Transforming Luxury Into Legacy: Why ‘Timeless’ Is Always Our Goal
Because the term “luxury” connotes lazy assumptions and, when it comes to who we work with, does a drastic disservice.
It’s too traditional a term, too buttoned-up. Too often elitist and arrogantly superior with no evidence to support that claim; describing those too timid to get their hands dirty trying to understand the ultra-high net worth, instead resting on laurels of ‘exclusivity’ in a market where nearly everything is emblazoned with that word.
Despite team-wide dislike, though, luxury isn’t an antonym of timelessness. And we use them together often. If the latter did have an antithesis, it would be hype. Or fad. Or gimmick. The type of sentiments we refuse to deal in.
We work with timeless luxury brands. And to us — in a lexicon that is distinctly Matter Of Form — that phrase describes brands who sit comfortably at the forefront of culture and innovation. Who lead with disruptive strategy and design that’s far from conventional. Who connect to the discerning customer of today and tomorrow — to a new kind of luxurian. That is our niche.
Qualifying Timeless Brands
At its most literal, timelessness for brands means longevity in the market. One who sets a benchmark; leads a category or carves out a space of their own.
That longevity could be pre-existing or prospective. Heritage marque or startup. Given the right foundations and momentum a brand founded today could well be considered timeless to us. Just as much as one with a lengthy history.
Because standing the test of time means being embedded in the cultural web. Even if a product changes, the spirit in which the brand was founded – or how they hoped their customers would feel when it was founded – must still ring true today. They must be influenced by and contribute to an evolving society. Adaptability is paramount to timeless brands but there should always be a red thread that connects its past to present and vision for the future.
By resisting trends and superficial sector moments, timeless brands retain relevance and consistent differentiation through a balanced fusion of distinctive branding, superior product, exceptional craftsmanship and meaningful innovation – four fundamentals we can break down further:
1) Distinctive Branding
Branding is all about two things: distinctiveness and relevance. Timeless brands have a harmonious mix of both.
Because a brand can be relevant and forgettable. Or distinctive in something no one would think twice about. Too often in the branding–conversion balancing act, the C-Suite tips the scales towards the latter, seeing the preference as a rapid way to hit financial targets.
If brands have to pick one side of that core tension, conversion is the wrong choice.
On the flip side, plenty of luxury marques are guilty of fluff. Prioritising pretty words over clarity of thought, belief and value. But when it comes to crafting perceptions of timelessness, precision without pretension is everything.
Without unshakeable foundations, a brand will never stand the test of time. To build them isn’t easy, but to do so successfully nurtures the beginnings of that cultural imprinting timeless brands need to survive.
2) Superior Product
No one can out-market a mediocre product in an oversaturated market. Because a shit idea is a shit idea, no matter how many Effie Awards a marketing division has accumulated.
In pursuit of a niche, brands pigeonhole themselves into a dead-end tunnel with no scope to stretch their value.
A superior product doesn’t have to be a signature item or singular experience.
Timeless brands on the other hand think in terms of brand and competencies to venture outside rigid verticals while staying true to core beliefs.
3) Exceptional Craftsmanship
Craftmanship is the backbone of timelessness. The highest level of skill, precision, and artistry; combining technical expertise with creativity and an unwavering commitment to excellence not only justifies a higher price tag, it marks luxury. An heirloom quality proven in the longevity and durability of the piece.
Objects, concepts and worlds created with exceptional craftsmanship are not only visually stunning but also functional, durable, and capable of evoking deep emotional responses – a necessity for cultivating perceived value today.
4) Meaningful Innovation
‘When you remove every ounce of friction in favour of conversion, you optimise things to death.’ – James Lees, Strategy Director, Matter Of Form
Innovation for the sake of innovation is killing brands. Even the ones with timeless potential. With every boardroom fixated on the fastest marketing funnel ever, the least number of clicks and the highest conversion rates; brands are feeling emptier, insignificant and dulling in value. It’s why we place ourselves and our clients in direct opposition to hype and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it trends. It’s why we’d never architect gimmicky metaverse strategies for the sake of a headline or design an augmented experience anything less than fully immersive.
Too many marques are after the short-term spikes, to the detriment of their long-term perception.
Truly timeless brands only innovate where it will add meaning to the experience. Because a brand is the sum of every interaction, all its parts. And if those parts are void of feeling, a person’s prolonged connection to a brand is unlikely. Their interest, fleeting.
5 Timeless Brands We’re Continuously Inspired By
- Dr. Martens – Championing rebellious self-expression for six decades, the seminal shoe label is a paradigm of brand durability. With a cult following, perpetually cool products and a strategy that is sharply aware of cultural, digital and technological landscapes as well as their future trajectories, it’s unsurprising that Dr. Martens managed to hold onto their long-standing icon status even after a population-wide preferential shift to slippers during lockdown.
- Zaha Hadid Architects – Known for pushing the boundaries of conventional architecture, ZHA’s legacy was laid by the eponymous firm’s late founder who passed in 2016. Whose unique design language and aesthetics have transcended the boundaries of discipline to influence a collective of other creative industries, proven by collaborations with brands like Louis Vuitton and Swarovski. A cross-cultural impact that deeply encouraged our partnership with them.
- The Dorchester Collection – Another one of our clients and perhaps the most representative of traditional luxury as a timeless asset, The Dorchester Collection fuses historic legacy, prestigious locations, architectural and design excellence, exceptional service and hospitality, culinary excellence, celebrity patronage, and commitment to sustainability and social responsibility to create an inclusive kind of exclusivity coveted all over the world.
- Fender – Fender has a rich history of innovation and introducing groundbreaking designs that have had a significant impact on the music industry (as well as art, photography, culture and fashion) and have largely remained unchanged for decades. They’ve always cultivated a strong community of musicians, fans and collectors who are drawn to the craft and sentiment of Fender’s core brand.
- Hennessy – One of the oldest and most respected cognac houses in the world, Hennessy 250 years have been saturated with innovation, celebration and influence. Steeped in tradition yet pioneering in their techniques, the brand has maintained a quality and expertise in the industry, punctuated by an intense impact on the cultural fabric, collaborating with artists, designers and musicians for years to come.
Aware of how under-analysed and under-verbalised the nuances of timeless branding are and on a mission to reframe the term “luxury” to properly reflect the modern market, last year we launched our podcast What The Luxe as a space to probe deeper into the sector with a lineup of industry leaders and luminaries.
Hosted by Matter Of Form CEO Anant Sharma, COO Fred Moore and the occasional guest interviewer, we’re well into our second series – continuing to redefine luxury, understand the new high-net-worth consumer and pursue timeless legacies for brands across every vertical.
You can listen to every episode now wherever you get your podcasts.
And if you’re a driving force in a forward-thinking business or at the helm of a heritage brand wanting to revisit and refine your positioning, spirit, product or experience, spend some time with one of our consultants and outline what’s next. You can find them at firstname.lastname@example.org.