• Susie Wilson

Luxury Brands and Etiquette

Susie Wilson, Etiquette Expert has been tasked with the responsibility of preserving tradition, whether it is craftsmanship or white-glove service.

Now, brands are extending their role of a conservator to uphold handwritten correspondence.

To protect traditional forms of communication and etiquette, most have turned, surprisingly, to digital concepts that encourage peer-to-peer interactions by sending notes via mobile applications.

As technology continues to advance and consumers move farther and farther away from handwritten notes and cards, the form may become ancient history, but through the help of luxury brands, stationery-based correspondence is undergoing a period of resurgence.

With the fast-paced and competitive nature of today’s consumer marketplace, it is difficult for luxury brands to stand out and impress potential buyers solely through offering quality materials, or the latest design innovations, said Susie Wilson, founder and etiquette expert, of Susie Wilson Finishing School of Etiquette.

Consumers seeking to purchase luxury goods see little appeal in products that everyone else has access to or can be easily found online. Instead, today's affluent consumers are drawn to brands that offer exclusivity, personal attention and bespoke experiences.

Through the resurrection of hand-written notes, luxury brands are demonstrating these sought-after values, the process of handwriting a note reflects a thoughtful intention, taking the time out to think through your words and transcribe a meaningful message that can simply be adjusted by pressing, delete.

Recording your thoughts on paper is a form of self-expression, insinuating a certain level of intimacy between the sender and the recipient. While the prevalence of social media has allowed brands to adapt digital personas and speak directly with their target audience or receive a tweet from their favourite brand pales in comparison to the significance and intimacy of receiving a handwritten note.

Tweets and e-mails can be sent blindly, knowing just someone's username or email address, and nothing else about them. Pen and paper notes, however, are written purposefully with a specific individual in mind.

Love notes from a forgotten era

Oftentimes, luxury brands are connected to projects that work to preserve historical landmarks in their country of origin.


From the Roman Coliseum to the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain, Italian brands, for example, are very active in protecting and preserving their joint heritage projects aim to make sure that future generations can enjoy aspects of given country landmarks and landmarks. By being the main benefactors, the supporting brand gets summarized into the conservation narrative and the recognition is likely to be remembered by visiting consumers, aspirational and established alike.

Now, it seems that brands are increasing their conservation efforts to traditional forms of etiquette, such as stationery, to align with their high-net-worth clienteles practices before the rise of modern technology and mobile devices.

One of the last luxuries, in the minds of many, is free time. Mobile devices have helped lessen the stresses of a busy schedule full of corporate and personal responsibilities of the affluent, but other practices, such as handwritten correspondence, went by the wayside to be replaced by quickly sent SMS text messages and social media posts.

Since affluent consumers are pressed for time, luxury brands have devised ways to introduce thoughtful peer-to-peer communication touchpoints to replace personality that is often lacking or completely removed from modern conversations via devices.

In doing so, brands have created an opportunity to market physical products that can be used for written communication.

For example, Germany's Montblanc is allowing enthusiasts to handwrite on their tablet and send the note to a friend or family member through a new iPad application.

The app allows users to try out different Montblanc pens and ink colours, as well as learn about the products that the brand offers.

Highlighted writing instruments such as the Montblanc Screenwriter will bring the brand into the digital world and will likely reach younger generations who may not be familiar with Montblanc’s generations.

French leather goods maker Hermès, introduced its first writing instrument, Nautilus, using a strategy comparable to Montblanc's app.

Pushed by an email blast, the click-through allowed consumers to test ink colours and nibs of the brand new product. After a selection was made, consumers could select a leather envelope and write a note to a peer via email or social as an interactive product demonstration. The recipient, in return, could then send a note back using the Nautilus or send it to another friend.

Retailers have seen the potential in working with stationery makers to offer consumers a digital twist to handwritten notes. For instance, department store chain Barneys New York is collaborating with engraved stationer Connor for a digital interpretation of bespoke stationery.

This reinterpretation will bring a modern twist to an old craft and will give Barneys a way to connect with consumers through multiple digital and social platforms as they share electronic notes with friends and family.

A main takeaway from the three aforementioned campaigns is that although written correspondence in its most traditional form has faltered, consumers have an interest in a digital counterpoint that will allow thoughtful notes to be sent to coworkers, family and loved ones. Like any approach catering to the affluent, brands must interact with consumers in a multitude of ways to ensure their comfort.

By reinterpreting the personal nature of handwritten notes within the digital realm, luxury brands are catering to the on-the-go lifestyle of their consumers while simultaneously offering them the intimate and bespoke experiences they crave.

Rather than ensuring the longevity of the now antiquated practice of handwriting cards, Montblanc, Hermès and Barneys campaigns are serving to rectify the significance of personal attention in communication: a value that is lost in the habitual process of sending emails.

While handwritten notes are still sent in today's society, they are more often than not reserved only for special occasions. By making the concept of mailing a card easy to facilitate and time-efficient for both the sender and the receiver, Montblanc, Hermès and Barneys are encouraging personal notes to be sent on a more casual day-to-day basis and thus promoting long-term engagement with their campaigns.

You’ve got (physical) mail.

Other brands have concentrated efforts on the physical realm as another option for consumers looking to remove themselves from the constant distraction, and lacklustre personal aires, a mobile device presents.

For instance, Champagne maker Veuve Clicquot continued its homage to handwritten correspondence with a series of holiday greeting cards and tags, available online.

Since Champagne is synonymous with celebrations, the LVMH-owned house collaborated with stationery brand Minnie and Emma Correspondence to further its associations with celebratory occasions. Although stationery and handwritten notes may seem old fashioned, many luxury brands are working to reinstall the practice among affluent consumers.

So much so, that British retailer Fortnum & Mason hosted a series of events at its Picadilly store in London to commemorate National Stationery Week.

Fortnum & Mason hosted exclusive product launches and invited experts and artists to its Stationery Floor to celebrate writing with pen on paper. Since Fortnum & Mason is typically known for its food rather than its paper selection, this event allowed the retailer to raise awareness of its other offerings.

For the future

Since luxury brands are known for the utmost quality in service, the finest sourced materials and unparalleled craftsmanship, it is expected that these brands would uphold traditional values and practices of etiquette.

By injecting these habits into younger affluent consumers through digital touchpoints, as well as the option of physical stationery sets, brands will likely be able to uphold interest and preserve the art of handwritten correspondence.

Heritage brands are valued in today's society because of their respected voice and rich cultural histories, from Louis Vuitton and Goyard origins in train travel and trunk making to Chanel involvement in the turn of the century women liberation movements, luxury brands offer more than styles they offer significance.

By securing traditional etiquette practices, heritage brands are drawing back to their roots and reminding consumers of their long-standing positions as influencers in our society, traditional practices trigger a sense of emotional nostalgia in consumers and reinforce the cultural significance of heritage brands.

Practising traditional etiquette when communicating with consumers additionally serves to immerse their target audience into the brand culture and invite them to be a part of the larger brand stories.


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