Luxury Travel, Lifestyle and Marketing Trends

Emojis and Icons, Future of Communication

Two billion smartphone users send over 6 billion emoticons or stickers each day around the world on mobile messaging apps according to Swyft Media. They offer the benefit of instantly understandable communication without the barriers of variable written  or spoken language. So it’s not hard to believe that this can be the future of communication.

Indeed, a few months ago I went to the opening of an exhibit by prominent Chinese artist Xu Bing at the Frost Art Museum in Miami. He did a series of works communicating a story entirely with icons, an idea which occurred to him while sitting in an airport and seeing the signs that were meant to communicate in a “global language”.

Getting back to emojis. They have already been discovered by select major brands as an opportunity to participate in a space that has been difficult to penetrate. Plus, as described by Evan Wray, co-founder of Swyft Media in a recent article in Adweek, they offer the benefit of not being viewed as advertising, but as self expression. Earlier this year Ikea launched 100 branded emoticons, or social stickers. Coca Cola in Puerto Rico created 30 they called “emoticoke” and GE, AT &T, Comedy Central and others are also on board.

How to do it? The emoji keyboard (emoticons are emojis expressing emotions), standard on many smartphones, has emojis approved by the Unicode Consortium which can be a difficult process to penetrate. Adweek suggested that brands who want to create their own emoticons and stickers need to make their own apps or partner with messaging apps like Kik, WhatsAPP and Facebook Messenger. Worth it? I definitely say so.

Are you getting on the bandwagon?

Offline Retail Innovation: Trends

Maison & Objet

Maison & Objet

 

The Paris based Maison & Objet, which calls itself the “premiere arbiter of global luxury in the home market” is in Miami this week, the first time in the Americas for this prestigious multi-day event. The Show attracted 340 exhibitors and featured 20 conference topics with thought leaders in design and retailing.I attended one of the seminars on Offline Retail Innovation with panelists Davide Berruto, Founder and Creative Director of Environment and shelter half ;Fernanda Rezende and Cristina Rogozinski, founders of the Brazilian concept store, Amoreira, and moderator Richard Cook, Editorial Director of Wallpaper magazine.

Panelists shared their keys to success and “how to get customers to discover something they didn’t know they wanted”. Here are the highlights:

We’ve all been hearing that travel, retail, it’s all about the experience. LVMH and its brands have recently taken to setting up posh suites in shops for VIPs where they can relax, enjoy refreshment, and possibly meet up with friends so they feel at home. Panelist Berruto has taken the retail experience to a new level, creating a rental home furnished with his products in Venice, California where everything is for sale. The home can be rented by individuals and also for events. He firmly believes that offline retail has to give the feeling, touch, and sound of the product to customers, which is something online can’t offer. “We’re in the theater business,” he said . Does the rental drive a lot of product sales? No, but he has gotten terrific feedback about the positive experience and I’m sure it does wonders to create a “buzz” (he also gets inquiries about whether he can design their homes and I would think he gets guest feedback as well about ideas for product enhancements).

Amoreira’s successful approach in creating a destination store is about creating a slow shopping experience, one of calm, relaxation, and a place to decompress on the one hand, and on the other, creating events as reasons to visit — workshops with designers, popups, book readings. They also carry exclusive, one of a kind merchandise. When it sells out, they replace it, which often entails changing the layout in that specific area . So customers are regularly greeted by not only products that change, but also the layout. In line with their “natural” approach, they eschew ambient perfumed fragrances for the aroma of freshly brewed coffee which clients can enjoy with their home baked cakes.

I asked about service and how to set yourself apart from online retailers? They both emphasized how training is more important than ever, imbuing the team with the story of the product which they can relate to customers and projecting their passion.

Recently I read in Adweek about how Ikea in China had to stop people from sleeping in the their bedrooms in the store. Based on this panel discussion, maybe instead they should set up a sample room for sleeping albeit with a time limit on the snooze? What do you think?

 

 

 

 

PR and Hotel Trends, ROI

In case you missed it, here’s a podcast with agency President and Chief Strategist Karen Weiner Escalera on public relations trends, PR and ROI and travel trends including the niche economy. The interview appeared in www.hospitalitytimes.com.

The link to the 23 minute podcast, click here.

5 Not so Obvious Do’s and Don’ts with Bloggers

best-practices-300x276

Though I’ve had KWE Partners blog for many years, mostly a B2B audience, being on the consumer blogging side with MiamiCurated (69K+ UVM according to Cision media database) has opened my eyes to several Best Practices that are often overlooked by products and services. Here are 5 tips from my first hand experience:

 

  • Do not prohibit bloggers from taking photos or require them to get approvals from PR execs to take them. This might seem obvious in a social media world, but it isn’t in practice. Case in point. As a courtesy, I always introduce myself when I go to a place and want to take pictures. The other day I went to a men’s shoe store, spoke with the manager, introduced myself, and proceeded to take pictures. He said I wasn’t permitted without getting the PR department’s approval. No writeup for them.
  • Recently I learned of a blogger’s loyalty program to encourage purchases of the product. What a wonderful idea. Think of giving a discount to bloggers who sign up as a perk – you’ll earn their appreciation and more brand ambassadors for very little investment.
  • When you confirm attendance at an event, a press visit, whatever, send a press release and link to images as a matter of course even if it was sent with the initial pitch. If the blogger doesn’t need the info he/she can always delete. If it is needed, then this saves the person having to send an email request and would be much appreciated.
  • Want to build business on a slow night or off season? Consider inviting your favorite blogger friends to have an event for their readers. It introduces your shop, lounge, restaurant, hotel, whatever, to new people and at an investment that can be as little as paying for Prosecco and some light bites for two hours. The blogger might even be able to get the beverage donated.
  • Keep in mind partnering with bloggers on contests. Say it’s a travel sweepstakes, the hotel could give a two night stay and that’s all that it costs to get in front of the bloggers’ readers and get the participants’ contact info to build a mailing list. It’s a great way to build an opt-in list for eblasts.

And of course, there’s the cardinal rule of working with bloggers and any media – take the time to read it or see it (broadcast) before you pitch.. A pet peeve is always getting inappropriate mailings.

 

Real People

Dolce-And-Gabbana-Senior-Ads-Summer-2015

The rise of selfies, success of “Real Housewives”, interest in story telling: advertising and magazine covers with real people had to come. And so it has. This fall Redbook will be forgoing celebs and opting for “real” women on its cover. The women are winners of the magazine’s Real Women Style Awards sponsored by Dove. Said an exec in Adweek, “This is just a way to put our money where our mouths are and actually celebrate these women as being just as cool and exciting and inspiring as any celebrity out there”.

And how about advertising? Have you seen the ads for Dolce & Gabbana lately? A comely model next to  Italian grandmothers that could be off the farm or from some small country village (or without the young model as in the image above). There’s also the ad campaign for Celine with 93 year old Iris Apfel who’s stylish and chic, but not your usual demographic for a high fashion brand marketing campaign. So the age barrier is starting to break and how about weight? A major step forward is Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue this year which included plus size models. Plus size women are also more in evidence on national television, in the interview shows.

Interestingly enough, there’s another current, and that’s the recent backlash in France against anorexic models. A debate has been going on in the French Parliament that would set minimum weights for women and girls to work as models as a way to address the serious problem of anorexia. Modeling agencies and fashion houses that employ models whose body mass indexes (BMI) don’t meet certain standards could face criminal penalties. For example, in the index a woman who is 5 feet 7 inches tall would have to weigh at least 120 pounds. Israel already has legislation in place that prohibits the use of underweight and underage models.

And the travel industry? In many cases, it still hasn’t even embraced multi-culturalism and gender diversity in advertising and website images. Fashion almost always leads the way.

A Brilliant Promotion: Miami Beach

kwe blog miami beach promotion

 

An ideal promotion that’s a homerun has several elements:

  • It enables consumer sampling
  • It’s a public service
  • The appeal is to all ages and demographics
  • It’s low cost or no cost and is self sustaining

And so, one of the best promotions I’ve heard about of late is between Miami Beach tourism, the Mount Sinai Medical Center and Destination Brands.

The proposition: 50 dispensers to distribute sunscreen lotion will be installed at different Miami Beach public pools, parks and beach access points near lifeguard stands. The sunscreen is free for anyone visiting the beach. The specific brand is MB Miami Beach SPF  30 Triple Aciton Sea Kelp lotion. This Miami Beach brand of lotion was launched last year by Destination Brands to capitalize on the Beach’s brand and tie in with the city’s Centennial celebration this year. The product, part of a line, is also sold in retail shops in Miami Beach and  in some markets abroad.

Mount Sinai invested $25,000 to fund the dispensers. Destination Brands funds the sunscreen through revenues from the MB lotion sales.

The Beach gests a percentage of the sales revenue from this year.  “It’s an opportunity for us to increase our brand awareness and generate some revenue,” said Max Sklar, director of the Beach’s tourism, culture and economic development in an article in the Miami Herald.

Sounds like a win-win-win for everyone.

 

Photo courtesy of miamiherald.com

Gen Z and Media Habits

genz

 

They’re called Gen Z, the Centennials and the Homeland Generation (not sure why this name). They’re under 14 years old and their media habits and attitude toward content are the next logical steps in the world of digital media. Before reading an article on the topic by Scott Hess in Adweek, “Post Gen will Remake Our Media”, having seen the way this age group uses their phones and electronic toys, I anticipated some of these trends but was surprised by others. Here are the shifts:

 

  • With the ubiquitousness of advertising, one would think Gen Z would tune out, immune to their messages. Not necessarily so. They’re not immune if they’re not bored. They view advertising as another form of content. May the most interesting content win. The prize? Their attention.

 

  • Video, video, video. They’re highly visual and demand content be short.

 

  • In the competition for their attention, he who compels views now wins. The challenge is to motivate them to tune in, read, act right away or you’ve lost them. It’s all about urgency.

 

  • This one’s a surprise. They look to their Gen X parents to guide them in their content choices and consumption times. As Hess wrote, “Under 14 and under the tutelage of Gen X parents who themselves are massively adept at calendaring and multitasking, these Post Gen kids have given over the planning rei,ns entirely content to reside nose first in their devices until someone tells them otherwise.

 

  • It’s all about being real and being real means multicultural. “Post Gen won’t settle for a whitewashing”.

 

Photo courtesy of www.studenthousing.com

 

Foodie Crime

Cruffin

Cruffin

 

With the foodie craze on the consumer side commanding ever higher prices for restaurant meals especially in the form of tastings with wine pairings and on the other, the business side, opportunities for instant celebrity stardom, possible franchises or IPOs and the money that goes with it, foodie crime had to come.

And come it has. First, at Christmas 76 bottles of fine wine were stolen from Thomas Keller’s French Laundry restaurant north of San Francisco. The wine was valued at $300,000. And more recently all of the recipes were stolen from Mr.Holmes Bakery in San Francisco – recipes and nothing else. Why could this be? It turns out that Ry Stephen, a 28 year old pastry chef invented the cruffin, a muffin croissant hybrid that has created a frenzy in the city, much as the cronut did in New York. They sell out before the long line is gone. Selling at $4.50 each, the cruffin is said to take three days to make the ice cream cone shaped bakery item and comes filled with caramel, strawberry milkshake or Fluffernutter cream, among others.

Where will the foodie thieves strike next? Better put those recipes in a safe.

Photo courtesy of www.abc7news.com

Is the Term PR Dead?

The term “public relations” may be on its way out according to an article in O’Dwyer’s, a leading PR industry publication. Of 103 members in the PR Council, one of the leading organizations of prominent firms across the US, only eight use PR In their titles. And at the 2014 conference of the PR Society last October, only 11% of the 1450 registrants used PR as a part of their title. The word “communications”, however, was used by 386 or 26% of the registrants. One of the problems with this name change is, in this age of twitter and other social media, communications takes up too much real estate!

I never really liked the term PR. It might be because I always have to explain it. Most people don’t know what it means, many taking its literal meaning — dealing with the public as in  guest relations, customer relations or giving events. I remember years ago in walking around a tony area of Madrid I saw a sign, courses in public relations and learning to be an airline stewardess. Today, it’s not that bad but it’s still not understood.

“Communications” is certainly a clearer term, but it doesn’t begin to cover the breadth of what PR can be, especially in today’s business world, where the discipline has some overlap with strategic marketing and branding. “Communications” also seems a kind of passive term to me, not reflecting the creativity and proactivity of the job. An expanded role in all aspects of content management is becoming an increasingly part of PR’s role, but it also wouldn’t suit as a title.

So, you’re probably asking me what term do I like? I wish I had an answer. Any ideas on your end?

 

 

Extreme Romantic Travel

Flash mob for a wedding proposal

Flash mob for a wedding proposal

 

Romantic travel. It has a new twist as in extreme romantic travel. And we’re seeing it in everything from couples getaways and wedding proposals to honeymoons and weddings. It combines often luxurious settings with one-of-a-kind, over-the-top romantic experiences that couples might someday tell their grandchildren about.

Get this….for wedding proposals, how about a customizable flash mob? For those unfamiliar with this, it’s when a bunch of seemingly random strangers who happen to be hanging around, all of a sudden start dancing together to a song, which usually culminates in the end with something momentous, e.g. A wedding proposal.  These “strangers” are actually a combination of professional dancers and local volunteers who are recruited in advance and who train for this specific performance.

The luxury boutique hotel Napa River Inn in downtown Napa, California offers an “I Will” package where the “strangers” will be milling around on a patio downstairs, while a song begins to play.  Meanwhile the couple will be looking out from their hotel balcony at the view, or they will be downstairs on the patio, having a drink when the song begins.  The proposer can choose the particular song and the dancers will be choreographed to it by a professional in advance. Then, the Inn follows up the offering with a cleverly named “I Do” honeymoon package.

Adventure and extreme travel is an international trend as well.  A recent survey of 2,000 people in the UK revealed that the top modern honeymoon activities included such things as: zip lining, dolphin encounters, paragliding, cage diving with sharks, etc.

Meanwhile, this year several U.S. hotels offered “extreme” Valentine’s Day promotions, e.g. The Affinia Hotels had a “Naughty or Nice” promotion that included a strip poker set. The Renaissance New York Hotel 57 offered the “World’s Sweetest Suite” promotion, with more than 300 pounds of candy provided by Dylan’s Candy Bar creating a giant fantasy candy land suite for guests.  The Algonquin Hotel in New York brought back its publicity generating  $10,000 martini, that has a preselected diamond sparkling on the bottom.

So forget the chocolates and the flowers.  In the romantic travel ideas department it’s time to dive into deep waters (with dolphins) and get on board offering guests the romantic ride of their life.