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"The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members." – Coretta Scott King

Once, the idea of luxury may have been synonymous with Marie Antoinette’s let them eat cake statement, but the past few years has seen a change thanks to the rise of the ‘good hearted’ millennials. Millennials may get a lot of flak; the media is all too keen to call them self-absorbed, selfie and social sycophants, but the truth is – they are social justice warriors, and they have ruptured the well-worn landscape, changing the way brands and businesses connect with consumers.

From Commodity to Community

An article for Forbes spells out exactly what we can come to expect in the future, as by 2030 millennials will make up a staggering 75% of the work force;

‘Digitally wired and connected from childhood, millennials have never been more than a few clicks away from friends and family. This “on-call attachment” has instilled a tremendous social interaction crave. In fact, millennials find tremendous comfort and fulfillment in leveraging these social interactions to seek constant support and reassurance. This is why most millennials prefer working in groups that offer a sense of unity and collaboration over division and competition.’

This desire for connection certainly spills over as we move from a commodity-based society into a community based one. Luxury brands need to embrace this change and to commit in their efforts to give back to society, raising awareness and funds to help support a cause that speaks the same language of identity.

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The Rise of the ‘Giving Generation’

Millennials like to give, in an article for Suiteness, Divya Mulanjur points out that; ‘The millennial generation is considered the ‘giving’ generation. We see it all around us – a shift towards green, organic, eco-friendly, sustainable, charitable, inclusive… it is increasingly becoming ‘cool’ to do good, to be aware, and to give back. The 2015 Millennial Impact Report stated that 84% of millennial employees made a charitable donation in 2014 – and not all were solicited through their companies. In fact, 78% that did not donate through their employer made a donation on their own. The study that researches millennials and their involvement with causes, reveals that peer influence, competition and incentives motivate millennials to volunteer and donate. But they are most inspired when their passion for a cause is evoked.’

The desire to give back makes millennials fascinating. They are said to earn less than previous generations but give more. Goldseker and Moody surveyed 300 high net worth millennials across America and 95% of them were found to be donating their own wealth before they hit the age of thirty. Perhaps its due to the rise in the internet and independent access to world news, or maybe it’s an optimistic approach to truly make a change, the feeling of being more connected to their peers thanks to social platforms. Whatever it is that drives millennials to give, brands need to get on board.

Luxury brands especially need to connect with the growing trend to be better. Today’s modern buyer has learnt from the fall of Marie Antoinette and craves more from their brands than a bit of bling and a label that leverages their status, they want to align themselves with a brand that lifts their positive social impact on society.

Perfecting Philanthropy

Engaging millennials to connect with your brand and to give back isn’t as difficult as it seems; they are ready and they are already putting their money where their mouth is. Brands just have to do the same. The first step a luxury brand needs to take is to find a cause that aligns beautifully with their brand, and to truly commit to making a difference. Vaguely picking a cause and making a token gesture will seem shallow and millennials who are constantly pounded with marketing messages every day are very adept at picking out true meaning.

Luxury brands have the power to build beautiful communities – regardless of which facet their business blooms in. In luxury fashion you have the likes of Demain donating all profits of its La Femme T-Shirt to the UN women. You have Toms with their one for one initiative, donating one pair of shoes to children in need for every pair you buy. And there is also Kate Spade who has gone one step further by fully implementing ethical suppliers in Rwanda into its supply chain.

The first step a luxury brand needs to take is to find a cause that aligns beautifully with their brand, and to truly commit to making a difference.

Advocating for Culture and Artistry

Building philanthropy doesn’t have to stop at the doors of consumer fashion; the travel industry too have all the right resources for building communities especially when it comes to the cultures and destinations they work with. Philanthropic travel can be a double-edged sword, voluntourism is not without its problems as highlighted in an article from The Guardian here;

‘Voluntourism may be fueled by noble feelings, but it is built on perverse economics. Many organizations offer volunteers the chance to dig wells, build schools and do other construction projects in poor villages. It’s easy to understand why it’s done this way: if a charity hired locals for its unskilled work, it would be spending money. If it uses volunteers who pay to be there, it’s raising money.

But the last thing a Guatemalan highland village needs is imported unskilled labor. People are desperate for jobs. Public works serve the community better and last longer when locals do them. Besides, long-term change happens when people can solve their own problems, rather than having things done for them.’

But a company like Wander has implemented a simple philanthropic service where travelers booking hotels through them can donate the booking fee to provide a Vietnamese child with vitamins for a whole year, or previously it donated solar panels to families in Peru. Intrepid Foundation is another socially conscious big brand tour company; on all their trips they only hire local guides and supports over 50 grassroots movements across the globe. Novica is another example; partnering with National Geographic they have curated an online catalog of goods directly from makers, villages and local artisans. So far Novica have sent over $89 million dollars to artisan communities around the world.

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Brands Need to Take Initiative

Building community and giving back to the world we inhabit shouldn’t just be left in the hands of the consumers, brands need to take initiative and to already work this commitment to change into their first step. Livoos are a luxury brand showcasing just how simple this can be as they donate fifty percent of their revenue to charitable causes. In this article for The Telegraph CEO Flavio Amorelli says that; ‘We are creating a whole new way of fundraising: you’re buying a product that you love and supporting a cause that you care about without any additional cost,”. Rather than being an afterthought, the donation appears as centrally as selecting a size or color; you can’t ‘add to bag’ without choosing a charity.’

Amorelli goes on to say, “It’s a challenge for luxury brands to sell a £5,000 handbag and then say, ‘but we also donate’, because there’s a feeling that they’re doing it just to look good,” he says. “Usually it’s a one-off campaign, or it’s Christmas and everybody is giving… but Livoos is a consistent, authentic platform that is selling products and making donations 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Brands want to be associated with that. Giving is important to customers, and this is our commercial proposition.”

From Guilt to Glory

For a generation raised in the aftermath of the market crash, the idea of splurging on luxury goods often doesn’t come without a heady dose of guilt. Sure, those with affluence have the cash to splash but we are beyond the point where relying on endless messages of indulgence are going to resonate. Today’s consumer needs more to hang their hat on and by aligning your brand with a reason to care, you not only work towards making a difference, but you amplify your message where it matters the most.

Give something back may land like a featherweight throwaway term or another buzzy marketing message but its down to us as brands to lend a solid weight and meaning to these words. Not under the guise of a gimmick, not once a year, and not without the very best intentions. New Luxury is about pledging our own moral compass, to bind ourselves with the world and its people, and to give back in the best way we can.

Community Love is a New Luxury value. Now, are you ready to sign the New Luxury Manifesto?