watch whales.
The limited edition Panerai Submersible Mike Horn - only 19 timepieces to be had - carries with it the promise of learning to safeguard nature and the ecosystem on the ice floes of the Arctic from the legendary explorer Mike Horn. Likewise, the 33 exclusive Submersible Marina Militare Carbotech watches will take their owners for a training session with Comsubin, the diving and commando group of the Italian navy.
Luxury brands are embracing the power of the experiential to engage customers. Innovative and immersive experiences have become the key drivers to hold the attention of the new age and, rather picky, high spender. "Building on-ground experiences is useful to capture the right audience. For the premium segment, one needs a very customised and personalised approach. Exclusive and unique activations at premium platforms reach out to high-profile customers," says Rudratej Singh, President and CEO, BMW Group India.
Singh says his Indian consumers are affluent, well-travelled, have a deep understanding of luxury and are more demanding than their European counterparts. They want the latest products, technological features and aesthetics combined with the right pricing. "We have to present a very strong value proposition for each product and service," says Singh. Customer acquisition is only the first step to create brand loyalty, he says. To market an aspirational car brand in a country as diverse as India, it is critical to create memorable experiences and stay in touch through premium brand engagements. Strong experiential marketing and exclusive events are one of the best ways to build brand loyalty.
Sharad Agarwal, Head of Lamborghini, India and Emerging Markets, couldn't agree more. "The luxury market in India is still in its infancy and constantly evolving. Consumer preferences are moving from pre-designed luxury products and services to all-out bespoke services." So, capturing the attention and loyalty of high net worth individuals is a challenge for today's luxury brands. "Today, when customers invest in a luxury brand like Lamborghini, they are not investing in just a car but a Lamborghini experience."
In designing an experience, it's important to go beyond the product and make customers feel unique. Neha Mansukhani, Senior Marketing Manager, Moet & Chandon India, says the company is always pushing the boundaries and experimenting with new forms of localised consumer engagement. From augmented reality to direct consumer outreach through exclusive experiences as well as creative collaborations, Moet does it all.
"Brands are in an interesting and challenging space of being more relevant, sharper in their messaging and more targeted in an environment where the main challenges are a deluge of content distraction and the fact that the luxury market is facing its own sluggishness," says Vivek Ramabhadran, Vice President and Managing Director-South Asia, South-east Asia and Africa at Swarovski. This is an era of experimentation, and brands will see a transformation in their marketing functions.
Since experience is king, you could be creating your own one-of-a-kind Hermes scarf or personalising your pair of Fendi Colibri shoes (a heads up: you can avail of these abroad but not in India yet).
Brands like Christian Dior have elevated this "experience" to a cutting-edge art form. Earlier, at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and currently at the Dallas Museum of Art in the US, you can physically immerse yourself in the legacy of the brand. 'Dior: From Paris to the World', now on at the Dallas Museum of Art, has been a hit since it opened. The show has been curated to exhibit about 200 spectacular haute couture ensembles, accessories, photos, original sketches and archival material from the House of Dior. The show offers a comprehensive overview of over 70 years of Dior's legacy giving a peek into the world of Christian Dior himself as well as subsequent artistic directors including Yves Saint Laurent and John Galliano among others who shaped the brand.
Closer home, to celebrate the launch of Jo Malone London in the country, select guests were treated to a fragrance mixing experience with a first-of-its-kind preview at Amanbagh near Jaipur. Guests, including Indian influencers, were taken for a two-day experiential preview of the brand's products in India. The preview concluded with a quintessential British supper even as the venue swirled with the aroma of the brand's signature Lime Basil & Mandarin perfume.
Ramabhadran of Swarovski says that designer partnerships are part of the brand's DNA. No other fashion company in India, he adds, would have partnered this extensively with creative communities in fashion, couture, jewellery, architecture, and events the way Swarovski has been able to over the past years. On the couture front, Swarovski's foremost collaboration has been with designer Tarun Tahiliani who wove a Swarovski sparkle into Indian couture and now is a leading exponent of this. More recently, the Austria-headquartered company presented designer J.J. Valaya's latest couture collection.
"For me, the most special is the jewellery collective, Confluence, wherein we brought on board 16 designers to create magical creations that truly address a need not being catered to in the jewellery space today," says Ramabhadran.
Like Swarovski, to keep its Indian customers seriously engaged, luxury Italian watch manufacturer Panerai participated in the Luxury Lifestyle Weekend in 2018 as well as this year. Last year, the brand had set up an experiential space to offer watch-making sessions. Whiskey tasting sessions have also been curated recently in association with The Malt Legends for select invitees at the Panerai boutiques in Delhi and Mumbai to showcase new launches of its Submersible watches, marrying the story with three newly launched fine whiskies from the partner brand.
What's more, its three latest limited edition watches are promising their owners extraordinary experiences that are in line with the story and inspiration behind each timepiece.
Earlier this year, Moet & Chandon kicked off Moet Grand Day in 80 countries. In this annual 24-hour worldwide gala, friends, guests and clientele were invited to exciting events that included glamorous brunches at luxury hotels, day parties and glittering night bashes to celebrate the brand. There's more in its arsenal, says Mansukhani. New concept bars and Moet Mini-matic, the world's first champagne vending machine, which offers consumers in India the chance to pop open chilled mini champagne bottles at the press of a button, have proved to be popular with clients. "Moet has also created exclusive lounges in select 5-star hotels that provide its members personalised experiences," she adds. As Moet Imperial Brut champagne is celebrating its 150th anniversary, last month, the French champagne house collaborated with Indian ace designers Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla to host a preview of their latest collection.
Champagne house Krug, too, organises unique dinner experiences with menus curated by top chefs. The experience is rounded off with wine pairing. For instance, Krug Grande Cuvee was reintroduced to clients and friends of the brand at a celebratory dinner at Masque in Mumbai with a special menu. An 11-course dinner paired with Krug Grande Cuvee, and much of the conversation revolved around it.
Millennials and GenZ too have opened new avenues for luxury brands. Their consumption and purchase behaviour, says Singh of BMW, has encouraged businesses to innovate and redesign their experiences to cater to the demands and preferences of the multi-device, multi-platform generation. "At BMW, we have also identified that this generation is at least a very strong influencer when it comes to making a purchase decision. They may not be the direct buyers of luxury cars, but they sure have a strong say. Our events are aimed at bridging the various expectations of customers via different routes - food, sports, driving experiences, art, et al," says Singh.
BMW has curated a bouquet of experiences like BMW Joyfest (in 14 cities) and BMWxDrive Experience (16 cities). There are other events as well such as a golf tournament (11 cities), a culinary series, a motorrad safari and more.
Experiences are an integral part of the customer lifecycle at Lamborghini as well, and continuing with that thread, Lamborghini India offers various platforms and experiences to customers. One of these is Giro, a super-luxury consumer weekend, held multiple times a year, during which owners of this dream car drive through scenic locations and end each day at a luxe hotels. The brand brings its customers together to drive their Lamborghinis on some of the best highways in the country and to enjoy the experience in an informal environment. "We brought Lamborghini Day to India at the start of this year at Jaipur, where we provided magnificent experiences to our customers and drove the cars around Pink City," says Agarwal. There are also the Lamborghini Esperienza and Accademia programmes that offer customers an opportunity to drive the cars on some of the finest race tracks across the world.
Women drivers had a special day at the third edition of Lamborghini Women's Drive held recently in Bengaluru where they got to drive the newly launched Huracan through the city. For every launch, there are special previews for existing and potential consumers well in advance to enable purchase.
In today's ever-changing environment, a brand must stay connected with its customers to be successful. "That has to be an integral part of our strategy and we must keep looking for newer ways to enrich their overall ownership experience," says Agarwal.
The writer is Editor, The Luxe Log, a luxury and lifestyle website