After several lean years during the recession, luxury brands are starting to once again resonate with consumers.
New research has found that consumer perception of luxury brands in the automotive, lifestyle and accommodation industries have improved in the past year. Study authors said that those findings back up previous research showing that fewer Americans will save and cut back their spending in the coming year.
These findings also mirror recent gains in the economy, which have put the Dow Jones Industrial Average at all-time highs.
Though a number of industries saw gains, automobiles led the charge. Mercedes-Benz was rated the top luxury automotive brand for the third year in a row, but a number of other manufacturers also garnered their highest-ever scores for brand affinity in the 25-year history of the Harris Poll EquiTrend study. Those brands — Acura, Audi, BMW, Infiniti and Land Rover — like Mercedes-Benz, all operate in the luxury realm of the automotive industry.
"There's been a lot of discussion in the media as to whether 2013 will bring about another recession, so it's interesting to see equity is on the rise for luxury brands typically associated with higher discretionary income, even as other economic indicators suggest a possible downturn," said Aron Galonsky, senior vice president of brand and communication consulting at Harris Interactive, which conducted the research.
"This may show that after a number of years spent tightening their belts, consumers are looking to the quality and value they feel these brands provide."
Luxury lifestyle brands, including Saks Department stores and MAC cosmetics, also grew in the past year. Both those brands saw 10-point gains in 2012. Additionally, luxury hotel chain Starwood Hotels and Resorts took the top place in the luxury hotel category, while fellow chain InterContinental Hotels and Resorts rose 13 points since 2008.
"Understanding the health of your brand is a critical component in determining the business priorities for companies in any industry," said Galonsky. "The higher scores point to increased consumer affinity and likelihood to purchase from these companies."
The research, conducted on more than 1,500 brands across 155 categories, polled more than 38,000 consumers over the age of 15.