Luxury Travel, Lifestyle and Marketing Trends

Nudity, Travel and TV

dating naked

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

DinnerLab_expansion

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

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.

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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.