Most of us wouldn’t baulk at adding a little extra luxury to our lives, but can you have too much of a very good thing?
When it comes to the internet, the answer is a very definite yes, according to a leading expert on luxury goods and services.
The recent launch of a swathe of new “top-level” internet domain names – the name that sits to the right of the full-stop in a web address – includes a dot-luxury appellation.
Domain names you may soon see include hermes.luxury, gucci.luxury, versace.luxury, chanel.luxury, cartier.luxury, ritzhotel.luxury, calvinklein.luxury, and belvedere-vodka.luxury, to name a few successful applicants.
Michelle Santoro, the Victorian managing director of The Luxury Network, says the addition of the word ‘luxury’ to a domain name does not automatically add a premium for the owner, and may even damage the high-wealth sector as a whole.
“There is a danger this move could devalue the brand it’s attached to – some brand names such as Louis Vuitton are worth an absolute fortune, so why would you mess with that?” she says.
“You really have to be careful not to muddy the message. You know what they say about the second page of Google – it’s a great place to hide a dead body, because no-one ever goes there.”
Australian companies have so far been slow to recognise the value of the dot-luxury offering, says ARI Registry Services, the Australian technology partner of the dot-luxury internet rollout.
Tony Kirsch, the company’s head of global consulting, says Australia is still “catching up” and is yet to “understand the opportunity”.
“When they see others start to launch it will assist their understanding and awareness of what’s available,” he says.
Santoro confirms Australian consumers continue to embrace luxury apace. “That’s obvious from the number of luxury retailers coming here,” she says.
“It used to be when you went overseas that you saw the latest stuff and it was six months before it arrived here; we’re now more fashion-forward with that international influx (via the internet).”
She cautions that overbranding with luxury tags could have the opposite effect to which it’s intended – for example, one domain name already approved is luxuryhotels.luxury. “There’s a fine balance between getting their attention and turning them off,” she says.
Also admitted to the new domain have been brands of a less obviously premium nature, such as redbull.luxury and microsoftstore.luxury.
Kirsch admits there are no barriers to any brand applying for a dot-luxury domain name, but says the domain’s US owners are aware that the premium value of the appellation lies in its exclusivity.
“They’re extremely aware of creating a space that means what it talks about,” he says.
“As more of these new top-level domain names are added we’ll see a gradual filtering of content into its respective buckets.
“Brands will filter to their online home.”
Does this move signal the end of luxury’s journey from a high-level concept to a commoditised branding message? Not necessarily, argues Santoro, who says the air of ambiguity around luxury helps to retain its premium standing.
“What does luxury mean? The Chinese might view luxury as being decked head to toe in Chanel, whereas I see it as having some time to myself, and other people might perceive it as going to a spa retreat.”
She adds brands need to be careful that their dot-luxury website created a positive online experience.
“Adding an extra fragment to the domain name potentially complicates things – you just want to visit a website and be directed to an Australian landing page, not mess around trying to figure out where you are,” she says.