Luxury Travel, Lifestyle and Marketing Trends

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

Travel Awards Inflation and Marketing

Are travel awards still an effective branding tool and if so, how? Magazines, professional organizations, tour operators and more are giving awards on a regular basis. Some companies exist only for their award programs as a stand alone business, reaping revenues from entry fees. All of this has resulted in award inflation. And where they’re so prevalent, they’re less meaningful in the eyes of the consumer.

So what is their value? To the entity giving the award it’s an effective way to make new friends and reinforce relationships. Plus, in this age of social media, lists of Top 10 and Best of always rate high in views.   Award recipients undoubtedly appreciate the recognition, getting their name out there, and being in  rarefied company as in you’re known by the company you keep.

But how about their effectiveness for branding, and how to promote them through public relations? Here are  do’s and don’t’s:

First the “don’ts”:

Too often the knee jerk reaction is let’s do a press release. If an award is given by a media property, other magazines or newspapers won’t be interested – that’s the competition.

It’s important not to send too many award releases to the same media or run the risk of  overkill and their not opening your email after a while.

Think twice about how significant the award is. If it’s not from a well recognized organization, promoting the award can look as if the recipient is desperate to get a distinction and it won’t reflect positively on your brand.

Then the ‘do’s:

Think paid distribution channels as in online industry media (e.g.Hotels Online, HNET) as a vehicle to get the award news out. That helps build recognition within the industry and also helps SEO.

Send the award releases to past press guests who have visited your hotel(s), taken a cruise, whatever. It is a good way to keep in touch and reinforces the fact that you’re maintaining a quality product.

Social media which has an appetite for constant content is a perfect distribution channel for news of awards.

If the award is not from a media property, do consider sending it out to a wider distribution if it’s truly impressive, as in your being in the top 10, 25 or even 100 (e.g.Virtuoso’s bests, Expedia’s Insider Select).

And outside of PR, there are numerous ways to get the word out, especially if the award is impressive, from adding it to your signature and sending an eblast to your internal database, to highlighting it on your website, collateral,  and more.

The Future of Print Magazines

What’s the future of print magazines? Are they doomed?  If a gauge of their influence is a function of how newsworthy they are (other than news reports about media groups from Hachette to Time Warner and Hearst being bought), then one could think they¹re hardly relevant. I recently met with Sara “Fifi” Castany, a legend in publishing, and former editor of big titles ranging from the Spanish language versions of Cosmopolitan and Ocean Drive, to luxury custom publications such as Bal Harbour and Fisher Island magazines.  Now owner of her own custom publishing company, Sareli Media Group, I asked her about the role of print magazines in the future.

“I think we are experiencing an important transformation in the publishing industry,” said Castany. “We can¹t deny the Internet has impacted our
business, but print is hardly dead, the playing field is just changing. Who will survive? The really great magazines will, the ones that have managed to be exciting and unique in a niche market, ” she continued.

What I found most interesting about what she had to say was how luxury brands are selling products by transforming their catalogues into quasi
lifestyle magazines. An early adopter of this marketing strategy was Williams Sonoma who started featuring recipes in their catalogues along with
carefully styled displays of tables set for the holidays with their dinnerware, linens and enticing meals.

“These product catalogs with integrated editorial content are called magalogs, and they are very effective in engaging the consumer and enhancing
the shopping experience,” said Castany. “Neiman Marcus started out by including fashion trends and unique gift guides. Today their catalogs are
must-haves for any fashion savvy customers,” she added.

In house hotel magazines have tended to be little more than advertising vehicles that have a branding benefit – association with other luxury brands and thick, glossy stock that makes a luxury statement.There’s a lot of room to adopt this new “magalog” formula to travel industry products and combine the best of both — what has existed with a new service orientation.

The days of the mass market magazine are just about over. For magazines, it’s about luxury and niche titles that are indulgences.  Nothing like going to the beach with a cool drink in hand and a stack of my favorite magazines.

Sleep: New Big Thing in Travel USPs

Feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, sleep deprived? Join the large and growing group. It’s no surprise that the travel industry is turning to ensuring a good night’s sleep as a Unique Selling Proposition, branding opportunity and even a new profit area.  True, selling a restful sleep has been the key to Westin’s branding for 15 years with its Heavenly Bed, and about that time we came out with the idea of the pillow menu (the first) and sleep concierge for our client, New York’s Benjamin Hotel. But now, the industry is going well beyond that. Here are some of the innovations described in “The Quest for Sweet Dreams” in the New York Times.

 

  • Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts is rolling out a program to create three types of proprietary mattress toppers that can be zipped on or off, addressing the problem that guests like mattresses of varying firmness.
  • Eithad Airways, after almost two years of research with the American Center for Psychiatry and Neuroology in Abu Dhabi, is now offering all natural mattresses, mood lighting, noise canceling headphone, and pillow mists. The headphones are for all classes; the other amenities for first class passengers.
  • Delta Air Lines offers some Westin Heavenly bedding in all of its Business Elite International and some domestic flights and a white noise channel on Delta Radio.

Steven Carvell, associate dean for academic affairs at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration was quoted as predicting more of these airline-hotel partnerships. “Don’t be surprised if you wind up seeing first class cabins pairing with Four Seasons or Cathay Pacific pairing with Peninsula or Mandarin Oriental”, he said.

And then there’s the PR value. The pillow menu and sleep concierge put the Benjamin Hotel on the map and also resulted in a subsequent profit center with a separate catalogue of pillows for sale.

Site Search Tags: No tags for this post.

Design and Fashion: What the Hotel Doctor Calls For

kwe blog AC by marriott

When even Apple, an icon of high technology, makes moves to become what tech analysis site Stratechery called a fashion house, you know there’s something major afoot in branding.  For those who haven’t read it, an important article, “Apple’s Team of Tastemakers” appeared in the New York Times recently about the company’s hires of tastemakers from Yves St.Laurent and  Burberry to the addition of Beats’ founders Dr Dre and Jimmy Iovine for top management positions.  Their mandate is to remake the marketing strategy.

What is this about?  Design and fashon that are leading the lifestyle charge. We see this  across product categories and price points. If anything, expect it to accelerate with marketers’ attention turning increasingly to Millennials whom research has shown to  expect a major dose of style and good design,

This hasn’t been lost on the hotel industry as major groups continue to announce new lifestyle brands that they always bill as design forward, one of the latest being AC by Marriott. I couldn’t help but think will we soon see yet another new brand –  the hotel counterpart to a Zara or an H & M — low cost, big fashion statement,  and wildly successful? And then many of these same groups have new executive positions with serious titles who are like creative directors, helping ensure the brands continue to align with changing design and fashion values.

Travelers are seeing hotels with new eyes and new words to describe the hotel product.I  couldn’t help but think about the term “boutique hotel” which, when first deployed, implied a property with special style. Not so much anymore.With simple bed and breakfasts calling themselves boutiques, will this term become meaningless? I think so.

Amenities, even ones with a “wow” don’t seem enough to cut it these days. Travelers are going beyond that, looking for fresh new looks that excite and entertain.  A large dose of creativity is just what the hotel doctor calls for.

For more on hotels and fashion brands, click here to read a previous post on the topic.

 

 

4 Trends in the Business of Restaurants

kwe blog le locamerchant-1Not much has happened in the business of restaurants in recent years. I’m talking about innovations other than in the cooking itself or culinary approach, to increase revenues. With the tremendous competition now and rising rents and food costs, we’re finally beginning to see some new, creative ideas that are worth noting. Expect to see a lot more in coming months, especially with Priceline’s recent purchase of OpenTable.  Here are several restaurant trends that have a lot of promise:

!.How to increase covers in the downtimes of 5:30 to 6:30/7? Fine restaurants are trying to make diners feel as if they’re special, going out of their way with attention and service. Restaurants realize they need to overcome the traditional stigma of diners feeling like second class citizens, part of an “early bird special” group.  In addition, all matters of special incentives are being offered, from smaller portions (and prices) of signature dishes and a small bites menu to unique menus such as New York’s Le Cirque offering what they call a heritage menu with items like Dover sole and wild Burgundy Escargots. Read more in “No Shame in a Table at 5:30” in the Wall Street Journal.

2.As the top 1% get richer and the stock market continues on an upward trajectory, demand at the top restaurants in peak hours has been off the charts. New apps have sprung up like Zurvu and Resy that cooperate with restaurants sharing revenue for the most in demand dining times  and access to prime tables (a “commission” from $10 a person to $50 a table).

3.Restaurants hosting a visiting chef from out of town or out of country has been around for a long time. But now there’s a new twist – a visiting local chef.  Harry’s Pizzeria owned by star Miami chef Michael Schwartz hosted a series of themed dinners with Miami colleagues. We’re also seeing several chefs team up to do special dinners at a colleague’s restaurant. The idea? Copromotion which makes a lot of sense.

4.Reservation websites are providing incentives for early bookings. Members of Opentable get more points for booking early time slots and another app. leloca, gives last minute discounts at participating restaurants to users (like the restaurant counterpart to Hotel Tonight).

Emotional Marketing and Music

You can’t help reading these days about emotional marketing –  forging an emotional connection with potential buyers or clients as a key to sales success. Story telling and appealing to the senses are touted as  effective ways (and I concur as you’ve read). In the case of the latter,  incorporating aromatherapy and visual candy (design, art, fashion) into the product and marketing are becoming a “given” with many hotels and lifestyle products. But what about the hearing sense? Some interesting information and data recently crossed my desk . Rightune makes music for websites, 1000 of them right now that are active, as well as online ads and applications. They claim this has increased business by 15 to 20%, the highside being in the hotel, travel and lifestyle industries. Here’s an example of what CEO Erez Perlmuter says is one of the more successful of the sites (click on the name to hear the music):

Europa Hotel 

How does this work?  They customize the music based on branding values, target audience, mood to be created and business goal (e.g.lead generation, purchase, staying time). The client then gets a code snippet to embed on their website which will give a user a playlist. The user’s behavior is tracked and music updated as needed. Clients get a dashboard where they can see what was played and its impact on website business performance. What kind of music works? Not surprisingly, soothing tunes in the morning and more upbeat works in the afternoon.

I asked the obvious question, how do they know how many people to the site don’t like the music? They said on average 4% of visitors mute or lower the volume and 96% stayed longer.  I have to say, I found the music on the Europa Hotel relaxing (he said the music increased their business by 50%). What do you think?

Urban Armor, New Twist in Clothes

kwe personal space dress

Urban Armor. Who would have thought — clothes that are about more than dressing as in self defense, pollution protection, personal privacy and more. Wearable tech — be it watches with internet a la Dick Tracy, Google Glass, and more are very much in the news. But the newest wrinkle is Urban Armor by Tokyo based, 27 year old New York artist Kathleen McDermott. Her signature piece, described in the Wall Street Journal is a dress said to “reclaim personal space by expanding several inches when sensors detect another person is standing too close”. The dress inflates while someone stands as close as 15 inches. Some have described a special benefit of the dress of “avoiding unwanted sexual advances”. Hmmm. It’s only in prototype now, along with other projects McDermott developed for her master’s of fine arts degree at City University of Hong Kong.  Other clothing items she has created include the “autofilter”, a scarf that inflates to protect from pollution and “miss my face” a hat and veil lined with infrared lights to hide a person’s face when viewed on close circuit security systems. Interested in making your own dress, tapping into her know how? Instructions are on her website.