marketing luxury

The Psychology of Marketing Luxury: Navigating Emotions and Experiences

I have always been a student of psychology, and now in particular, the psychology of marketing luxury.  I find the human mind fascinating; how two people can look at the exact same thing and have two very different interpretations. What I’ve discovered is our experiences guide how we interpret what we see. Our experiences determine if we should be offended or excited by a seemingly innocent question such as, “where are you from?”

For those in the latter category —  as I often am because I don’t have an easy answer, and as a storyteller, I love to tell the story of my journey to answering this very question – there are people who actually get offended. I discovered this on the website Quora one day as several dozen people alternated from claiming the question is harmless to others going into a rant about how racist and xenophobic it is.

For the record, I’m always happy to answer the question.

Marketing Luxury with Emotions

I’ve spent my entire career helping luxury brands create strategies to attract more customers. At the beginning of my career, I came across a phrase that has now become synonymous with my agency —  “the pursuit of luxury is a passionate endeavor.”  It is the “passionate” part of this statement that so intrigued me because passion, the things we are passionate about, are often determined by experiences.

When it comes to luxury consumer goods, our willingness to spend obscene amounts of money on items that could be had for significantly less is a consequence of our psychology; experiences we’ve had that solidify in our minds it’s worth it to pay two months salary for a mineral that comes out of the dirt. And also, that it’s a sign of true love to receive on a ring this pure carbon mineral that was dug out of the earth.

Diamonds sound less impressive when I point out they are only pure carbon minerals found in dirt, no?  

DeBeers has done a remarkable job in their marketing luxury by distracting consumers from this simple truth as women the world over happily sing “diamonds are a girl’s best friend!” And best friends make us happy, do they not? So of course, it’s worth it to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a pure carbon mineral, despite another truth that diamonds aren’t as rare as they are made out to be.

Shh.  Let’s not let a little logic get in the way of marketing luxury items!

What I often find with new companies who want to target luxury consumers is that they get wrapped up in all the definitions of luxury that say marketing luxury must focus on an item being expensive, or rare, or exclusive when what truly defines luxury is an item’s ability to illicit emotions that cause a customer to throw all logic and reason out of the window.

It goes without saying, of course, that item must also live up to its brand promise by being well made, of the highest quality, with a customer service team that stands behind the product. Price is a consequence of achieving high quality, not a dictate of luxury itself.  

The Smoke & Mirrors of Marketing Luxury

Marketing Luxury and Rolex

And the concept of exclusivity is simply smoke and mirrors, as Rolex demonstrates by being the most recognized luxury company in the world, yet manufacturers over 1 million Rolexes per year. This is also why the second-hand watch market is fueled by Rolexes.

I once got into a very heated and ultimately ugly argument with a stranger on Quora for making similar statements about Rolex.  I’m sure someone reading this was immediately offended by the preceding paragraph as they look lovingly at their Rolex and claim I don’t know what I’m talking about. But facts are facts, and one indisputable fact about me despite my ramblings about Rolex is I would jump at a chance to work with Rolex’s marketing team as it would be the easiest job in the world!

Rolex has done the hard part of seducing the passion out of both aspirational and existing customers that assures when someone like me comes forward with facts and figures, I am dismissed as an “ignorant idiot” by a Quora stranger, despite my 20+ years in the watch industry and in marketing luxury.

And for this, I say to Rolex, “Bravo!”

Because Rolex understands that the pursuit of luxury is a passionate endeavor, an illogical endeavor, an emotional endeavor, and ultimately, a psychological endeavor.

When you’re designing your marketing campaigns, you should aim to get so far into the heart of your customer that they’re willing to fight a duel on your behalf simply because someone points out the less-glamorous truth of your brand.


  1. Psychological Influence on Perception: Individual experiences shape our interpretations and reactions to seemingly innocuous questions or situations, as our psychological makeup plays a crucial role in how we perceive the world around us.
  2. Emotion-Driven Luxury Marketing: Emotions are important in marketing luxury, where the desire for luxury items is often fueled more by emotional connections and experiences than by the practical value of the items themselves.
  3. The Illusion of Exclusivity: The true essence of marketing luxury lies in its ability to evoke strong emotional responses and irrational desires, rather than its price or scarcity.
  4. Consumer Behavior in Luxury Markets: Consumers are willing to invest significantly in luxury goods, driven by deep-seated beliefs and the symbolic meanings attached to these items even when an objective look at an item doesn’t match the significance placed.
  5. Brand Loyalty and Advocacy: Being effective in marketing luxury should result in your efforts penetrating so deeply into the hearts of consumers that they become willing to defend the brand against criticism.

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