Stuntin's NOT a Habit: Consumer Marketing in the Current Economy

Over on the Huffington Post, Darryl Cobbin says continuing to market unattainable lifestyles is a mistake for luxury brands...

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Being seen dripping with jewels on a yacht in the south of France is not the new Black.

Darryl Cobbin, veteran marketing executive writes today on the HUFFINGTON POST that this new global economy has created a seismic shiftin consumer sensibilities. The former middle class; upwardly-mobile people who previously maxed out credit cards in pursuit of the good life are now pinch pennies, wondering how they are going to feed their families. Like it or not, these individuals have different tastes now and luxury brands need to adjust but are slow to do so. Cobbin writes:

"But I don't think the luxury brands themselves are getting it yet. They're either hunkering down, focusing more on their core wealthy and celebrity customers, or advertising less. One marketer of a leading luxury hotel brand, interviewed recently on a Web cast, was even defiant, saying, "F@*# the recession!"...Yes, I realize that it is textbook business and marketing strategy to focus on your core, particularly when sales are sluggish. However, the stewards of luxury brands who are not bold enough to truly redefine luxury in the new world economic order for fear of diminishing the value of their brands are making a big mistake."

The shift, Cobbin thinks, is leaning toward accessibility and attainability that still has the ability to inspire. Cobbin's exemplar is none other than First Lady Michelle Obama:

"Michelle Obama is the perfect embodiment of this new socially conscious consumerism. She's not the kind of First Lady who's going to be seen daily in head-to-toe Chanel or Givenchy. She mixes it up between Thakoon, J.Crew and Gap, and her way of interacting on the world stage in these clothes - enjoying her kids, working in soup kitchens, standing beside her husband and greeting world leaders - has done wonders for sales of the labels she wears. Why? Because she looks great, even when she's planting vegetables in the White House garden. It's all about the very real experiences she lives through with compassion, creativity, individuality and intellect. There's a special quality to the way she conducts herself in the public eye. She has grace and class, but she's not this elegant package you can't touch. Everything about her is approachable and relatable, yet very much something to aspire to."

What say you? Should luxury brands come down to exist among the mortals or should it keep the high ground even if it is eroding out from under it?