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Experience may be taking primacy over product…

Each year in New York, the Luxury Marketing Council Worldwide(“L.M.C.W.”) holds its annual “temperature taking” view of the luxury market to look back to last year, and take a look ahead at the year to come. Our firm is a member, and I attended the traditional January prognostication event. The L.M.C.W. was established over 20 years ago, and identifies itself as “an exclusive, by invitation only” collaborative organization of more than 5,000 top CEOs and CMOs from more than 1,000 major luxury goods and services companies in 41 cities worldwide.

If you hope to be positioning your brand in the luxury segment, the word of the year for 2018 is “experience.” The good news for startups is that “experience” does not mean having a long track record in the market. Rather: Experience, as a noun meaning “a particular instance of personally encountering or undergoing something.” If your target market for a product or service is luxury, you should be prepared to ask yourself what kind of true luxury experience you are able to deliver to your customers and clients.

Chris Olshan, Master of Ceremonies for the evening and the Chief Executive of the Luxury Marketing Council, as well as the founder of the Young Luxury Marketers Council, recognized that service and experience set things apart. All things being equal, the experience may be taking primacy over the product – presuming, of course, that the product itself is of the highest quality.

If you are still considering what to brand your product, you may also want to be aware that words like “experience” are likely to be popular with other trademark owners, which means you should be careful in how you use the word “experience” to identify your luxury product. Part of the luxury calculation is exclusivity or scarcity. Using a word for a brand name that is in use by many others will tend to take away from an exclusive image. The Trademark Office records suggest that most uses of “experience” are still in the more conventional sense (“…buy our product, we have 50 years’ experience making this…”). But registered and unregistered use of the term has increased.

 How do I convey my message, you may ask, if I cannot use the word “experience?”
The answer is you can certainly freely use experience, but you may not be able to protect it. The distinction is to be aware that you want to avoid certain buzzwords in your actual brand name. You must understand that you will not be able to stop other people from using that word, and perhaps therefore very similar trademarks to yours. This practice applies to any segment of the market – luxury, utilitarian, commodity product, whatever. You want to create a distinctive trademark and leave the more descriptive words aside, or use them as a secondary tagline to help your customers identify what you are doing and what is your message. But do not rely on common words to be your own signature phrase.

 

The event was held at The Pierre Hotel in Manhattan, a venerated luxury property. So as an example, if their principal trademark is “The Pierre,” they could hypothetically come up with another slogan or phrase to emphasize “experience” (and even use the word experience itself, like “The Pierre – the Experience”), but they could not expect to readily stop others from also calling their hotel “the Experience.” Use caution to find a word which conveys a concept and which you can claim all to yourself.