Understanding Luxury: Culture, Craftsmanship, and Psychographics with Tofig Husein-zadeh

Understanding Luxury: Culture, Craftsmanship, and Psychographics with Tofig Husein-zadeh

I had the great privilege of speaking with Tofig Husein-zadeh, a distinguished gentleman in the world of luxury, our conversation centered on a shared appreciation for the world of luxury in its highest forms. His insights into the subject were profound and delivered with an eloquence that left a lasting impression. He understands luxury as more than just material wealth, appreciating the art, culture, and craftsmanship that define true luxury. What stood out is his deep knowledge and research on psychographics and their importance in understanding customers. His expertise exposed the complex relationship between luxury marketing and psychographic profiling, demonstrating how firms can achieve long-term success by really understanding their clients.

We hope you enjoy this exclusive interview.

 

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH TOFIG HUSEIN-ZADEH

Tell us about what drew you into the world of luxury, specifically to psychographics research. In contrast to other approaches to understanding potential clients, such as demographic, regional, or behavioural studies, how important do you think psychographic analysis is? More specifically, what features of psychographics, in your view, add interest or value to the analysis of target market traits and preferences?

Originally, my predilections were strongly based both on entrepreneurial business and creativity. So my interest was in how art, business and science can reciprocally work together. The realm of luxury brands was most suitable for this because, unlike in other industries, I could find meaning and culture in this kind of business. In order to obtain in-depth know-how and insider knowledge of the luxury markets, history and culture, I began conducting psychographics research back in 2012.

All other kinds of research are insufficient and ineffective compare to psychographics. Demographics, conventional market research, big data or so called digital “psychographics” are not enough because they only look at things like gender, nationality, age, profession, location etc. They just look at what the luxury consumers do whereas psychographics can reveal why they do what they do. It’s beyond psychology as it’s very interdisciplinary. Without psychographics, you won’t have any real distinction and personalization, which is crucial in the luxury business model.

 

What impact has your lineage from nobles and intelligentsia of Old Baku had on your view of luxury, and the world's media and communications?

It had an enormous impact because it’s been both a source of strategic advantage and inspiration throughout all my work in luxury and communications industries. Our family traditions handed over from ancestors along with the values of the Old Bakuvian intelligentsia has always helped me navigate using a North Star. When you are raised in noble or royal traditions, the cultural and lifestyle education on luxury starts at very early age. My background and lineage gave me the predilections, strengths and the distinction that I needed when I entered the luxury industry.

What we used to call ‘bloodlines’ we now call DNA or genetic code. This code helped me both create and find the authentic and the original in a luxury lifestyle. As mentioned before, personalization is key in true luxury. For the holy blood, the holy grail, so to say. When you target royalties or deities, you will need to create the holy grail of something: of a watch, a cigar, a service, a project, a yacht, a jet and so on.

 

In today's environment of rapid global change, how do you predict the concept of luxury as a mindset and lifestyle will evolve?

As the behavioural economist Prof. Ludwig von Mises put it: ‘Innovation is the whim of an elite before it becomes a need of the public. The luxury of today is the necessity of tomorrow’. So some of the things what’s still seen as luxury today might not be so luxurious in future. Consequently, this means that there will be even higher luxuries as there will be a need for it among the higher segments of luxury clientele.

However, at its core or at the structural level luxury won’t really evolve as it is ideal and timeless. Historically, many of the luxuries haven’t changed over thousands of years. Think of high jewellery, having a beautiful view from atop in your balcony, great works craftsmanship or objects of desire, pleasant experiences from excellent service, masterful architecture, divine wine and so forth. It is not difficult to predict that these things are here to stay and they will always be desirable.

In the context of contemporary problems, how does one specifically define luxury beyond material goods and wealth accumulation, and how do you envision it impacting personal fulfillment, society ideals, and general well-being?

In the context of contemporary problems, luxury needs to be defined in relation to principles as high culture, beauty, high class and refined taste. When it is defined this way, it can bring great personal fulfillments, realize society ideals and general well-being. Just like the military-industrial complex that is able to turn science-fiction to science fact, the luxury industry, too, is able to turn the ideal into real.

I’ve personally met with one of the descendants of the Medici dynasty, HSH Prince Ottaviano de’ Medici, several times. We had deep conversations about the Renaissance, beauty, the intelligentsia and societal well-being. These conversations inspired me to create the framework and a road map through which luxury can elevate both the individual and the society. It’s called Cultured Capitalism, which is very different from capitalist culture. This practical framework and long-term road map were formulated and published in an article. It includes the Medici touch that will lead to a global Renaissance in business, arts and sciences. It also includes internal cultures of luxury brands as The Ritz, which is based on “ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.”

When I asked the Prince what was the main turning point for the Medici dynasty, the Prince replied explaining: “The main turning point of the family and of the Italian city in the beginning of 1400s was during uplifting the intelligentsia of the period. It was an intelligentsia that was concentrated on the idea of elevating Beauty because this elevation would have led to the growth of a ruling society that was the intelligentsia that governed the world from that moment and onwards. They were building the Renaissance. This was a class of people (artistic intelligentsia, financial intelligentsia, academic intelligentsia) that were ruling with a philosophy. They were extremely helpful in civilizing the population, elevating the leading classes, making a better world through their knowledge and practices connected with the arts because they were becoming better persons. This was absolutely the main turning point.”

In your experience, what are some of the best innovative brand development strategies you've come across in the context of the media landscape of the twenty-first century?

I think most of the luxury product/brand placements in chef-d'œuvre films and series like Scent of a Woman, Inception, Mad Men, the Crown and so on are very well crafted behind the scenes. The rise of motion pictures about histories of luxury brands is also an important tendency. For example, LVMH is investing in its new brand entertainment project creating 22 Montaigne, a new division to explore content possibilities for its 70 brands and bring them closer to Hollywood.

Many of the luxury brands have always been creative and imaginative when it comes to offering exclusive experiences targeted at the top segments of their clientele. These invitation-only events and gatherings communicate core brand codes, create pleasant memories of time well spent and provide networking opportunities for the UHNWI and HNWI. For example, Aston Martin may offer a dinner with the CEO to the very top VICs. Ferrari hosts its invite-only Cavalcade for the world’s top Ferrari collectors. Panerai arranges extreme excursions led by Navy SEALs and reputed climber-filmmaker Jimmy Chin. Stefano Ricci organizes masculine excursions focused on the Kazakh eagle-hunting tradition and former Nat-Geo executive VP Terry Garcia acts as senior consultant. Needless to say, these experiences are all very notable and worthy of recording using your smartphone camera to either save it for personal archives or share it on social media.

With the emergence of new media, how have customer expectations and behaviours changed in luxury from a psychographics standpoint? What creative measures can brands take to better connect with their audience in this age of new media?

Due to the huge flood of content and information from new media, today the key creative measures need to be based on personalization, distinction and meaningful storytelling. From psychographics standpoint, it’s important look at what’s not changing. As Prof. Malcolm McDonald said: “Segments do not change over time. Their size may change but they don’t change over the long term.” So for a psychographics researcher, the focus stays on the perennial truth, the perpetual factor and the immutable laws of society, culture and human nature especially when it comes to the luxury business model and luxury brand management strategy. My new article titled Luxury Industry Insiders’ Secret: Psychographics was recently published in an academic journal called Luxury Studies: The In Pursuit of Luxury Volume 3, Issue 1. In this article I share my research findings accumulated over the last decade. It is about different types of luxury clientele, best practices of luxury industry insiders and luxury strategy. So there is more detailed and in-depth intelligence there about luxury customer expectations and behaviours.


How do psychographic elements like personality, values, and way of life contribute to creating an emotional bond between luxury businesses and their consumers today? What emotional interactions that consumers have with luxury brands have altered in the twenty-first century? In addition, considering the growing significance of sustainability and the trend towards fewer purchases of higher-quality, less quantities, how is the emotional connection between consumers and luxury companies changing in the twenty-first century?

Nowadays luxury professionals are flooded with information that is difficult to confirm if it is reliable. Psychographics can be one of the most helpful tools in this type of continuously changing environment as it puts emphasis on the recurring patterns and unchanging fundamentals. It makes it possible to observe how the faster things change the more they stay the same. From the long-term perspective, social history doesn’t repeat itself but it rhymes. In their works the structural anthropologists as Claude Levi-Strauss and Mircea Eliade have provided evidence on how the structure of the human realms doesn’t change despite differences in space (geography/cultures) and time (history). Things may have new names, new methods and new masks but they are based on the same structure.

In the words of the legendary William Bernbach from the Jewish-American intelligentsia: “It took millions of years for man’s instincts to develop. It will take millions more for them to even vary. It is fashionable to talk about changing man. A communicator must be concerned with unchanging man, with his obsessive drive to survive, to be admired, to succeed, to love, to take care of his own.” 

 

Your strategic projects so far include not only a business book, the monthly Luxury Business Gazette, a poetry e-book but also The Intelligentsia, a media brand and a high-profile network. What motivated you to create project Intelligentsia, which stands out for its exceptional quality and its appeal to an extraordinary and exclusive readership? Additionally, could you share the sources of inspiration behind your evocative poetry?

As an entrepreneur in the luxury industry, my objective was to create my own luxury brand. However, I didn’t want to do what others are doing and compete with them because many of the luxury categories like watches, pens, cars, whisky or cigars and so on are already dominated by other luxury brands. So my aim was to make something distinct. The idea for project Intelligentsia came after years of psychographic research. It was the D of R&D. This way I was able to create a holy grail of a medium. From the very first issue it successfully appealed to enlightened CEOs, European royalty and nobility, academic elite… The medium then gradually turned into a global high-profile network that it is today.

The poetry project is also an expression of The Intelligentsia brand. The sources of inspiration behind my poems are the findings from my research on semiotics, symbolism, initiatic societies, occult sciences, cultural history and magical traditions.

 

About Tofig Husein-zadeh

Tofig Husein-zadeh is a luxury brand strategist, psychographics researcher, business author and an international speaker. He is originally from Baku, Azerbaijan and speaks four languages. He studied mass media’s effects on society at Penn State University (USA). After graduating from PSU, he has worked in various cultures within media, luxury and creative marketing industries for over ten years. A former writer for Harvard Business Review, his articles on luxury strategy have also been published by The Brand Age, Campaign, Brand Quarterly among others.

Today, Tofig Husein-zadeh is the founder of the high-profile network and media brand The Intelligentsia. He has delivered speeches on luxury internationally at Spaces (Zurich), Rotary Club (Istanbul), University of Westminster (London) and others. He has been working with a Swiss agency called Brand Affairs since 2015 and published a book called ‘The Guiding Purpose Strategy’ that he wrote together with Markus Kramer, ex-Global Marketing Director of Aston Martin. Tofig Husein-zadeh has been a member of the International Association of the Medici headed by HSH Prince Ottaviano de’Medici di Ottajano. For more visit:  tofighuseinzadeh.com

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