How can we differentiate ourselves in a market of ordinary products dominated by low prices? Designing a luxury customer experience.

The human being is a symbolic animal. All around us, everything with which we interact has a dual nature: the thing itself, and the meaning we give to it. That meaning is in part socially constructed and partly created by each person.

From this perspective we can understand that, in fact, people do not buy products but meanings, ideas. When choosing a product we not only take into account its aesthetics and functionality, but also its symbolic value.

It’s for this reason that Roberto Verganti [1] explains that, just as it is possible to innovate by applying new technologies or a better analysis of users’ needs (user-centered approaches), innovation of meaning is also possible.

Through symbols and signs, using a specific design language, designers can modify the message that products deliver. Verganti exemplifies it with the case of Whole Foods Market, which gave an aura of hedonism to the traditionally severe healthy nutrition.

Luxification, innovation of meanings

There are different strategies of innovation of products meaning. One of them is the “luxification”. Luxification is a term rarely used – sometimes incorrectly – [2], so I’ll try to give a definition.

Luxification is the use of luxury experiences in ordinary and mass products to improve customers’ satisfaction and thus beat competitors in a market dominated by low prices.

Those products that apply luxification offer an above-average quality and slightly higher prices, but they continue to be within reach of most budgets. In these cases, what conveys the message of luxury is not so much the price or the product, but all that surrounds the shopping experience and its symbology.

As Pamela N. Danziger says, “luxury isn’t just about the thing; it is about the especial experience the consumer feels in buying or owning that thing” [3].

Let’s see two examples of luxification.

Nespresso, jewelry stores that sell coffee

Traditionally, the process of drinking a morning coffee has been associated with buying a coffee packet at the supermarket, filling the coffee maker, staining the kitchen with coffee grounds, waiting and pouring the coffee into the cup while trying not to stain more the kitchen.

Nespresso has changed this completely by turning the experience of buying and having the daily coffee into a luxury. We have only to compare our supermarket with a Nespresso “boutique”. It seems a jewelry store. A person receives us at the entrance and before us appears a large space where coffee machines are exhibited as jewels and the brightly colored capsules seem chocolates.


Nespresso boutique

Overall, Nespresso tries to convey a message of exclusivity and elegance in what essentially is only an ordinary coffee that people drinks at home or in the office.

Turris, the luxury of buying bread

The case of bread is similar to that of coffee. When industrial bread can be bought in any supermarket and even at gas stations, Turris emerged to offer traditional bread based on natural products.

Without reaching the luxury of the Nespresso boutiques, at Turris shops it’s possible to buy a great variety of breads and see how they are made while we wait our turn. I say “wait our turn” because here the queues for bread are common.

Obviously, Turris products are more expensive than the supermarket loaves of bread, but they are still affordable. Suddenly the bread ceases to be a daily product to become a luxury.

[1] Roberto Verganti (2009) Design Driven Innovation: Changing the Rules of Competition by Radically Innovating What Things Mean.

[2] S. McCartan, L. Moody and D. McDonagh use the term luxification in “Luxification and Desig-Driven Innovation in Superyacht Design” when they are really speaking about “luxflation”, this is, the need for marketers to continually inflate o enhance the luxury value of their brand in order to counteract the inevitable downward gravitational pull to the mass market. This definition is given by Pamela N. Danziger.

A more correct approach to luxification can be found in “Granite Countertops, Flat-Screen TVs, Fire Pits: The Surprising Story of How College Dorms Got Luxe” by By Inga Saffron.

[3] Pamela N. Danziger (2005) Let Them Eat Cake: Marketing Luxury to the Masses – As well as the Classes.