Guy Salter: expert speaker on the soft power of luxury brands

We’ve been chatting to former Managing Director of Laurent-Perrier and Asprey & Garrard Group, Guy Salter. An astute commentator on luxury trends in the Uk and around the world, Guy is also Deputy Chairman of Walpole , the consortium of British luxury brands.

Guy recently authored an interesting report on how the UK can do more to leverage its luxury brands (DIPLOMACY BY OTHER MEANS: BRITAIN’S  MOST EFFECTIVE AMBASSADORS) … “this isn’t just about knowledge. It is about direct EXPERIENCE – most probably their only experience of British culture, unless they have visited the UK. Most importantly, though, it is about EMOTION. If that sounds melodramatic or over the top, consider this. Buying an expensive bag is an important thing. Too easy for our (mostly male) policy-makers to scoff at it as ‘silly’ or ‘marginal’. Not for the woman who saved to buy it and wears it proudly. If that bag, for instance, is a Mulberry one, it also stands for that brand’s values and therefore part of that emotional connection is directed toward Mulberry’s British DNA.

The trouble is with all this is that it can seem so elusive and intangible. Not serious and worthy, like the arts. Or solid like the British machines that filled The Great Exhibition and that we were happy to celebrate in a more straightforward era, when being proud of commercial success was the norm. And, unlike something like sport, it smacks to some of elitism. But our brands, their products and their effect on the world’s consumers are real. The evidence is there in online ‘buzz’ data, which captures how often brands are being discussed. Likewise the sustained growth in sales & exports of our best brands, even in these difficult times, is tangible testimony to their expanding popularity. Apart from being an interesting social and economic trend, does this fascination with inspirational brands matter? My view is that this is A MATTER OF NATIONAL IMPORTANCE. The main reason being that we are sitting on a HUGELY under-utilised ASSET.

It is a lucky quirk of cultural development, that in a searingly complex and competitive market like China, which has been the graveyard of a number of western consumer goods and will increasingly be so, that the exploding affluent classes want European aspirational brands. And not fakes but the real thing and at full price. These brands are also a calling card for a country’s creative credentials. At a time when ‘the creative industries’ are seen as being core to our ability to compete as manufacturing moves eastwards, it is strange that the luxury and fashion sector, for which expertise in commercial creativity has been successfully applied for over a hundred years, is often overlooked. Perhaps describing it as ‘Applied Arts’, gets closer to its fascinating ability to make a profit out of making and selling not just beautiful things but inspirational dreams. I have a feeling William Morris would have understood.

In a globalised world, why wouldn’t a country like Britain use these phenomena to its advantage? Or to put it another way, imagine how an ambitious small country like Singapore or Qatar would give their eyeteeth for such an asset. It is inconceivable they wouldn’t be both aware of it and using it. For sure the French and Italians need no lessons in this.

We have some serious catching up to do.”

 

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