Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Digital "Sixth Sense" arrives in Luxury

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How do you speak about the human senses in the digital world? Is it possible to relate our five senses of sight, scent, taste and touch in the virtual world? How can we even begin to actualize scent, taste and touch online? Or is there a specific digital sense that exists? Have we reached a point where we can begin to imagine a virtual world that provides the possibility of not only seeing luxury products on our screens but also touching and even tasting them? Are we gravitating towards a digital world where we can smell our favourite fragrances before buying them online? Are we even right to ask these questions?

All indicators from the expert knowledge that was shared at the recent Club e-Luxe Breakfast Seminar show that we have reached a sensory turning point in the digital context. For example, it may be surprising to learn that scent can now be transformed into binary codes for digital encoding, a long way of saying that “scent-based computers or digital devices are in the horizon”. The possibility to touch products projected digitally is also more real than ever, after all 3D printers have become a reality earlier than most people images (just type in 3D printer in Youtube and you’ll be amazed at what you’ll find). And speaking of sound, we now have the possibility of not only composing and compiling custom or “branded” sound digitally, but virtual monitor and control of sound is now as easy as breathing. In other word, a luxury brand with a network of 100 stores around the world can have a “digital sound station” located in one store and from this vantage point control the sound and music that is streamed in all its stores every minute and every second down to the very last details such as pitch, tempo, volume, mix and sync. How cool is that? 

The Club e-Luxe Breakfast Seminar held on 8th January 2013 at the Hotel Le Bristol, Paris (which is by the way the first Parisian 5 Star hotel to obtain the exclusive “Palace” status), was an event that could be best described as a revelation. Luxe Corp brought together a team of renowned experts of digital media, technology and luxury to dissect the event’s theme of “Sensory Luxury”. This theme which was chosen from the recognition that digital media has become the consumer’s “sixth sense” and has seeped into the deepest echelons of the human psyche, led to presentations, live demos and debates around the topics of Visual Experience, Sound Design, Digital Scent & Taste, Digital Touch, Motion Design, Mobile Evolution, Technology-based accessories and of course the ever-evolving Digital Natives (the online consumers). 

The event however began with a presentation by Uché Okonkwo, Luxe Corp’s Executive Director & Founder, in which she made a major announcement in the form of the forthcoming publication of the “Digital Luxury Scorecard Report” the first integrated digital luxury report that assesses the digital strategies, initiatives and executions of 100 luxury brands' across multiple categories. The Report which will be published by Luxe Corp in March 2013 in collaboration with major media and strategic partners will mark the first industry study that is dedicated to the full spectrum of digital media and innovation both online and offline. It is also to be the sole reference for the measurement of the value that digital media adds to a luxury company’s bottom line, i.e. revenues, brand equity and financial value (tighten your seatbelts…)

The presentation rationalized the need for such a research report by highlighting that although the luxury industry had taken impressive strides in the area of digital media in the last few years, there is currently no reference or means of concretely measuring the qualitative and quantitative value that digital media contributes to a luxury company’s market value. The research will use a 10-point digital scope to analyze 100 luxury brands in 10 products & services categories.  

The presentation particularly highlighted the digital success story of Burberry which is widely viewed as having the most integrated and advanced digital practice in the luxury sector. According to Uché, the Burberry case brought an “e-Awakening” that is defining industry digital practices and underlies the reasons that the Luxe Corp team initiated this thorough multi-layered assessment of digital practices in the luxury industry.

Max Catanese, the CEO of Almax, the world leader in mannequin production made the second presentation, which focused on showcasing the innovative and ground-breaking Eye See Mannequin, the world’s first interactive store mannequin with a fully integrated intelligence system.

The mannequin which is equipped with a facial recognition system is able to profile customers within a store and provide their precise demographics such as gender, age group, race and other elements. These can then be used by retailers and marketers to create enhanced client services packages, product assortments, store merchandizing and other offerings. The software inside the mannequin is programmed not to store images but only demographics, so there is zero risk of privacy abuse. In addition to its innovative features, the Eye See Mannequin has the same function of any regular Mannequin, as it displays clothes and encourages customers to enter the store.

Some examples of the impact and benefits of the Eye See Mannequin include the ability to understand the kind of clientele that use specific store entrances and exits; the ratio of male vs female and children visiting the store; the specific types of merchandizing that attract the most clientele, and several others. These lead to informed analytics and improved selling techniques.


The technology that powers the Eye See mannequin is fully patented by Almax and is also similar to that being used by law enforcement agencies to curtail of crime in public places. The Almax Eye See mannnequin is a result of a development project with the Innovation Lab at Politecnicodi Milano (The Engineering and Design University of Milan, Italy).

Gernod Pflüger, Co-Founder and CEO of CPP Studios and MAD HAT, the company behind the first-ever Burberry Hologram Fashion Show held in Beijing on 13th April 2011, made the third presentation. Speaking on the topic of “Using Digital Media to Redefine the Visual Language of Luxury through Holographic and Augmented systems”, Gernod displayed the latest innovations in holographic and augmented systems, and how these can be used to enhance the digital luxury experience.

He also showcased the innovations and systems behind visual and optical illusions and highlighted the way that projection mapping has changed digital imagery. He emphasized that pseudo holographics uses robots to show the inside components of an object in a way that looks real. This could particularly be applied to luxury time pieces, accessories and even automobiles. He also clarified that the impact of the “story-telling” of a luxury brand can be best emphasized using holograms. He also emphasized that holographics open a whole new world of visual communications and storytelling for luxury and ensures a competitive edge in brand communications.

The presentation which was complemented by LIVE DEMOs to illustrate the functionality of the holographic innovations had the underlying message that “Sensory Luxury Communications is all about Heritage, Time, Rarity, Sustainability and Comfort and the best way to project these is to wow the public through strong visual experiences”.

The fourth presentation was made by Ashley Benigno, Director of Creative Expression at Nokia (in other words the equivalent of karl Lagerfeld ayt Nokia). Speaking on the topic of “The Next Frontiers of Mobile Media in Luxury”, Ashley focused on showcasing the revolution of mobile media  and how this  rapid evolution of mobile in communications, commerce and design is changing the language of luxury. He emphasized that luxury brands ought to exploit mobile media is a deeper and more engaging manner through the 3Cs of Commerce, Content and Communication.

Using clear examples from within and outside of the luxury industry to support his insightful points, he emphasized that the rise of smart phones is a worldwide phenomenon that is no longer restricted to Europe and North America but has become a reality in Asia, South America and Africa (mobile applications are growing at a rate of 85% annually). He also touched on the emergence of hybrid devices that are a mix of mobiles and tablets (phablets) which are accelerating this phenomenon.

The presentation also highlighted that the lines between content production and product consumption are blurring as brands like Burberry now describe themselves as “media companies”. As a result, the online and offline worlds are no longer separated because today’s consumer has an innate desire and drive to instantly share content and engage in real-time conversations. The same consumers arealso  becoming more visual-driven and luxury brands need to adjust by becoming more media-oriented in order to emphasize on content rather than only selling products. 

Christopher Ramey, President of the American Luxury Marketing Council, Florida and Founder of Affluent Insights was the fifth Speaker at the 2013 Club e-Luxe Breakfast Seminar. He spoke on the topic of “How the Luxury Consumer has been Re-Shaped by Online & Offline Digital Innovation”, using the American luxury consumer as his benchmark. His emphasis on the American perspective stems from the fact that American consumers of luxury have a higher adoption rate of digital media than the rest of the world. They can simply be regarded as early adopters of digital media.

He started off by describing the American Luxury Market and its consumers and continued with emphasizing the importance of luxury brands being where their consumers are, on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. He also supported his statements by presenting numerous examples, notably the digital success of Tiffany & Co., which he believes sells “love” and not jewellery. The main highlights of the presentation are the following.

  • USA has the second oldest affluent population in the world
  • The top 10% of the US affluent population are responsible for 50% of the dollars spent in America and 70% of margins at retail 
  • US affluents are highly influenced by digital media & setting the rules for the rest of the world 
  • The traditional American luxury consumer is ‘unsophisticated’ and is constantly seeking deals and special offers, it is therefore important for luxury brands to leverage their loyalty programs 
  •  For the US affluent, reassurance, presence and strong visibility on digital platforms is crucial,  so it is important for  luxury brands to be present and active online 
  •  There is no one best way in digital luxury but there are a lot of wrong ways 
  •  The emerging American luxury consumer is the new digital native whose access to wealth is different from his parents 
  • The lines between products and technology are blurring and brands like Nike are now referred to as technology companies

A Roundtable Panel Debate session was held on the topic “Interpreting the Luxury Digital Universe through the Senses of Sound, Smell, Touch & Taste in Products & Services”, and featured Nicolas Chabot of Aeryum, Alice Malléjac Co Founder, Noise I Nose, Mathieu Billon Co-Founder & Marketing Director, ON AIR Agency, Gernot Pflüger CEO, MAD HAT and Ashley Benigno Director of Creative Expression, NOKIA. The session was moderated by Loubna Khalfi of Luxe Corp.

The session provided insights and in-depth analysis on the subject of the senses in digital luxury. Each member of the panel gave their views on how sound, scent, touch and sight can be interpreted in order to enhance the digital luxury experience, referring to their areas of expertise. 

Noise I Nose, the multi-sensory cooperative group, introduced the audience to their latest innovation “the Sensory Pod” which stimulates four of the human five senses. On Air Agency, the company behind the Obama campaign jingle also brought much needed insight into the role of sound in emotional marketing and brand identity.

Other key points raised during this interactive session include the following.

§   Sound and music is as important for a luxury brand today as its logo. It can play a powerful emotional role. Sound remains the most under-utilized and underestimated form of marketing.

§  It is essential to create a strong brand identity before being able to develop customized sound and scent. For example when Mathieu Billon, the sound expert, created the Obama jingle, he used keywords, sounds and music to create a brand identity first. He literally turned Barack Obama into a brand before he was able to create a campaign jingle that would match him.

§   Luxury brands now need to focus on the 5D of communications - sight, scent, sound, taste, touch in order to reach the deepest layers of the consumer psyche.

§   Scientists are currently working towards transforming scent into binary files for digital encoding, which will lead to the existence of scent-based computers in the near future.

§   The possibility of being able to touch products digitally will become a reality in a few years.

§   Although we can't touch products online today, we can evoke the same emotions using visual effects.

§   There already exists solutions to experience scent through digital devices for retail such as the “the Sensory Pod” which stimulates four of the user’s senses.

Following the series of enlightening presentations and DEMOs by an inspiring line-up of
speakers, Luxe Corp took the audience into its traditional Spotlights and Highlights 
sessions which featured a major Raffle Draw during which a lucky participant won the
highly coveted ZIK Wireless Headset designed by Philippe Starck for the French
technology company Parrot (acclaimed as the most advanced headsets in the world!). A
second lucky winner went home with a luxury travel luggage entirely made by hand and
designed by the Italian luxury brand Giorgio Fedon

In addition each participant received a Gift Bag containing luxury products from Luxe Corp’s
Living Emotions series and stylish luxury leather pieces offered to all participants by
Giorgio Fedon.


In keeping with our now renowned tradition, the participants were treated to a refined
continental breakfast with pastries by the Michelin-star chef of Hotel Le Bristol, Paris.

The Club e-Luxe Breakfast Seminar ended with a unanimous notion that digital media has become the “sixth human” sense that would lead to even more enhanced luxury brand experiences.

The next Club e-Luxe event will be the Club International Summit to be held on 4th June 2013 at the Hotel Le Bristol, Paris. The event will focus on the theme of The Web Economy - Understanding How Digital Media has transformed the Luxury Business. As is now our tradition, the event will be fully curated by LUXE CORP and will gather renowned digital experts to share the most relevant digital tools and innovations with luxury executives, as well as offer insight and solutions for the most challenging related issues facing the industry.

To read the full live Twitter coverage of the event, see #eluxe on Twitter or simply follow Luxe Corp on twitter at

To stay connected with Club e-Luxe, visit the Luxe Corp website:


Luxe Corp wishes thanks the following partner companies for their support in making the Club e-Luxe Breakfast Seminar a success.


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