What does this new ‘age of austerity’ spell for luxury purchases like champagne?
Will people stop buying it and switch to a cheaper tipple? The government and economists would have us think so, but they’re forgetting one thing.
The human brain is hard-wired for luxury.
Yes, pleasure seeking is a key motivator when it comes to human behaviour. And hedonism doesn’t give a toss about the state of the economy.
This was the topic of a talk I gave today at a wonderful Champagne Assembly organised by G.H. Mumm and Perrier Jouet. The reason we’ll always love a bit of luxury lies deep in the emotional part of our brain. Neuoscience has revealed the subconscious roots of consumer behaviour. It shows us that luxury brands excite the emotional, feeling part of the brain that ordinary brands simply leave cold.
Recently in Germany a couple of neuroscientists (Schaefer & Rotte, 2007) scanned people’s brains as they studied logos of brands of cars. When looking at everyday brands, there was activity in the thinking part of the brain – (the dorsolateral pre-frontal cortex) – but when they saw luxury brands there was frantic activity in the feeling part of the brain (the ventral striatum).
The researchers say this brain area is where our ‘hot buttons’ are located. It’s where we feel pleasure, desire, passion and happiness. There may be an evoluntionary imperative for this, since people who feel happy are more likely to find a mate. And happier people even live longer, according to Dutch psychologist Veenhoven.
So our thinking brain may be telling us to cut back. But, because we’re hard wired for luxury, those top brands will continue to press our hot buttons every time.