The other evening, the episode of “House Hunters International”, one of my favorite time wasters, was devoted to a rather sweet young fellow from Connecticut who was looking for an apartment to rent in Monaco, where he would be attending graduate school.
The degree he’s pursuing is a MSc in Luxury Management from the University of Monaco. This degree will help young Ben achieve what he says has been a dream since childhood: to surround himself with things lux-y and folks riche. His path to affording things lux-y and becoming a folk riche is through selling things lux-y to folks riche.
Who knew you needed a degree for that, or that there even was such a degree.
In the MSc in Luxury Management programs, we seek students who are passionate about a specific luxury sector or brand – and who are willing to make the effort to go beyond the surface, beyond the alluring and dazzling images that only capture the visible part of the luxury iceberg. (Source: University of Monaco)
“The visible part of the luxury iceberg” O-M-gilded-G. Maybe something gets lost in translation from the Monégasque, but doesn’t “visible part of the iceberg” usually mean there’s a problem below? And then there’s the mental connection that so many of us will make to that arch-symbol of luxury: The Titanic.
Then there are the program’s objectives.
As the proud holder of an MSc – although mine’s in plain old vanilla management, not luxury management – I can appreciate that MSc programs need objectives. It’s been quite a long while, but I believe that the objectives of my alma mater, MIT’s Sloan School, included learning how to apply mathematics to just about everything (one of my concentrations was applied – i.e., quantitative – marketing), and make sure you get a good enough job that you can contribute to the annual fund (or at least on every 5th anniversary of your graduation date. Anyway, one of the objectives of U Monaco’s MSc in Luxury Management is:
…to understand the luxury codes and the business logic behind the glamorous curtains of the luxury world.
I’ve never had all that much to do with the luxury world, but I do know a bit about marketing stuff that costs a ton – in my case software – so I do get that one thing that’s behind those glamorous curtains is the sheer fact that charging more for something conveys value. In the case of software, my rule of thumb was that the “halo effect” of charging more let you get away with a price about 15-20% more than something comparable from the competition. After that, you better be able to point to real extra-added value.
In the case of the world of luxury, I believe that what’s behind the glamorous curtains is also quality (a Hermes tie actually is better made than a polyester number you get for $10 in TJ Maxx). And it’s some sense of exclusivity and rarity. (It’s not luxury if everyone can have it.)
Of course, luxury is sometimes in the eye of the beholder. I’m sure that some folks would find the gilt, marbled, and ormolu’d home of Donald and Melania the essence of mondo luxe. It gives me the willies – and not just because the Trumps live there. I prefer my luxury unormolu’d, I guess.
Anyway, there were a few interesting elements to the curriculum. There’s the yachting management course – “the first and only one of its kind in the world”. And then there’s something called e-movie learning:
…an innovative learning experience based on a web series of eleven episodes, combining fiction and pedagogy
Wouldn’t I love to get a look at that combo of fiction and pedagogy. How fun to sit around dissecting vignettes about fake rich people wearing pricy watches and designer duds, and comparing the merits of a Bentley vs. a Rolls, while sipping the world’s most expensive champagne (which I’m pretty sure is not prosecco, the house bev chez non-luxury moi).
If you’re pursuing the MSc in Luxury Management, you can specialize in retail, hotel, or goods and services. Retail helps students figure out how to maneuver in the “key battleground in the crucial quest to find and keep the best customers.” In Hotel, you’ll learn not just how to compare and contrast, say, the Metropole vs. the Monte Carlo, but to learn about spas and gambling. (Shocked, I’m shocked…) Goods and Services sounds more generalist. There, you’ll learn about “the resonances generated by high-end goods and services.”
Which, I will give you, sounds more interesting than worrying about the resonances generated by high-end software. (Typical resonances from my experience: why does this cost so much? why is it so hard to use?)
Meanwhile, young Ben, pushed and prodded by his more sensible mother, decided against the high-end, fantasy-luxury apartment in Monaco – with the terrace overlooking the ocean and the swank kitchen – and settled into student digs, a few feet over the border in France, and half the price of the Monaco dream flat. Less distracting. More time to study up on how to capture the visible part of the luxury iceberg.