The psychology behind a consumer’s luxury purchase has long been a source of study and debate. What motivates a consumer to purchase a pair of designer sunglasses, versus the convenience store version for a fraction of the cost? What’s the difference between a luxury car and a reliable family van, if they both get you from point A to point B? Do jeans with a certain price tag really feel better?

The answer to why we as consumers, adore our luxury items, is backed by a plethora of research and varying studies, but the bottom line is…

Luxury just feels good.

The pleasure center of the brain is powerful and tactile. It tells us what foods we consider gourmet, what fabrics feel good against our skin, what cars, houses, accessories and vacations will be defined as luxurious. Sometimes, that information is gathered through the bombardment of marketing messages we are confronted with each day. More often than not, pleasure is judged by the quality of its origin and the way the item or service makes us feel.

Emotional impact, and all its variables, is the key to all buying decisions, especially when it comes to what we define as luxury. For instance, if we inherit our grandmother’s favorite quilt, handed down through generations, this family heirloom would likely be considered a luxury item- a treasure, even. Its history holds deep meaning to us. It’s also a one-of-a-kind, packing even more emotional punch.

Psychology Today reported, “Global demand for luxury goods is strong and rapidly growing, with over $200 billion in annual sales each year. Consumers purchase these goods for a variety of reasons, among them because they convey a sense of status, wealth, and exclusivity. These purchases lead others to make rapid inferences about the character of the purchaser (e.g., successful, arrogant, among many others). Further, using and displaying luxury products can elicit various feelings on the part of the user.”

The interesting thing about the luxury consumer is- luxury is open to interpretation, making it accessible to everyone. You decide what you define as luxury, albeit in a home, a car, or a pair of sunglasses. Perception is everything to the consumer. That’s why advertisers are constantly trying to catch your attention, searching for patterns and insight on how something will make you feel.

Luxury is whatever you say it is, and to that we say, “Happy spending!”