Luxury by the sea at the Ritz-Carlton Dorado Beach, an AFAR Collection hotel

When it comes to marketing to luxury consumers, luxury brands require a specific approach to brand management. As president of Pedonemedia, a full-service advertising agency, Walter Coyle and his team are committed to understanding the DNA of the brands his company services. Pedonemedia’s clients include Hermès, Jimmy Choo, Montblanc fragrances, and more. Prior to the AFAR Conversations on January 21 at The Chatwal Hotel in New York City, I sat down with him to discuss the evolution of the luxury consumer and his company’s approach to working with luxury brands.

AFAR: Define luxury, what does it mean to you?

Coyle: At Pedonemedia, we believe a true or “classic luxury” brand has five attributes. The first is “quality,” in that it aims to be the highest quality, the best materials or technology available. If it’s a durable good, it is unlikely it will be thrown out. Rather, it will be valued enough to be repaired. If a non-durable, it will be used sparingly, knowing its quality is so high that a little will suffice.

The second is “aesthetics.” The brand behaves with class and style whenever and wherever it is seen or heard. Whether modern or classic, it is impeccably designed and pleasing to the senses. The third is “rarity.” In contrast to mass-market brands, it’s not easily or readily available to all or at all times. It might be scarce at times or purposely limit its production. The fourth is “extraordinary,” meaning it delivers the unexpected; it surprises and delights in a way that is meaningful, yet different from other brands. This might be through its offerings or through the experiences it creates as part of the brand.

The fifth and final quality is “provenance.” Its heritage and place of origin signals authenticity and borrows or owns part of the culture of the place from which it comes. For example, German car brands are known for German engineering, considered by many to be made with the highest level of precision.

AFAR: What have you seen in the evolution of the luxury consumer over the last decade?

Coyle: The word luxury has often been corrupted, causing the category to be divided into at least three segments that we define as Classic Luxury, New Luxury, and Premium brand (often confused with Luxury brands).

Given your work with luxury brands, what is your approach to helping them reach luxury consumers?

There is certainly not one approach. What is fundamental to the marketing of a luxury brands is truly understanding what the brand represents in the marketplace and where it may sit from a competitive perspective as well. My team and I are dedicated to understanding the brand, its current customers, its future prospects, and selecting the most pristine environments for all media placements. Many luxury brands continue to support the notion that the media in which the message is consumed is an active and willing partner in the message. It is critically important that all associated content partnerships are of the highest quality vs. chasing large numbers at the expense of a quality environment.

AFAR: What are the traits that separate luxury brands from other brands?

Coyle: While five attributes are needed to define a luxury item, two factors differentiate a luxury item from other categories, as they cannot be replicated: Rarity and Provenance.