Luxury Travel, Lifestyle and Marketing Trends

Bread and Marketing

Bread and marketing? Yes. Bread has served not only as a mark of a restaurant’s quality, but also as a generator of press coverage. For many years in New York the bread to have at the best restaurants was Tom Cat’s sourdough. Peter Lugar’s onion rolls are legendary, and most recently in Miami, bread by Zak is the one that gets a mention on menus.  And when the bread is really good, don’t you find yourself mentioning that to friends? Butter, too, gets noticed by foodies —peel off butter packets, others you unwrap on the low end ,and  the top of the line being soft, unsalted tub butter from France.  And speaking about generating press, one of the selling points of a new restaurant, art gallery and lounge opening early next year in Wynwood, Miami will be their baguette oven imported from Strasbourg.

Given all this, I find it  short sighted to charge for bread. One could make an argument to diners for serving bread only on request which some restaurants are doing — that it saves waste and eliminates temptation for those on a diet.  But charging, especially if a lunch of broiled salmon, baby vegetables and a glass of wine with tip is $50 a person? That was my experience at a recent lunch at an upscale food hall in New York City.  It’s a buzzy, exciting place and the food is quite good but to charge for a piece of baguette and butter? Time to relook that policy.

Behind the Scenes Travel Experiences

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It’s natural to think, who would be interested in a behind the scenes look at the engine room of a cruise ship? Or a look at the housekeeping department of a hotel? The answer, a lot of people. One of the favorite pastimes of cruise ship passengers at Carnival is the engine room tour.

In this day and age when all surveys point to an interest in travel experiences, certainly up there at the top are opportunities to see what is happening behind the scenes. This works not only for travelers, but also, for luxury brands in particular. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate craftsmanship, artisanry, expertise. A company that really gets the value of this is LVMH. And when they get behind a concept, they go all the way.

Case in point, in 2011 they launched what they called Open Days in which 25 of their brands from Dior to Dom Perignon opened their usually closed ateliers to the public. Tickets were free, but reservations were necessary. As reported in the New York Times, in year one 6,000 spaces allotted for Louis Vuitton’s workshop in Asnieres were taken within 90 seconds of release; for the Christian Dior Couture atelier it took 3 minutes to fill. They wrote, “From Paris to Poland, where Belvedere vodka is based, some 100,000 people attended the first open atelier weekend. Last year, the total was 120,000 and a third weekend is planned for 2015.”

This is obviously a low cost/no cost initiative and one most products and services could be able to do. Love to hear any behind the scenes offerings you do at your firm.

Photo courtesy of www.nytimes.com

Native Advertising: A Quick Primer

One of the top three topics at the recent Advertising Week conference was native advertising and I’m not surprised. A question I often hear bandied about – is native advertising a new term for advertorials? In my book, no. Advertorials were mostly about fluff, little substance and I frankly always wondered who was reading them. In an article on the topic in PR Tactics, Joe McCambley, founder and creative director of The Wonder Factory summed it up well: “Native advertising, at its best, is indistinguishable from good journalism. It’s created with the intention to be as helpful to a reader as possible,” he said.

A more apt synonym is probably sponsored content. Whatever you call it, here’s a great guide to three general categories of native advertising courtesy of Brian Conlin from Vocus :

 

  • Paid syndication: When a brand produces stories, videos or infographics that appear alongside regular news
  • Paid integration: When a publication inserts a brand’s messages into a regular news piece
  • Paid co creation: When a media outlet receives money to produce content on a specific topic or theme

For low cost/no cost sponsored content, one of the best vehicles is the service piece, tips and advice from a company executive, department head, or just a service provider, for the consumer or industry colleagues (B to B).

We recently sent out a series on tips for travel with baby from the baby concierges at Grand Velas Resorts in Mexico. The most recent one was a page and a half article on Tips on Baby’s First Vacation, how to travel. The news release which we sent out through paid distribution garnered 58 million readers and appeared everywhere from Reuters and the San Francisco Chronicle to the Boston Globe and LA Daily News.

One of the best examples of sponsored coverage I’ve seen, albeit at a very comfortable budget, is Netflix’s coverage of women’s prison issues in The New York Times, tying in to the release of the series “Orange is the new Black”.

Whatever you do, be relevant, be authentic and be substantive.

 

 

 

Hotel Shops and Branding

 

The selection of shops in a luxury hotel can speak volumes about its brand. I thought about this recently as a good friend and I were talking about a new 5 star hotel that opened in a major European capital and their shops. The default solution for hotel retail is often global luxury retailers and I doubt that nowhere is this truer than in Shanghai where it seems every top hotel has LVMH, Hermes, Prada and the like and, equally important, little else.

Today we read about the growing interest of the affluent in authenticity and hotels that offer a sense of place. A great deal of thought and care can go into the selection of hotel décor and artwork for that very reason. So instead of the ubiquitous luxury retailers, why not feature the best of local fashion designers, artists and craftsmen?

When Salvatore Ferragamo opened his Tuscan retreat Il Borro,  not only did he have fine leather, jewelry and woodworking craftsmen, but also, their workshops on site. Granted, that’s difficult for an urban hotel, but how about a shop that is exquisitely curated, similar to the ones found in museums, but where local (note I say local) fashion accessories, beautiful objets, and  gift items are presented and sold?

Some of you might remember what the W hotel in New York did when it opened. It had one of those “concept” like shops which generated a lot of media coverage. It also became a destination in itself, attracting travelers from other hotels and local residents who came, saw, and probably oftentimes stayed for a drink or a meal. Plus, it made a statement that W was creative and hip. More recently, Ace Hotels have done the same.

Getting back to the point about global luxury brands. To be sure, they do offer the benefit of imparting a luxury pedigree (you’re known by the company you keep), but at least one or two hotel shops that are original, creative and of the place can have multiple marketing and sales benefits.

Nudity, Travel and TV

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Clothing optional resorts have been around for years, in places from Europe and Jamaica  to, more recently, Mexico. Resorts like Hedonism which opened in 1982 were all in the news and then later became part of let’s say “the establishment”. Today the American Association for Nude Recreation lists 260 nudist resorts and clubs around the world.

Will the same happen with the Naked TV craze? Adweek’s cover story recently asked, “Is naked TV the next big thing or will it just flop”?  A bit of short history – the Discovery Channel was first out of the gate with its adventure/survival series, Naked and Afraid. Then came Buying Naked about nudist house hunters in Florida on TLC; GSN’s Skin Wars about body painters and nearly naked models; Syfy’s series on the body painting business in Las Vegas; and most recently Dating Naked on VH-1.  Interestingly enough, Adweek reported that Fox was working on a series with contestants dating in the buff in front of a live audience but it was ultimately seen as too risqué.

Too hot for advertisers? Apparently not according to Lisa Herdman, SVP at agency RPA. They’re lining up, appealing to certain brands that appeal to an edgy, younger market.  Maude Standish, co founder of Tarot a millennial trend insights company claims the appeal is to an audience searching for a “deeper level of authenticity”, the next step in reality shows. I tend to differ on that one.

One of the cardinal tenets of PR is that to get attention you need children, sex and/or animals. And the more offbeat, quirkier and titillating, the better. That’s what I think we have here.

Standish also talked about push back in deeply embedded conservative roots among the older demographic. But, she ended, “their kids, meanwhile are sending naked pictures of themselves to their boyfriends”.

Restaurant Trends: Experiences

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The golden word in the travel and hospitality industry these days is “experience” with hotels, tour operators and travel agents touting their special offerings.  Why the interest in “experiences”? Because they evoke powerful sentiments – the stuff that memories are made from, landmark celebrations, and, most importantly, the promise of involvement.

Experiences in the form of  interactivity are hitting the restaurant industry in a big way in innovative directions.  Many of these have the added benefit of more social interaction and the promise of making new friends. Underground dining, where a chef cooks a gourmet meal in his or her home or unusual venue for a prix fixe has been around for a number of years. Here in Miami several prominent foodies started a club where you sign up for a pricey mystery dinner at an undisclosed location and it is often oversubscribed.  Then there’s an extension of the cooking class with not only a market tour to choose ingredients for the class, but also, foraging in fields and streams for special herbs, vegetables or fish.

The latest twist is Dinner Lab which operates popup restaurants across the US.  Emerging chefs prepare a high end prix fixe dinner ($50 to $80  a meal, drinks and tips included) for members who rate each dish’s creativity and taste and each drink pairing as well as whether the course was “restaurant worthy”. Communal tables, guests talking about the dinner as they fill out the rating forms, family style service, and chefs chatting up diners all contribute to the social interaction.

Meals are also presented as a performance, with each getting a name from the chef. And even the setting is different from the usual – dinners are held in large open spaces like the roofop of a parking garage or at a motorcycle dealership.

Dinner Lab’s plan is to operate in 40 cities including international ones and to sell the data at events for anyone looking to overhaul or create a menu.

Photo courtesy of www.forbes.com

Food Extremism

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It seems extremism has hit the food and restaurant industries. I happened to watch the new show on Showtime, the “Seven Deadly Sins”  episode on gluttony and learned about the Heart Attack Grill. The medically themed restaurant’s goal is to offer everything that’s as unhealthy as possible. Think hamburgers named for four levels of bypass surgery with the most intense, the quadruple bypass weighing in at close to 10,000 calories. It can be accompanied by lard fried French fries and jello shots with vodka. And how about some unfiltered cigarettes? If you weigh more than 350 pounds they give you a burger on the house. Two people died in the restaurant.  I can’t help but wonder what percentage of the diners are of moderate weight, just trying this for the experience, and how many are obese, this just a step further in the way they usually eat.

And then there are the Paleos whose diet mimics that of the cavemen — eat only meats, fish, nuts, vegetables and seeds. There are Pinterest boards interesting to look at that feature Paleo snacks and entertaining. (There’s also a group of Paleos that eschew soap and shampoo and still others that smear bacteria on their body). So you hoteliers out there — don’t see Paleo hotels as a niche concept for a dedicated hotel,  but maybe for a themed weekend getaway? It’d certainly generate a lot of press coverage!

In between the extremes are all of the dietary restrictions that are now expected to be addressed in restaurant menus, from peanut and lactose allergies to gluten free, vegetarian and VEGAN (have I missed some?). Oh yes, organic is desirable. Not easy being a restauranteur these days.

 

Miami and the US Global Financial Triumverate

Brickell City Center

Brickell City Center

If you haven’t been to Miami in a year or more you won’t recognize it. The only other place that comes to mind with so many construction cranes is Shanghai where they call the crane the national bird.  Miami is a city of cities – Downtown, Aventura, Miami Beach, Design District, Coconut Grove, Wynwood,  and more. And many of them are enjoying the  boom that’s not just residential, but commercial construction.

Probably most impressive is the $1.05 billion mixed use development project of Swire Properties called Brickell City Center pictured here that seems to shoot up from one day to another, much like a teenager in growth spurt. Will this be another one of Miami’s boom and then bust cycles? The circumstances are different this time. As a Harvard educated, long time resident mover and shaker said to me,  Miami will be one of the three US global financial centers in the future. It’s Miami for Latin America and the Southeast US; New York for the East Coast and Europe; and Los Angeles for Asia and the Pacific Basin.

Miami is just growing into its new role. It will be a place on the marquis of global luxury brands – New York, London, Shanghai, Miami, etc, a place they need to be. We’re already seeing it. High end shopping centers including Bal Harbour Shops and Aventura Mall have major expansion plans, joining an expansion in the Design District and the new offering in Brickell City Center. Luxury hotel brands are all moving in or adding properties (a second Four Seasons and second SLS Hotel), refurbishings of Art Deco properties in particular happening at a quickening pace. Is there still room for more hotels beyond what is projected? I can’t call that one. But what is for sure is that any major player in travel and luxury lifestyle needs to give Miami a serious look at this exciting time by any measure.

PR Firms Speak Out on Climate Change

 

As long as I can remember few public relations firms have taken a stand on political issues. Yes, many firms have done cause related marketing – whether it’s pro bono work, donations, adopting charities, and so forth. But things are changing. PR Daily just reported that ten of the world’s largest firms ranging from Weber Shandwick and Edelman to Finn Partners and  WPP and others have vowed not to partner with companies that deny that man made climate change exists. The agencies made those assertions in response to a survey conducted by The Guardian and the Washington D.C.-based Climate Investigations Center.

“We would not support a campaign that denies the existence and the threat posed by climate change, or efforts to obstruct regulations cutting greenhouse gas emissions and/or renewable energy standards,” Weber Shandwick spokeswoman Michelle Selesky said.

Some firms questioned in the survey wouldn’t answer the question but emphasized their environmental initiatives.
This stance is no small thing considering that many global firms have energy companies and other clients connected to fossil fuels.

I applaud the courage of the firms that did this as it’s not just a question of losing opportunities to work with companies in the energy business, but also, it could be off putting to others who don’t believe in global warming and thus a potential source of further lost business opportunities.

As you can imagine, the announcement sparked a spirited online debate. It’s admirable that the public relations industry is taking on one of the major issues of our time and is willing to take a stand.

Blogpost by Karen Weiner Escalera

Neo-Tribalism and Understanding the World

Understanding the world today is looking at it through the prism of neo-tribalism. It’s the macro and the micro, informing everything from politics and economics to lifestyle and marketing.  I wrote about it back in 2006 as an emerging trend in our Luxury Travel and Lifestyle Trends newsletter.  Here’s what appeared (to read more, click here):

The fracturing of communities is thriving unlike never before. No longer defined only by geography or socio economic class,
communities are of the like-minded. As Watts Wacker, CEO and Futurist of FirstMatter LLC said,”people are becoming desperate to find people like themselves”. Facilities which create and foster a sense of community and bring together like-minded individuals will flourish. This fracturing means a further explosion of niche travel. The affluent will still have their tribe, but motivations will be less for exclusivity and status and more to mingle with their own kind .

Now, almost 8 years later, it has come full bloom — not the apocalypse Wacker predicted, though sometimes after reading the newspaper I think that’s around the corner.We’re living in a time of tremendous change. The Wall Street Journal called it “an arc of instability” not seen since the late 70’s. and people worldwide are looking for refuge in their groups — religious, ethnic, economic, and social.  So what does this mean for marketers?  The niche a.k.a. tribal plays will continue to grow, fueled by the  perfect distribution channel – social media.  Consumers, barraged by change and often fearful, will increasingly look for comfort and convenience and  to family and friends and others of like interests at home and in their travels . Always on top of trends (and setting them), Marriott and MIT recently announced an app to connect hotel guests with shared interests who are staying at the same hotel. Can’t wait to see more. Intriguing.

By Karen Weiner Escalera