In a recent TravelWeekly article, Emmanuel Perrin, CEO of Cartier North America, was the first to say it: "Client care is the final frontier...You can't go wrong investing in client experience... What is good for the client is good for the retailer and is good for us."

Today's luxury buyer might not be so easily seduced, at least not by brands. Jim Taylor, vice chairman of the research firm YouGov, presented the findings of the Survey of Affluence and Wealth, conducted in partnership with Time Inc. And those findings were mixed at best for the audience of luxury CEOs and marketing executives from the fashion, automotive, jewelry, beverage, retailing and travel industries. 

On one hand, the rich are getting richer, and they are going to be spending more than ever. 

"We are in the middle of the greatest asset boom in the history of man," Taylor said. Total personal assets are at $241 trillion, up 60% from pre-recession 2007, he said. "That is a lot of money." 

The money to consume is available, Taylor added, but people still manage money as if in the recession. It's not that they won't spend, but they have decoupled from the wider economy and its commercial messaging.The Survey predicts a 6.7% increase in luxury spending, vs. a 2% to 2.5% rise in gross domestic product.

But what influences how luxe consumers spend has changed significantly. The affluent survivors of the recession have built up such a strong sense of their own abilities to navigate financial waters that they have become self-reliant, feel "invulnerable" and are, as David Bowie put it so succinctly, immune to your consultation. 

Ch-ch-ch-changes: In prerecession 2007-08, brand love was pretty strong, with 47% expressing positive sentiment toward branded retailers, 80% toward fashion brands, 67% about luxury hotel brands and 58% to certain jewelers. But those numbers in 2013? Respectively: 28%, 61%, 37% and 40%. 

When asked if they are loyal to a single hotel brand, only 12% of affluent consumers said yes. 

How many respondents felt that luxury brands "always" lived up to their promises? Just 3%. 

The brand that matters most is "Me." 

Although brand loyalty has eroded, that doesn't mean brands won't do well in 2014. "Travel is going to rock," Jim Taylor, vice chairman of the research firm YouGov, said, noting that 70% of wealthy respondents said they were willing to pay more for "true luxury lodging" and 73% said they enjoyed being treated like a VIP.

The key to success as a luxury brand? Get personal.  Know your customer, now and before they walk in the door… their passions, interests, and behaviors. Then treat them as an audience of one.  Engage with them in unique ways to drive the client experience and maintain a competitive advantage.  If you don’t? It could be rock n roll suicide.

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