“We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us,”
– Sir Winston Churchill
What Does Luxury Really Mean For Those Who Can Afford It?
Walking through the streets of Whitehall, you can’t help but get the sense that you are stepping back in time. Or, perhaps, striding through the very corridors of history itself.
The throng of tourists and traffic seems hushed and subdued by their surroundings. The streets are lined with the statues of Kings and Generals. Memorials have been erected to gone but not forgotten soldiers. Eternal reminders that decisions which shaped the course of history were made on this very stretch of road.
Two mounted sentries still keep guard at the entrance to Horse Guards on Whitehall, from 10:00am until 4:00pm. And each day, the same guards gaze directly at the Old War Office building across the street – the former headquarters of Churchill, Profumo and Kitchener, to name just a few.
But you don’t need to know the history of the building to understand its real significance. It communicates that very clearly for itself.
The construction was completed in 1906, in the Edwardian Baroque style. 26,000 tons of Portland stone. 3,000 tons of York stone. 25 million bricks. It’s four distinctive domes rise above the 1,100 rooms, spread across seven floors below. Walking through each room and hallway, there is a tangible connection with the rich tapestry of history surrounding you. The 2.5 miles of corridors help to join the dots for us in this monument to Empire.
But the Old War Office is no longer the central nervous system of an Empire. Now, it’s a luxury hotel and dining destination quite simply beyond compare, which also offers super-prime residences to an extremely discerning audience.
At the rear of this remarkable building, recently re-christened as The OWO, there is a collection of 85 newly constructed private homes which come with the full complement of the world-renowned Raffles services. This place is special.
It has been our privilege at Wonderhatch to assist in bringing these residences to market, whilst also helping to introduce and present Raffles at The OWO to London and the wider world.
What Does Luxury Mean? A Hierarchy of Needs
Now, to say there aren’t many people who would be able to buy a property at The OWO might be a bit of an understatement.
As such, we needed to understand how to connect with and communicate to a niche, highly targeted audience – ultra-high-net-worth individuals. At Wonderhatch we’ve always enjoyed working with a diverse range of luxury brands and providers of premium hospitality services, delivering the very best in film and photography production along the way.
We understand the very specific needs and values of this audience, and what matters to them. Our experience tells us these include;
High-net-worth individuals aren’t flashy.
They don’t crave attention. In fact, they often want quite the opposite. Luxury to this audience is synonymous with privacy. It’s their secure space away from the outside world. A place where they know that they, along with their close family and friends, will be happy and safe.
Surely, there can be no safer address in London than Whitehall, forever under the watchful eye of the guards across the road.
You don’t buy a property in Whitehall every day.
While most people tend to buy little and often, these audiences tend to invest large sums on rare and special occasions. As this level of wealth has often been accumulated by families over time, these individuals will often feel a sense of responsibility to leave behind more than they took. To paraphrase Patek Philippe, there is often an element of ‘looking after it for the next generation’.
An investment at The OWO will only increase in value, as it has something that you can’t recreate from scratch – History. The unique, storied past of this building is a powerful signifier of both social status and influence. It presents a stimulating, undeniable talking point in these circles, and this rarity drives value.
It goes without saying that high-net-worth individuals have serious standards when it comes to service. As residences at The OWO come with the full five-star service Raffles is famous for, it was critical to communicate the convenience that this offers to cash-rich, yet often time-poor buyers.
However, you don’t communicate this purely with words. Just as you sell a luxury car by the sound of its door shutting, you can sell a luxury apartment through the warm smile of the concierge, the plush of the royal red carpet and the weight of the beautifully crafted original oak doors.
Additionally, as is the case with Raffles, it’s sold with carefully crafted cocktails in the Guard’s Bar.
Story-selling: Communicating values through history
So, how do you communicate to a high-net-worth individual with these values in mind?
First, you need to find and understand the stories they appreciate. Then you need to carefully curate and select the right stories to share, and tell them with authenticity.
Although there have been many significant changes made during the redevelopment of The OWO, stories still drip off every surface. Atop the roof sit sculptured figures symbolising Peace and War, Truth and Justice, Fame and Victory. You can feel the weight of these words, and the powerful sense of destiny they imbued in the property’s former inhabitants.
From Winston Churchill assessing the invasion plans for D-Day, to Ian Fleming penning the first James Bond novels – The OWO was and remains a place for history-makers. And our job was to let that history speak.
Authenticity happens when everything has the look, feel and soul of the brand. Wonderhatch created a range of content which captured the very essence of both The OWO and Raffles. Photography that does the grandeur of the building justice, depicting precisely what the audience will get for their money. Documentary films that chronicled how these properties came to be, and lifestyle films which explore why this all matters so much.
Bringing this back to the quote by Churchill at the beginning of this article, we shape our buildings, and then they shape us. Just as we at Wonderhatch shape brands, the brands we work with help to shape the stories we tell.
There are countless places high-net-worth individuals can buy in London. But there are very few stories they can buy like The OWO.
Marc Webbon – Co-Founder – Wonderhatch