Interview Spotlight: How Are Luxury Brands Appealing to Millennial Consumers
Interview with Diana Verde Nieto, co-founder and CEO of PositiveLuxury.com
Growing up in Argentina during a dictatorship, Diana developed a passion for human rights. Paired with entrepreneurial ambition, this passion led to Diana founding Clownfish in 2002, a pioneering global sustainability consultancy that was sold to Aegis Media six years later. Diana also sits on the advisory board for the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leader programme.
When she met Karen Hanton MBE, they both founded Positive Luxury with the mission to encourage brands to do better and help consumers buy better. The company focusses on using technology with their butterfly stamp to communicate sustainability stories in a digestible way that appeals to a growing wave of digitally savvy and socially conscious consumers.
- What inspired you to establish Positive Luxury?
Buying something that does not respect and develop the people and resources that produced it leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and I believe it does for the majority of the consumers too.
We set up Positive Luxury to narrow the trust gap between brands and consumer. We wanted to help people make better choices about what they buy while influencing brands to demonstrate a meaningful commitment towards sustainability.
People want to spend, they want to invest in themselves and enjoy beautiful products, but increasingly, consumers also want to know that their purchases and the companies they buy from are agents for good. In the end, the luxury industry employs and utilises a large amount of resources worldwide that can positively reflect on each country’s economy.
- From your point of view, which luxury sectors are more involved in sustainability?
They all have different issues to address. What we are seeing is that retailers and clients from all industries have started to ask more questions from brands about how products are made and how services are delivered.
At Positive Luxury, we work with best in class brands across several categories – travel & hospitality, fashion & accessories, jewellery & watches, beauty, premium drinks and lifestyle – we have found each industry has approached the issue differently, as they all make progress towards the shared goal of sustainability.
- Today, consumers are expecting sustainability and environmental care on most of the products and services they acquire. Is this a “trend” or a genuine behavioural change on our society?
It could be marketed as a trend, but I think it does a disservice to citizens and society to call it that. People are asking more questions because they’re simply more connected and more aware these days.
Social media means we’re witnessing social injustices or a political event on the other side of the world in real time. We live in a world where you can’t rely on governments and politicians, so young people, in particular, are looking at their own behaviours and saying – am I accountable, am I part of the solutions rather than the problems? And your shopping decisions are a part of that.
- How are digital influencers changing luxury marketing?
I think the prominence of digital influencers is a double-edged sword for luxury marketers.
On one hand, you now have to work faster and be more responsive than ever, to keep up with these tastemakers. You also have to create marketing that is in line both with your company values and the influencers; which means there’s another stakeholder in the mix.
But the upside of working with digital influencers is that you gain instant feedback on what does and doesn’t work with your strategy – the stats are all there in their followers’ reactions. You’re not waiting for sales data.
- How can brands inspire Millennials (and generation X) to feel passionate about sustainability?
By doing what they say they’re going to do. These shoppers can tell the difference between a company that has fairness and sustainability embedded across all its practices compared to a brand which makes a token effort in one area of its operations every now and then.
And by having fun with it! It’s not all doom and gloom. Actress Emma Watson’s The Press Tour Instagram account for her Beauty and the Beast press tour is a great way to make raising awareness about sustainability in fashion to feel cool and accessible.
Final day in Shanghai was a blast. Thank you for having us! Top and trousers by @cienne_ny. Cienne produce locally and in small batches, so they never make more product than needed and aim to reduce fabric waste through pattern-making. All pieces are made in New York’s garment district #30wears (worn previously at @entertainmentweekly shoot). Jewellery by @catbirdnyc, whose pieces are handmade in Brooklyn. Fashion information verified by @ecoage #ecoloves Skin is @kjaerweis certified-organic Cream Foundation and @vapourbeauty Illusionist Concealer which is made of 70% non-GMO, organic plant ingredients and 30% minerals. Cheeks contoured with Kjaer Weis Dazzling Bronzer and make-up was set with @inikaorganic Loose Mineral Foundation (which has an all-natural SPF25). Eyes are a combination of ‘Bark’ from the @beautycounter Desert Sunrise Palette (who support the Breast Cancer Fund) and Kjaer Weis Charmed Eye Shadow. Brows styled with @janeiredale Brow Gel. Lips tinted with Kjaer Weis Lip Tint in Passionate. All brands are cruelty-free. Beauty brands verified by @contentbeauty
- Is customer’s behaviour driving brands’ actions, or are brands leading society through digital marketing?
It’s a mix of both. I don’t think it’s an either/or situation. Customers are increasingly becoming more aware and shopping more carefully, and brands are starting to see the business sense of behaving in a sustainable manner. Any sane business will want to make sure it’s reflecting the beliefs and desires of its customers, so more conscious customers should result in more conscious marketing.
- Who are the forward-thinking brands and what are they doing about it? Tell us your top 3 sustainable luxury brands.
I have more than three – I have hundreds! And they’re all listed on the Positive Luxury website. It’s like a library of brands that we know are behaving in line with our values. They’re forward-thinking if they’re questioning themselves and are willing to make changes. Look for the butterfly stamp on their websites or #brandstotrust on Twitter.
- According to Positive Luxury, which sustainability trends will we see in 2017?
More visibility regarding people’s political and social beliefs. People are literally wearing their beliefs on their shirts; look at all the political messages that were mixed into this spring’s fashion shows and the pins and badges worn on couture gowns at the Oscars. BoF’s initiative of wearing a white bandana and sharing it with #tiedtogether is a great example. People are wanting to talk about the nitty-gritty of policy and how things are made.
We worked on a full report analysing where the luxury industry is leading in 2017. Positive Luxury’s research highlights the challenges and opportunities faced by CEOs and industry leaders in the luxury lifestyle sector, serving as a bellwether for the future of the retail industry as a whole.
Diana Verde Nieto will be joining the panel at Trend event on Thursday 6th of April from 6.30pm to 8.30pm. Limited places are available. Please click here to reserve your place or contact Clara Saladich on [email protected].
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