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Are you experienced? ‘Luxury’ and the shift from ownership to access.

Are you experienced?
‘Luxury’ and the shift from ownership to access.

SPOTIFY. 

NETFLIX. 

BORROW MY DOGGY. 

 

BESIDES REPRESENTING A PERFECT WEEKEND, WHAT DO THESE THREE SERVICES HAVE IN COMMON? 

 

ANSWER: THEY OFFER ACCESS TO THINGS YOU WANT, WITHOUT HAVING TO OWN THEM. 

 

When we hear terms like ‘collaborative consumption’ and ‘experience economy’ our eyes glaze over. But it’s really quite simple. Whether a monthly subscription (like Netflix), or an every-now-and-then-spend (like a dog for the day), you’re renting stuff as and when you want or need it.

Most narratives surrounding this topic revolve around car ownership. Thought pieces imagine us hurtling toward a future in which motorised transportation is something to subscribe to, not leave on your drive 96% of the time. So we Uber our way around cities, move apartments with Zip vans, and hire one of the street’s communal Teslas for trips further afield (in fact, this is already built into Elon Musk’s business plan. He envisages a future where Tesla’s aren’t individually owned, but shared1)

But it’s not just when getting from A to B that we’re noticing this shift:

 

“Ownership for ownership’s sake isn’t cool anymore; consumers are driven to keep only what is essential to them and rent the rest.” 2

 Our lifestyle habits used to be framed by the language of addiction and rehabilitation. We ‘shopped till we dropped’, or we headed out for a little ‘retail therapy’; some of us, to our shame, even became ‘shopaholics’. Conversely, the pursuit of experiences is seen as essential for personal growth. We describe them to our family and friends as ‘eye-opening’, ‘heart-warming’, even ‘life changing’. Rather than soundbites you’d associate with compulsive behaviour, we’re hearing emotive language describing something far more enriching.

“Experiences are considered the essential ingredients to wellbeing… [people] have realised that nobody can steal their memories, nor will they lose value in a financial crisis.” 3

We can’t ignore economic and technological factors of course, but neither can we fail to recognise the whims and desires of what is categorically a better informed, and more independent-minded population than ever before. People aren’t just accepting shifts in the way things are done, they’re actively saying no to owning and yes to renting when it suits the lifestyles they want to lead, and the experiences they want to curate for themselves.

How we feel so often gets left out of the equation when economics enters the mix, and it’s easy to forget that luxury isn’t a ‘thing’ so much as how that thing makes you feel. In fact, by removing the shackles of ownership without compromising access to that which we love, we’re seeing a purer form of it than ever before. After all, if something makes you feel happy, is that not luxury?

 

1 https://www.businessinsider.com/heres-what-the-future-of-tesla-could-look-like-2018-4?r=US&IR=T

2 ‘Why we don’t own’, Kyle Chayka, in ING Media’s Essays on the Blurred Edges of the Built Environment

3 https://www.enel.com/stories/a/2018/08/millennials-sharing-economy

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