When it comes to luxury items, the social status it confers is the most important thing, according to a new study by Kadence Singapore.

In their inaugural Luxury Monitor, Kadence Singapore undertook a study of 1,000 Singaporeans to establish what defined luxury. The study also identified what aspects of luxury were unique to Singapore, by also establishing what defined luxury to other key luxury markets: London, Paris, Tokyo; Dubai; Hong Kong; Seoul and New York.

In both Singapore and the other luxury markets a sense of status was the most important aspect of a luxury brand – having the greatest impact on whether a brand was considered luxury or not (41% for Singapore and the other luxury markets). Status is not only about external status – or being proud to be seen using it – but also increasing your own self-worth; feeling good for owning or using it.

The other defining factors of luxury were, in order for Singapore: the history and heritage of the brand; the quality of service or craftsmanship; the exclusivity of the product or service; and the distinctiveness of the product or service.

Status is not only about external status – or being proud to be seen using it – but also increasing your own self-worth; feeling good for owning or using it.

The study also investigated how the importance of these factors changed by different categories: airlines; alcohol; automotive; fashion; hotels; jewelry; watches; and consumer electronics. Status remains a dominant factor across a number of the categories – especially alcohol where it represents 73% of the impact on whether a brand was luxury. Outside of Singapore, status still dominated alcohol brands but to a lesser extent (43%).

In Singapore, perceptions of luxury for airlines (41%), watches (37%), and consumer electronics (47%) were all driven by status. Outside Singapore status was a further reaching factor, being the leading factor for 5 of the 8 categories: alcohol (43%), fashion (44%), hotels (45%), watches (35%), and consumer electronics (39%).

After status; the history of the brand was a driver of luxury of Singapore; specifically having established brand story and traditions; a proven track record of quality products and services; and recognized as a leader in its industry. Within Singapore, history was a strong secondary driver for a range of different categories: airlines (27%), alcohol (17%), and consumer electronics (40%).

Outside of Singapore, history was the leading factor for determining a luxury brand in only one sector, airlines (29%), where it was closely followed closely by status (27%). Overall, outside of Singapore, history was the 4th driver of luxury – suggesting it had a lesser impact on luxury compared to within Singapore. The importance of history to Singaporeans in terms of luxury may be driven by the comparative youth of the country – currently celebrating its 51st year of independence – and so brands that can are steeped in history are seen as more luxurious.

High quality – specifically, delivering a service beyond expectations or only using the highest quality materials and craftsmanship – was the overall third highest luxury factor (22%) in Singapore – and is the leading factor for automotive both within Singapore (35%) and outside (33%). Outside of Singapore, high quality is the second highest luxury factor, after status. This may be because, especially in markets like London and Paris, where a number of domestic and local brands are steeped in history, quality and craftsmanship is a better signifier of luxury.

The fourth factor in Singapore is exclusivity (9%) – specifically, a brand you’d be prepared to pay more for or is more expensive than similar brands. Lying in fourth position overall, and in 4th or 5th place for a number of categories, highlights how other factors (status, history and high quality) are stronger drivers on luxury. Two categories in Singapore, however, buck this trend; jewellery (37%) and hotels (28%). Outside of Singapore, exclusivity rose to 3rd place overall (22%), and also leads the drivers of luxury for jewellery (30%); falling into second place for fashion (29%) and hotels (19%).

The final driver of luxury for both Singapore (6%) and the other luxury markets (7%) is distinctiveness – specifically, being immediately identifiable and recognizable and very different to competitors. Overall this was the weakest driver of luxury for Singapore and across categories. Apart from fashion, where – as might be expected, it leads the drivers of luxury (33%). In contrast, outside of Singapore distinctiveness is the weakest factor for fashion (3%) and generally was a less important across categories.

The study also identified the most luxurious brands in Singapore. In first place, Singapore’s home grown airline – Singapore Airlines. Followed by the watch maker, Patek Philippe and in 3rd place the hotel chain, Shangri-La.

Singapore Airlines dominates on all perceptions of luxury, being seen as the most distinctive and high quality brand in the study, it also led on history and status. In terms of exclusivity it fell into 2nd place behind Patek Philippe.

Patek Philippe was the most exclusive brand in Singapore, and followed closely Singapore Airlines in terms of its status. The 3rd most luxurious brand in Singapore, Shangri-La, was driven by its status as a hotel brand and its history.

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