‘Subprime Language’ in Luxury Marketing

Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens had the exterminator come over to his lower Manhattan apartment one recent morning; as he left the exterminator to do his dirty work killing bed bugs, Mr. Stephens passed a sign put up by his landlord touting the "luxury rentals" in the building.

That got him thinking:

…[T]hanks partly to Manhattan’s circumscribed geography, partly to the stock market’s record highs and partly to the verbal effusions of billionaire mayor Mike Bloomberg, who in 2003 described his city as a "high-end product" — Gucci on a metropolitan scale — there’s very little in New York today that isn’t a "luxury," in name if not in fact. In turn, this has created linguistic challenges (or opportunities) for real- estate developers trying to distinguish their offerings from the rest of the pack. Call it subprime language in an era of subprime mortgages.

Mr. Stephens goes on to cite examples of this verbal Olympics, particularly the marketing behind the new East 23rd Street condo designed Philippe Starck ("whoever that is"). The marketer behind that condo? Michael Shvo, whom Mr. Stephens should really have to lunch some day if he wants to understand how apartments went from apartments to luxury apartments.