Luxury brands are trying to attract attention with unusual features, but not necessarily ones that will boost sales.

“The luxury market is saturated, so it requires something different,” said Linda Wells, who in January became editor in chief of “Allure,” a Condé Nast publication. For its December issue, “Allure” went on a four-day “artistic adventure” with an artist named Patrick Kelly, who was hired to paint a nude (and pregnant) Ms. Wells. The magazine paid for the shoot and will run it in February as an advertisement to promote Mr. Kelly’s services.

"It's the sort of thing that isn't done in fashion, but it was done at Condé Nast," Ms. Wells added. "They opened the doors to allow us to take advantage of more than we intended."

Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts has embraced edginess as well by adding a Bowery location in New York City, complete with a late-night disco and bar area.

"It certainly is a riskier approach," said Mr. Melcher of Starwood's Aloft brand. "The people who are doing the edginess are well aware that it may not work." For example, he said his company might introduce an edgy pop-up shop in an Aloft city. If the shop doesn't perform well, it will be removed quickly. "It's not something where we are investing a lot of capital," he said. Other examples of edgy features include:

“The Bowery” at Waldorf Astoria New York has an underground club/lounge called B.O.B., which stands for “Back of the Bar,” with DJs and dancing after 10 p.m. It is open to hotel guests or anyone who purchases a ticket ($20 to $30).

Soho House in New York recently introduced an outpost of Cows ice cream in its bar. "It's an interesting brand," said Mark Eshman, who replaced Michael Shvo as president of Soho House New York in January 2010. "They're very edgy."

The Library Bar at the Bowery Hotel in New York City has a late-night disco called Pravda that features DJs and dancing.With luxury spending stagnating in some parts of the world, brands are looking for new ways to attract customers. “You can’t just deliver better products and services; you also have to deliver them differently,” said David Gandy, a spokesman for Dolce & Gabbana and one of the most photographed male models of the 21st century. “We only survive if we continue to innovate and surprise people.”