Research - 11.06.2017 - 00:00 

Little Green Bags: What is luxury?

The fact is, we readily dismiss luxury as bling-bling for the rich, an extravagance – and ignore what lies behind it. Tradition, craftsmanship and culture are an important part of the picture, not to mention thousands of jobs. "What is luxury?" is the topic of the 14th film of the "Little Green Bags" animation video series.

12. Juni 2017. What is luxury, exactly? Two experts at the Institue of Marketing (IfM-HSG) at the University of St.Gallen, Dr. Benjamin Berghaus and Professor Sven Reinecke, have done research on luxury brands and their management and written the text for the 14th animated video of the series "Little Green Bags". The video shows which challenges suppliers of luxury goods have to tackle and what it means to manage luxury brands.

Luxury: Culture, Know-How and economic engine
So, what does luxury mean in fact? By definition, it is anything beyond the essential. In a world without luxury, you couldn’t find an elegant watch, a premium wine, a designer sofa, or travel. Imagine a world without legendary watchmakers, sommeliers, world-class companies, or travel agencies. It also acknowledges that the fabrication of luxury products requires skills that have painstakingly evolved over centuries, in some cases. Luxury brands are justifiably proud of their rich histories and they are like specific luxury goods: they are handed down, treasured over generations. That is why luxury also symbolizes unique traditions. Luxury is culture. And, of course, it is expensive.

So luxury represents a lot of things to people, but: it is not superfluous. The luxury-goods industry not only helps define culture and aesthetics, but is also an important economic engine. In Switzerland, luxury goods account for a tenth of all exports. Luxury goods dealers look for the world’s best products to sell them to the richest people at premium prices. Is that ethically acceptable? Not if raw materials are extracted under inhumane conditions, or if animals are abused and resources wasted. But the flip side of that coin is acceptable, even desirable: luxury is ethical if workers are trained for special manufacturing processes and if all links of the value chain get a fair wage, thanks to high margins. That model supports manufacturing in Europe, too.

Bite-sized knowledge

The HSG video series Little Green Bags provides an opportunity to find out more about the fields of research at the University of St.Gallen. Themes including the "inter-generational contract", digital living, the renewal energy transition, corporate social responsibility, innovation and the public welfare provide material for discussing issues relevant in and to society, business and politics, and are thus a key part of research and teaching at the HSG. The Little Green Bags video series (the title is derived from "brown bag lunch" academic seminars) is designed to provide knowledge in bite-sized format.

It all started with the film What is CSR? on corporate social responsibility made by the Institute for Business Ethics. Then the Institute for Technology Management brought out video pieces on Effectuation and The Ten Myths of Entrepreneurship. A fourth short movie was devoted to exploring how innovation occurs, while the fifth, entitled Digital Good Life, featured Miriam Meckel explaining how to live in both the digital and analogue worlds while avoiding techno stress. A sixth film was released on how Real Marketing can be utilised to close the sale, then in a seventh release, Elgar Fleisch and Markus Weinberger presented the Internet of Things and its uses.

Public value was the topic of the eighth instalment in the HSG series which explored what the "public welfare" actually consists of and relevant measurement approaches, narrated by HSG lecturer Timo Meynhardt. HSG Professor Martin Eling brought out the ninth film on the "inter-generational contract" for ensuring equity of sacrifices and benefits between older and younger workers. HSG leadership expert Heike Bruch’s video is about organisational energy. Thomas Dyllick’s video shows the nature of real entrepreneurial sustainability and how companies are able to solve societal problems by means of careful economic activities. Multirational competence is the topic of the twelfth film of the "Little Green Bags" animation video series. The text was written by Kuno Schedler, Professor of Public Management at the University of St.Gallen. We all make financial decisions – but what do we actually know about money? "Financial Literacy" was the topic of the 13th film of the "Little Green Bags" animation video series. The text is based on surveys of Martin Brown, Professor of Banking at the University of St.Gallen.

Animated video series Little Green Bags

The films were produced in cooperation with Zurich animation studio Zense and film director and St.Gallen University graduate Andri Hinnen (SIM-HSG). The scientific director behind the animated film series is Prof Thomas Beschorner, Director of the HSG Institute for Business Ethics. In June 2015 the film "Public Value: Value Creation, Public Welfare and the Individual" received a silver award at the French film festival Deauville Green Awards 2015. In December 2016, the film "What is true business sustainability?" by Thomas Dyllick was awarded with the 3rd price in the category vision of the "Fast Forward Science Award #ffs16". The Swiss National Science Foundation has likewise recognised the merits of this approach to science communication, providing support for further films in the series via the SNF Agora Instrument.

Picture: Ausschnitt aus dem Animationsfilm / Zense - Reframing Complexity

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