Luxury is Not Quality

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I could keep this post very short by just telling you to go find out how reliable Land Rovers are to prove my point, but I thought I would delve a little deeper.

My family and I (including my Mom) went to Maui for a vacation recently and we rented a Cadillac Escalade. I’m usually not one for showmanship when it comes to a rental vehicle and yet when the woman at Hertz offered an upgrade, it was hard to pass up.

One night while driving back to Wailea from Lahina we decided to let my 4 year old daughter watch The Incredibles on the Cadillac’s DVD system. This DVD is one that shows you the previews but does not start the movie automatically. I was able to fast forward through the previews (with the controls on the steering wheel) but could not figure out how to get the DVD to play the movie. My mother and I were in the front seat reviewing all of the options that we had while my wife, sitting in back with the kids, tried to figure it out from the console. After 5 minutes of trying to get it to start, Mom pulled the owners manual out and began to read. My daughter was extremely patient and on some level I think she found this more entertaining than the movie. After a couple of minutes of reading my Mom exclaimed that we needed to find the remote control to get the DVD to play.

Now at this moment I stepped outside of myself to assess the situation. We were in a car trying to get the DVD player to work and now, according to my Mom, we needed to find the remote.

Uh . . .

It also reminded me of a Jay Leno monologue I saw years ago. He mentioned that GM was thinking about putting microwave ovens in minivans. He then acted as if he was someone on the cell phone in their car and exclaimed; “I have to let you go! My souffle is burning!”

After that initial comedic thought I quickly realized that luxury is not quality. When the word luxury is used most people think of something like a superyacht and Websters defines luxury as: a condition of abundance or great ease and comfort : sumptuous environment. You’ll notice ‘great ease’ isĀ  mentioned. When someone talks about a quality web site, it usually a reference to the design or the usability of the site. Not sure that anyone would ever describe a site as being luxurious and I am pretty sure that online users will start to take their sense of quality to items outside of the online world.

If we use the Cadillac/DVD incident as an example; there should have been a big fat red blinking play button on the primary display; but there wasn’t. Is there any other reason have a DVD other than to play it? (Eventually we did figure out how to get it to play using the console located in the second row of seats. My wife is a technical wiz.)

As designers (marketers, advertisers, business owners) across all mediums we need to understand that when someone now speaks of quality they are most likely not talking about luxury.

By Michael Myers

I’m an Associate Teaching Professor of Digital Marketing at the Daniels College of Business, University of Denver. I also consult with startups and established brands. I’m currently focused on artificial intelligence, cognitive neuroscience and culture. I am married to an amazing woman and have two incredible children. I was raised in Colorado and spend my free time with family, cycling, snowboarding and going to the Pacific Ocean to SCUBA dive + surf. I’m passionate about architecture, design, street art, photography and the art that tattooing has evolved into.

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