Luxury Travel, Lifestyle and Marketing Trends

Instagram and ROI

instagram

Instagram has over 300 million users, about the same as Twitter, give or take a few million. Instagram marketing is the new darling of social media, in the news for its impact (or lack of) on sales of art, beauty and fashion products.  All about images, it certainly lends itself to travel and hotels. The question being asked is how effective is it in branding and sales?

I use both to promote my personal blog, www.miamicurated.com  on food, fashion and culture (and some travel) in Miami, though am newer to Instagram.  Twitter has been one of the top drivers of traffic to the blog, but the jury is still out on Instagram.  Its effectiveness in driving traffic to a blog or website was a subject of discussion in one of the travel blogger forums. I asked one  of the members who amassed 5000 followers about the benefits and her answer is that conversions to subscribers or increasing blog visitors is minimal.

So what’s the benefit? Here are recent excerpts from an excellent article in Digiday where beauty and fashion brands, among the top users and boosters, are quoted as saying they are betting their social marketing dollars and resources on Instagram over any other platform. 98 percent of L2’s top fashion brands are on Instagram as of this month, and 95 percent of beauty brands are on the platform — up from 75 percent and 78 percent in October 2013.

For beauty and fashion brands, engagement and interactions are higher on Instagram compared to any other platform. As of the second quarter of the year, of the 67 top fashion brands on social media, engagement is up 77 percent, while frequency of posting has shot up from just over 8 posts a week to 10 posts a week.

While Facebook still attracts the lion’s share of paid advertising (82 percent of marketers surveyed by Forrester say they currently pay for ads on the site), brands are increasingly flocking to Instagram. About 46 percent of brands say they do or plan to pay money to get on Instagram in the next 12 months — the highest rate of growth compared with other platforms.

High-end fashion brands are among the prolific on Instagram. For example, Christian Louboutin in January launched #louboutinworld, a photo gallery displayed on its homepage that goes directly to its Instagram page. Its followers there have grown 80 percent in the last year, while Facebook likes have grown only 8 percent.

What about a direct path to purchase? While Instagram introduced clickable ads via its “carousel” platform back in March, brands are hoping that a more direct path to purchase (a “shop now” button, or a click to buy capability) will eventually be introduced. But until then, Instagram still makes more sense for brands that want engagement and inspiration.

Bottom line: wait and see.

Butlers and The Travel Industry

 

sandcastle butler

Sandcastle butler

 

Butlers, concierges, they’ve been marketed by the travel industry for years, from hotels to more recently cruise ships (Viking river cruises) as evidence of going the extra mile in service. They can be a true value proposition – as in a baby concierge offered by our client Velas Resorts, or a public relations tactic to generate press. In fact, one of our all time great press generators was when we announced the butlers as a service at an Intercontinental Hotel, talking about how the butler would even iron the newspaper to avoid the guests’ having ink stained hands. Over the years we’ve read about everything from pillow, recovery (as in from a hangover) and suntan concierges to fragrance, camping and barbecue butlers . Interestingly enough, this kind of news, falling into the category of unusual hotel services,  continues to be a media darling.

And speaking about what’s happening in the hospitality industry and “butlerdom”, I thought I’d share these interesting thoughts and updates from Steven Ferry, Chairman of the International Institute of World Butlers . It appeared in his recent newsletter which always makes for good reading.

“An interesting article about the lengths butlers go to in hotels to service their guests—although the author has taken it upon herself to pronounce that “butlering is a dying art.”

Some entrepreneurs have created a company called “Hello Alfred” (referring to Batman’s butler)  that offers “butler service” for $25 a week—the duties basically being running errands and managing small projects for which the clients do not have time. As the company already employs 100 butlers (stay-at-home mums and artists) so far in New York and Boston, they are obviously much in demand by busy executives and no doubt appreciated by those looking to boost their income.

If the above is a bit of a stretch, then how about Sandcastle Butlers, the latest hijacking of our profession to boost image? The picture (from the Hertfordshire Mercury) says it all.

Hot on the heels of the Japanese cafe culture with butlers and maids, we now find Glasgow, Scotland offering the same: a cafe with maids and butlers. Used to be a time when one went to a cafe to enjoy a simple coffee and scintillating chat.

Not sure if we have covered the “Stock Butler” before—software that analyzes and rates a person’s stock portfolio. (Karen’s note: idea for a city hotel?)

The first hotel in the world has opened with service almost exclusively carried out by robots—done to save money on wages and downtime, such as days off, and to create “the most efficient hotel in the world.” Um…. Let’s see: “Hospitality,” basic definition being “friendly.”  “Friend” comes from an Indo-European root word meaning “love.” Met any friendly robots recently, ones who express their heartfelt love for you? (Perhaps that should read “programmed love”?). Somewhere, someone, or a lot of someones, are missing the point.

And while “scientists” are busy trying to make robots human, and humans unnecessary, they are also busy making humans into robots: witness the University of California, Berkeley breakthrough (also reported in the Wall Street Journal) in creating neural dust that is so small, it can be implanted into the cerebral cortex (front of the brain) without the knowledge of the individual and run forever, collecting information and controlling people’s thoughts and emotions (and presumably, ultimately, their actions).”

Maximize PR from a Celebrity Visit

How to maximize public relations coverage from a past celebrity visit beyond mentioning the name in a description of the hotel’s  or cruise ship’s history? The Fontainebleau Miami Beach has come up with a terrific promotion that could be a case study, around Frank Sinatra’s centennial birthday. Granted, every celebrity doesn’t have the high wattage of “Ol’ Blue Eyes” and it does help that there’s a recent, very successful three part TV series about his life (fascinating, see it). But there are takeaway elements that can be applied to lesser celebs as well. Here’s the scoop:

The hotel is doing a 100 day countdown to Sinatra’s 100th birthday, kicking off September 2. They’re using it to reinforce the image of the Fontainebleau’s “Golden Era glamour”. A highlight will be an exclusive photo exhibit curated by Sinatra’s family and 1966 Americas of personal and historic images. In the iconic Bleau Bar (a favorite of mine)

Bleau Bar

Bleau Bar

guests will be invited to enjoy a sample of Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Select whiskey as they toast to Sinatra’s upcoming birthday. Additionally, the hotel will also debut unique in-room amenities and packages inspired by the man, while the signature restaurants will pay homage to Sinatra’s favorite meals at the Fontainebleau including throwback, 1950’s-inspired ‘Brunch with Frank’ menus, cocktails and intimate dinners.

For guests who want to ‘Live Like Frank’, there will be a Sinatra-inspired package for $1,915, commemorating the year Frank was born. The package will include a two-night stay in a junior suite or above, a vintage Fontainebleau canvas bag, a Fontainebleau Luxury Art Book, one bottle of Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Select, daily breakfast for two, two 50-minute ‘Fly Me To The Moon’ massages at Lapis Spa, a $250 credit for dinner for two  at one of four signature restaurants and the ‘Ultimate Sinatra’ CD featuring the singer’s greatest hits.

The 100 day countdown culminates with a performance honoring Sinatra’s legacy. The performance act will be announced at a later date.

A Destination That Does It Right

red inclusive card

You’ve read here about destinations that do it right – social media campaigns (Swedish Tourist Board), advertising concept (Amsterdam Tourist Board) and the UK does an especially good job of capitalizing on country milestones and cultural events. That these destinations are cutting edge probably isn’t very surprising. But would you believe The Black Forest Highlands in Southwestern Germany (Hochschwarzwald) is right up there with some innovative product offerings that show their understanding of what today’s travelers want: product with a sense of place, technology, superior value and experiences.

Let’s start with value. Travelers who stay for two nights or more at any one of over 300 holiday accommodations get a Red Inclusive Card free. Often destination value cards have a lot of features but most of them are of little interest. This is a notable exception. The card with a clever tag line of “experiences included” features not only the usual free admissions to numerous attractions and cultural offerings, but also, free local transportation anywhere in the region, guided electric bike tours, golf, spas, rental of cross country ski equipment, and, most impressive, use of a BMW i3 to discover the Black Forest landscape with climate neutral transportation. Besides the value appeal, the features encourage travelers to immerse themselves in the destination, making for a richer, more memorable holiday.

And then there are the unique accommodations, Black Forest Highland Design Apartments dubbed with the clever name of “cuckoosnests”. With their wood and rock faces, tree stumps for bedside tables and specially designed furniture, they appeal to the growing number of travelers who want to stay in lodging that offers a sense of place.

Is this all working? According to Thorsten Rudolph, CEO of the Black Forest Highlands,   the cards have increased tourism to the area from 2010 to 2014 by 27.5%. Each year about 245,000 cards are given out and since 2010, more than two million cards have been used registered. Especially valued and used are the free entrances to the various activities and highlights including Ski Tickets to the Feldberg, Spa Paradise Blackforest, boat trips on the Titisee. When the Black Forest Highlands Card started in 2010 there were 180 participating hotels and now there are 345. Sounds like a success by any measure.

How to Increase the Average Length of Stay

Flower cottage of the Relais Borgo Santo Pietro

Flower cottage of the Relais Borgo Santo Pietro

 

How to increase the average length of stay? This was a question posed to me by one of our clients, a city hotel in Asia. The common tactic is to give an extra room night free based on a minimum length of stay –as in stay for 3 nights and get the 4th night free. But there are two other solid ideas. The first is to team up a city stay, adding on an extra night to the average length of stay, with two or three nights in a complementary destination, a several hour drive or an hour to an hour and a half  flight away (e.g. Bangkok with Chiang Mai or Phuket). To the guest, the benefit is that the work of packaging two destination highlights is done, and then you make it worth their while financially by giving a break in the total price or giving some value add. Besides gaining an additional night’’s revenue, there’s the advantage to the hotels of additional marketing support from another hotel or hotel group and use of a new customer database from a non competitive property.

An even better tactic is to offer exciting compelling activities on site and nearby that make a longer stay desirable. Probably one of the best examples I’ve seen (and experienced) is from the 16 room Relais Borgo Santo Pietro in Tuscany, Italy. The Relais, off of the beaten tourist track, though convenient to Florence and Rome, offers exciting activities that not only tap into  its competitive advantages, but also, a sense of place. They also offer guests an opportunity to learn new skills. In house there’s a resident florist who gives floral arranging classes from a cottage amidst an antique rose garden and does double duty making all of the arrangements for the hotel; an inhouse artisan  — a painter when I was there – who gives classes from her own cottage overlooking a lake; the Borgo Cooking school offers a myriad of classes for adults and children; garden walks; and wine tasting  . Venturing further afield, they offer everything from falconry and sightseeing from a two person plane with private pilot to truffle hunting, hot air ballooning, basket weaving, and novel sightseeing trips.

Rafael Ruiz – Front Office Manager says the Concierge program, which was launched in 2014 enjoys a 50% participation rate by guests and that since beginning the program, average length of stay from overseas guests has increased from 3 to 5 days. A final benefit is that guests leave the hotel wanting to come back and experience the other activities as well as the marvels of a superb resort and stunning setting. A winning formula in luxury hotel marketing ideas.

 

The New Hotel Grab n’ Go, Food Courts?

imanol-gourmet-experience-6

Food courts are a whole new breed these days, even in airports. I just returned from Europe with flights through Rome’s Fiumicino and Lisbon’s International airports and, to my delight, found appealing options in the food courts . People like them – the variety, speedy service for our time pressed society, the ability to see exactly what you’re getting, and the modest price point.

Then there are the fancy ones, like the new Gourmet Experience at Madrid’s Corte Ingles which touts the 7 Michelin stars the chefs have in their food court, or the new food hall in Paris’ Galeries Lafayette with outposts of food purveyors from Petrossian to 5 Jotas Spanish ham. To be sure, Berlin’s Ka Da We department store led the way a number of years ago with their full floor of grazing options, a destination in its own right. But what is different is the rapid expansion of the concept in number of venues, kinds of places they’re landing, and the ever rising bar on standards, even at the lowest common denominator (airports).

Now, real estate developers are putting them into renovated buildings as an amenity, betting on companies’ desire to attract millennial workers who grew up on food courts. Example: the owners of the 41-story glassy former home to AIG on 180 Maiden Lane, as part of a $100 million upgrade are putting in a high end food court and a lobby with picnic tables.

What is next in hotel food and beverage trends? I predict that midrange and/or convention hotels will turn to food courts both as a point of difference and to not only lower food costs, but also, as a new profit center coming from leasing the spaces.

What do you think?

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.