Royal Salute’s Mathieu Deslandes says the rules of luxury are changing – and a new ethos is here to stay

By Tempus | 18 Dec 2020 | British Luxury Review

The premium Scotch whisky brand’s global marketing director shares his insight in the Tempus British Luxury Review 2020

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2020 has been a year of new challenges but the future is bright for lovers of luxury. In our first ever British Luxury Review, Tempus asks experts from 12 of the UK’s most prestigious brands to shed some light on a year of seismic change and, in doing so, discovers a luxury landscape more focused on meaningful storytelling and fine craftsmanship than ever before. Here, Mathieu Deslandes, global marketing director for Ballantine’s & Royal Salute, Chivas Brothers, shares his insight into the new rules of luxury and what we can expect in 2021...

“The rules of luxury have been morphing each year to keep up with evolving consumer expectations and cultural context. The association of luxury with flashy logos, stuffy imagery and short-lived seasonal trends has been dropped and replaced by a new set of values and an appreciation of authenticity. In fact, today, luxury is a much more conscious consumption, with increased focus on environmental concern and forward-thinking products and practices.

Sustainable luxury continues to rise, and with it the shift for the luxury consumer is from ‘having’ to ‘being’ and being engaged emotionally. This is the universal truth of luxury today; the power it has to evoke emotion, which will be triggered in different ways by different luxury brands. For Royal Salute, this is a hugely exciting shift as we aim to consistently spark that emotion by sharing our unique brand world in new and different ways. The depth of our world draws on the opulence of Royal Salute’s heritage, the craftsmanship behind each of our blends and the magic of the liquid to illuminate the senses, delivering an authenticity that delights our consumer with feelings of elevation and enchantment.

While I do not foresee the definition of luxury changing anytime soon, I do suspect the way it is experienced and translated will bring new opportunities. The luxury sector was on a clear path to becoming ubiquitous in the digital space, supporting consumers heightened sense of ‘being’ by breaking down barriers and encouraging inclusivity and accessibility. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has catapulted this advance at speed. I’m looking forward to the innovation 2021 will bring – particularly in terms of how luxury experiences are delivered across different channels within the digital space, where the modern-day definition of luxury must be shared with absolute transparency, integrity and authenticity to be truly impactful.

SHIFT TO SUSTAINABILITY

The shift in language from ‘climate change’ to ‘climate crisis’ is something that reverberates in everyone – and rightly so. The luxury spirits category has seen social and environmental issues become an increasingly essential talking point, and the impact of Covid-19 has galvanised further focus and action in looking after our planet on the people on it.

The luxury consumer wants to express who they are – ethical, conscientious and connected – through the brands they associate with. They are increasingly wanting to see brands stand up for ethical causes and are questioning the tropes of traditional luxury that go beyond the packaging and quality of the liquid. Consumers require all brands to be true; to have integrity, substance and authenticity. >>

Related: Royal Salute's rare 52-year-old scotch is the flagship of the brand’s Time Series

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We really believe in the enrichment of life today and in protecting it for the future. We have launched Royal Salute’s global ambition to ensure 100% of our packaging will be recyclable, compostable, reusable or biobased by 2025. Within the wider business of Chivas Brothers, we have also made considerable commitments to sustainability. Over the last 10 years, we have reduced our carbon emissions by a third, with the goal to reduce this by another 50% by 2030. We also source 100% of the barley used to make our malts within Speyside, and 100% of the by-products from the distillation process are used for animal feed or energy.

We have also been the proud partners of two wonderful charities for a number of years and are working with them towards a better future. Historic Royal Palaces is a charity created to preserve and protect great British Palaces and keep their story alive for generations to come, while Sentebale was founded by the Duke of Sussex [Prince Harry] and the Prince of Lesotho to support vulnerable communities living in extreme poverty and affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Lesotho, Malawi and Botswana, Southern Africa.

FUTURE FOCUSED

We have never experienced a year like 2020 before and the impact of Covid-19 has been significant in a number of ways. The year has presented challenges: we’ve seen shifts in key channels such as Travel Retail, which is a key channel for luxury products due to its high concentration of affluent consumers who have the time and want to discover, explore and shop luxury products as they wait for their flight or are in transit. The Travel Retail channel has, until now, been relied on as a great opportunity to connect luxury brands and consumers through attractive prices and exclusive offers that enable a trade up to higher end products. The impact of 2020 on how we communicate through this channel is being approached cautiously, because ultimately, if Travel Retail is impacted, the industry will be, as well.

However, I really believe that 2020 has also presented new opportunities, especially in the way we communicate and connect with our consumers. It has forced us to be agile with our strategies and explore digital innovation further to offer digital-focused content and experiences. An example of this is how we shared our unique brand world of wonder and enchantment through a series of virtual sessions to guide consumers through the many rich dimensions of Royal Salute’s story – whisky, royalty and culture – with our esteemed brand collaborators, Royal Salute Master Blender Sandy Hyslop and Royal Salute World Polo Ambassador Malcolm Borwick, to create moments of connectivity and illuminate the senses.

Being able to adapt is so important, and our ambition is that we will continue to innovate the way we express and communicate our unique brand. I hope that the world of enchantment and wonder that is Royal Salute will continue to spark that swell of emotion for our consumers in new and unexpected ways. Luxury will always need to surprise and excite its consumers, and this won’t change in the near or far future. The need for evolution, for adaptation is the key to being a true luxury brand in today’s fast-evolving landscape, so it’s really energizing to see the role Royal Salute will play in 2021 and beyond.

Read more from Britain’s luxury brands in Tempus Magazine issue 71, out now