Why do women like luxury brands?

Manifest motivations are clear and well-documented – signalling wealth and status whilst appreciating quality and beauty.  But new research to be published in the Journal of Consumer Research early next year (transcript here) has uncovered a powerful latent motivation  – women are attracted to luxury brands because they also ward off competing females from the man they desire.

In a series of experiments two researchers at the University of Minnesota found that the appeal of luxury brands to women lies in their ‘mate-guarding’ capacity to prevent ‘mate-poaching’ – other females are less likely to approach your heart’s desire if you yourself are wearing luxury brands.  Why? Because the brand sends an (often dishonest) signal that the male in question has invested in you and therefore is committed, and so not open to advances from other women. It’s an effective ‘don’t steal my man’ strategy.

So what does this have to do with digital innovation?  Well, after a slow start, luxury brands have come on in leaps and bounds in digital innovation – think new Burberry’s Smart Personalisation technology (and their iPhone 5s stunt) to Net a Porter’s new Edit magazine. Now’s the time to add consumer insight into the digital mix.  If the appeal of luxury is to ward off potential competitors by signalling a guy has invested in you, then is there an opportunity for a new luxury gifting portal where women push their men-folk for gifts? You’d bd pushing psychological water downlhill  And should luxury brand ad strategies put more focus on online dating and relationship sites?

So you can ward off vampires with garlic, and ward off other women with luxury brands. Now you know.