Despite reputations for vanity and overly indulgent goods, the past decade has seen luxury brands turn, en masse, toward forming charitable partnerships. Partnerships with charities align a luxury brand’s core values with its products, actions, customers, and staff, and they give brands the chance to reverse the polarity of luxury versus charity.
The movement from conspicuous consumption to conscientious consumption is a trend to which luxury brands will continue to adapt, meaning this charitable trend is here to stay among luxury brands and will only continue to grow and evolve in the future. Brands have a few different motivations for participating in philanthropy.
It Improves The Brand’s Reputation
Luxury brands strive to tie both their products and their heritages to a charitable narrative—a story about their brand that is compelling and enticing to the philanthropic luxury consumer. These stories enable brands to translate fashionable trends into global causes, and they allow luxury brands to appear more culturally influential to a potential buyer.
Charitable contributions are a way to make brands more competitive. These contributions give brands integral credentials as being eco-friendly, sustainable, or altruistic entities that give consumers a new and improved way to invest in the exclusivity that luxury products promote. With more opportunities than ever before to find ways for luxury brands and charities to coalesce in powerful and meaningful ways, brands can boost their reputations as important and significant companies that resolve real human issues.
It Helps Make Customers Feel Good About Their Purchases
Now instead of just looking good, buyers can also feel good about the luxuries they buy.
Charitable donations enable luxury brands to connect with their customers in the name of causes that resonate with modern consumers. Luxury consumers who find that one brand donates its profits more generously to a cause than another are more often than not going to choose the charitable brand over the other. It is a way for them to fulfill their personal duty to others less fortunate than they are, which makes buyers feel more complete—and thus more satisfied with their purchases.
Consumers are beginning to concern themselves more with the longer-term implications of a buy rather than the short-term benefits of staying on top of the latest fashion and technology. They are more conscious about where their money is going once it leaves their wallets. So knowing that they are purchasing products from a brand that gives back, rather than using their money to line the pockets of brand executives and stockholders, allows them to envision the long-lasting, positive effects their money can have in the future.
In a similar light, purchases with charitable implications can help to alleviate buyers’ remorse. After dropping a large sum of money, some consumers may feel guilty about the way they’ve just spent. Knowing that at least some of that money went to a good cause, in addition to buying a more self-serving good, gives a buyer a better feeling as they walk away from the purchase.
And let’s face it—some luxury buyers are motivated to buy luxury products so that they can actually be seen wearing, using, or driving them. Being able to conspicuously donate their wealth at the same time is another way of maintaining their heightened self-awareness.
It Strengthens Their Relationship with Customers
Charitable contributions mean that luxury brands can do more than just share their products and prestige with their customers. Philanthropy gives brands and their customers something more to share—the pride in knowing that they, together, made a difference in the world by promoting a cause that they, together, care about. This allows customers to more closely identify with a brand, which boosts loyalty in the long run.
In essence, a luxury brand’s actions reflect the way their customers want to act: when the customer gives, the brand gives. Sharing this charitable platform can do nothing but boost a brand’s popularity with their current and potential customers.
It Boosts Productivity And Staff Morale
Philanthropy can do more than boost a company’s reputation and relationship with its customers—it can improve internal operations as well. Giving back to good causes gives employees the opportunity to make a difference in their day-to-day jobs, which can contribute to improved self-esteem, job satisfaction and morale in the workplace. It gives employees a purpose, a reason to come to work and the chance to feel good about what they do at work every day.
But Are These Charitable Actions Genuine?
Many of these luxury brands have a real and authentic desire to help other people by sharing the fruits of their own successes with those in need. They are run by people in charge who want to not only make money, but to make a difference and do good with that money as well.
But for others, these partnerships may be little more than a PR ploy designed to cover up or make up for some other glaring mistake or problem with operations. Instead of being fully philanthropic, a luxury brand may just be doing what it feels like it “has to do” to maintain its public image, particularly in the face of other better-natured competition.
For example, a company may have donated millions of dollars to a charity, but it may have generated those millions by overworking people in sweatshops or breaching some other aspect of job safety or human rights. So consumers should do their research to discern not only which corporations are donating money, but also which ones are making it in a socially and ethically responsible way.
Consumers also have to be wary about just how much of their money will actually be given to the charity represented by the luxury brand of their choice. Sometimes the percentage is much smaller than buyers might realize.
In the same light, it’s also important for buyers to know exactly how their money will be applied to the cause and if it will be correctly divvied up as is best seen fit by those who actually run the charity. If the money is not well spent and going to the right people, it might not be worth donating at all.
There is both moral good and financial good that can come out of philanthropic actions from luxury brands, so consumers may need to decide which was the chief motivator before throwing money behind a branded cause.
As luxury brands continue to evolve and new ones rise in the ranks, charitability will be crucial to remaining competitive. These brands will not only need to find effective ways to give back to good causes, but they will also need to find ways to be inventive in how they resolve global issues that are appealing to the deep desires of the consumers they want to attract.
Beauty is no longer in the eye of the beholder. It’s in the hand of the giver as well.