Demographics, the term ‘luxury’ and reaching cultural authority

Content Strategy

Industry Insights


To mark the launch of a series of thought-leadership events around Culture Connects, our methodology as an agency, Studio Black Tomato held a dinner bringing together 5 senior brand representatives from different industries, at Akira restaurant in Japan House. The purpose of these gatherings are to challenge and question existing terminology and belief systems around the stigma and buzzwords associated with the marketing world. During an evening of enjoyable conversation coupled with an authentic Japanese dining experience, we brought elements of our findings from our recently published whitepaper into discussion, gathered opinions and looked at the relevance of each in our guests’ respective industries. Three main points came to the forefront of discussions – the relevance of demographics, the meaning of the term ‘luxury’ and how brands can encompass cultural authority. Conversations led to some insightful learnings for all involved, which we have collated below into key takeaways.


Adrian Hulf. Creative Director for Belmond. Adrian has over 30 years experience within the luxury arena and has worked on producing effective communications for brands in all fields across all media and platforms.

Kylie Clark. Director of PR and Communications for Japan House. Kylie has extensive knowledge within the marketing and PR fields, having worked nearly 10 years for the Japan National Tourism Organisation but also in the museum, retail and restaurant industries.

Vivek Kemp. Executive Producer for CNN Digital Video. Vivek has worked in production for 15 years for a range of media broadcaster giants and corporations including NBC News, GE and The Daily before joining CNN in the international digital video for EMEA. He is a strong believer that stories can change culture, help us connect and understand each other.

Kristina Karassoulis. Head of UK Luxury Advertising for Financial Times. Kristina started her career out in Australia in the digital media world, working on accounts such as Vogue, GQ, MTV, before making the move to London to join the FT.

Rebecca Nolimaio. Senior account manager in Luxury for Financial Times. Rebecca also started out in Australia, Sydney working with media publishers in the fashion industry such as InStyle, and on accounts including Australian retailer David Jones.

1. Are demographics still an accurate way of targeting?

One of the findings of our whitepaper is that demographics are a limiting route to creativity and instead of becoming the brand direction, demographic nuance should inform activation tactics like media targeting. While discussing the validity of this point, the general consensus was that 100 years ago, when TV and radio were the only real mediums to advertise with, demographics were important. Although they still are to an extent, particularly to media buyers, they can now be seen as an outdated form of targeting. Brands tend to speak to personas rather than attempt to reach a certain demographic – such as millennials, the over 50s… The majority of advertising platforms such as Facebook’s algorithm don’t even use demographics anymore as a way of showing people the right content but will base serving their ads according to an audience’s behaviour.


2. Is ‘luxury’ subjective?

As Kristina rightly pointed out, legend Karl Lagerfeld once said:


“You can be the chicest thing in the world in a T-shirt and jeans — it’s up to you.” Karl Lagerfeld


Discussions lead to a general agreement that definitions and perceptions of “luxury” have changed and depend on individuals and their culture. While luxury to some will revolve around status, to others it will have different meanings such as experience, exclusivity, a lifestyle to aspire to… Some brands that evolve in this space even steer clear of using this classification in communications, preferring other terms to replace it which are either not as restricting, or not as broad.


“There’s a quantifiable idea of something that is luxurious based on definition.” Vivek


Luxury can also be about perception. In the media sphere for instance, luxury can have very different meanings. This is the case when readers perceive consuming the content as the luxury, such as with Vogue, whose readership has an aspirational lifestyle and will only on occasion purchase an item seen in an editorial. Other high-end publications however have readers that actively search for inspiration in the pages of these publications for their next purchase. Luxury here has two different meanings to the audiences and two different purchase intents, suggesting that the term is indeed subjective.

There was a general consensus that the real and common luxury for a brand is to have and tell a story and connect to its consumers through this. By staying loyal to its values and quality of service, a brand can provide an experience considered to be luxury. This overarching value is confirmed in our whitepaper, where cultural authority must be reached to build lasting brand loyalty.

3. How can brands achieve cultural authority?

 “At a dinner party the most interesting people have a point of view.” Vivek


It takes strong values for a brand to achieve cultural authority. Nike is an example of a company that has successfully achieved this, in large part because they stay true to their beliefs and do not shy away from them in their communications. You can see this clearly when they stand by their athletes. The content may not be unanimously well-received, but being true helps ensure long-lasting brand loyalty.


“Being a creative director implies being brave and not being scared to take a stance.” Adrian


We’d like to extend a warm thanks to our guests for sharing their insights and opinions on a topic that is close to the heart of Studio Black Tomato and our methodology. A few openings even came into conversation as a result of our discussions. With concepts of demographics, luxury and cultural authority shifting, how do brands then measure success? More and more, KPIs are becoming intangible and cultural, tracked through strategic partnerships and collaborations with brands to increase awareness. Is ROI always measurable with these new metrics and if so, how? Stay tuned for more of our upcoming thought-leadership events where we will attempt to address these all-important questions.

By Lucy Lowther – PR & Marketing Manager at Studio Black Tomato


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