A "Fashion Journal' column in the WSJ makes extensive use of the I word (innovation) in lamenting that upscale, luxury retailers are neglecting clients and less prestigious, but more service-focused, offerings are taking the place of traditional luxury.
The idea is that once luxury sellers (Tiffany, Starbucks, American Airlines and other carriers that began in the golden age of aviation) go mainstream they lose their cache and risk being viewed as no longer innovative. Yet companies that offer creative and targeted services can SEEM customer-focused (Virgin Airlines, Target, Apple) even if they are not luxury brands. A company that interacts with its customer and, even better, identifies them as special through events, groups, services can break out in a big way.
Being seen as cool (W Hotels, Apple, Mini) may be more valuable than the perception of a luxury brand (Ritz-Carlton, Cadillac) if those brands get associated with older, mainline rivals. At the Imaginatik User Group Conference coming up next week, we'll ask about the role innovation plays in creating the 'cool factor' (see also: "Boss" "Hip" "Phat" "Stylin" and "Neat-o").