Luxury, by nature, is sensory. Tropical beaches. High-performance cars. Silk pajamas. Full-bodied wines. Delicate perfumes. The simple thought of a luxury triggers a dream-like response, in which we imagine our senses absorbed in the experience of it.

In our online world – most typically seen through the small screens of laptops, tablets, and smartphones – luxury is literally at our fingertips. Our devices themselves are luxury goods that introduce us to a world of products and experiences that can be accessed with a click or a tap. The luxurious has become tangible, as seen with the pairing of once disparate brands like Missoni and Target, or Alexander Wang and H&M.

But as consumers grow more tech-savvy, capturing their imaginations has become more challenging. How can brands enchant audiences when they’re up against flat advertising mediums, tiny screens, and shortened attention spans? The answer, for some of the best-known luxury brands, is in the imagery. Extreme close-ups, HD, higher frame rates, and close crops that reveal unexpected points of view not only pique visual curiosity – they also immerse the viewer in a surprising scenario that engages all the senses.

This surprise is equivalent to a turn of phrase. It’s reminiscent of the way molecular gastronomy teases the senses, creating food where the texture and presentation belies its flavors and ingredients. But here, consumers are in on the visual pun. It’s about taking something they’ve seen before and presenting it so up close that it’s almost like encountering it for the first time.

Oscar de la Renta Fall 2014

Oscar de la Renta captures this in the stills for his fall 2014 collection:

In these images, we’re taken so up close to something, we only see part of the whole – in this case, the lower ruffles of a pink gown, or the top pleats on a pair of soft leather pants. The model is barely present, and even the garment is only shown as a fragment. The result is a mystery that sparks the imagination and triggers a sensory response: What is the complete visual experience of these outfits? What do the fabrics feel like on our skin? How do they sound as we move and shift?

Jaguar XE

Similarly, this Jaguar ad from FP Creative zooms in on the macro details of one of its newest models

Using an eye-popping 50 frames per second, Jaguar submerges our senses in the sleek aluminum that defines its new XE. We see an extreme close-up of a rocky metallic material, then details of the car’s frame. We wait for the surprise – the final reveal of the car’s exterior – but are left with only a hint, as its sculptural outline rises out of a silvery sea. By not actually seeing the car, we envision the experience of it – what it’s like to touch the glossy exterior or hear the hum of the engine.

Apple iPad Air

Apple, however, immerses us in experiences rather than objects in this iPad Air ad:

This ad brings us intimately close to sensory experiences the world over – a concert, a tornado, a cathedral, the deep ocean. It cycles rapidly through a series of close-up vignettes that make us feel like explorers, as though we are looking at snapshots of our own lives. Apple presents the images as we see them on our iPad Air, zooming in as close as technology allows. But there’s a twist. Perhaps we are the ones chasing the storm, traveling the world, or hearing the music, capturing it all on our devices.

Key takeaways:

  • Digital technology not only makes this kind of experiential imagery possible (HD, faster frame rates, extreme close-ups, close crops). It’s made it essential in capturing audience’s attention on smaller screens.
  • Luxury itself is sensory. Immersive imagery conjures the same sensations we feel as we live luxury firsthand.
  • One way of engaging the senses is by showing part of the whole. This leaves audiences to imagine the full experience through their own sensory lenses.
  • There is typically a visual turn of phrase that surprises viewers by showing them something familiar in an unexpected new way.
See more images representing Sensory Luxury here