Marketing

Is Aspirational Luxury Dead?

Ralph Lauren men's shop

Ralph Lauren men’s shop

 

Retailing and the world of luxury fashion is all aflutter with the appointment of Stefan Larsson as CEO of Ralph Lauren. Larsson came up through fast fashion giant H & M and then went on to get Old Navy back on track. As you know, Lauren built his business with fashion that called to mind Old Wealth which was personified in an upscale preppy way of dress and lifestyle. One could say he took the Brooks Brothers approach, added more of a fashion element, and marketed the fashion with Old World trappings. The price point wasn’t cheap, but it was accessible, compared with the look he imitated. Aspirational luxury. Is it here to stay in fashion, travel and lifestyle in general?

Now this new CEO has a totally different background in new -to- the- brand market segments and comes from the egalitarian Swedish society. One’s first reaction. Can he recreate this aura of luxury lifestyle, albeit updated, which Lauren obviously wanted to do by going with such a radical new hire? Or, as Barbara Thau wrote in Forbes.com, does this mean aspirational luxury is dead so he’s going to take a totally new approach to the brand?

She also ties that in with her contention that conspicuous consumption is a thing of the past. I don’t agree with either premise.

First, conspicuous consumption. As I’ve written about before, during the Great Recession, extravagance was seem as unseemly and, in the hotel business in particular, a serious negative. Companies couldn’t be seem as having luxury trips for executives when the public was suffering financially. But all of that has changed. The elite 1% has no compunctions about spending — the media is filled with stories about extravagance and over the top purchases reflecting the reality of what’s going on out there.

And as for aspirational luxury, I contend that it will always be with us. What will change is what is the desired luxury lifestyle to be emulated. There will always be a “luxury uniform” as Thau called it, though it will change. Instead of rich Mahogany paneled studies filled with antiques and Persian rugs, maybe there will be minimalist Italian furniture that cost five figures, and technology that’s in the same ballpark budget. The clothes? No gold buttoned blazer to be sure, or a fine Egyptian cotton bespoke shirt and custom trousers. How about a t-shirt made from some hard to get hi-tech fabric, a hoodie from the rarest of rare cashmere along with custom sneakers and  a Hermes Apple watch? And, a new turn is having fashion reflect one’s individuality and creativity — perhaps the ultimate luxury?

Hotels you say? Much less about baroque palaces from European nobility with Michelin star chefs in formal dining rooms. Think Richard Branson and the kind of hotels he builds and travel experiences   that personify the adventurous, innovative lifestyle. Things certainly are a changing. Lauren got that right as he has been so prescient with many other customer aspirations. It will be fascinating to watch.

Men Circa 2015 and the Travel Industry

domenico vacca club

Domenico Vacca’s new club

Remember when “metrosexual” was news, defined as” an urban heterosexual male given to enhancing his personal appearance by fastidious grooming, beauty treatments, and fashionable clothes”? That was in the early 2000’s . In a little over a decade businesses are finally starting to go all out with products and services to meet the interest and need. And men are more comfortable showing their “metrosexual” side. There are major implications here for new products and marketing, and some savvy retailers – but not as yet the travel and hotel business – are getting on the bandwagon.

Let’s speak first about the settings for the delivery of these goods and services. Traditionally you’ve had men’s social, athletic and university clubs, but they’re about socializing and possibly networking, though some have accommodations that are pretty basic. Little or nothing in retail, grooming or heaven forbid pampering services. Enter opportunity.

This fall in New York Italian fashion designer Domenico Vacca is opening a 12 story luxury lifestyle destination that New York Racked called “a Carnival for the one percent”. Not only will it have a flagship retail store for men and women, but a barber shop, gym, long stay residences, Italian café, and a social club/lounge you can belong to for $20K a year. Though there are facilities for women too, the pitch as seen in the images and décor is very much directed to men. I heard there’s another strictly men’s luxury destination on the way from a publisher no less. Stay tuned.

All too often men’s pampering and fashion offerings are done as an afterthought, not getting “equal time” or thought out as those for women. It takes a mindset – to look at everything directed to women buyers and travelers and say what’s the outtake for men. For instance, two years ago we launched a handbag bar at our all inclusive client Casa Velas in Puerto Vallarta. Designer handbags are offered on loan to guests for the evening. It was a big hit, and we decided to expand it this year and are offering a “Murse” – men’s purse, MontBlanc no less (it’s a luxury resort). A small thing, but it makes a statement.

So many luxury hotels and cruise ships have spas with beauty salons but how many have barber shops or pitch men’s grooming? And spa treatments for men can be found on menus, but they almost seem like lip service. Or how about men’s getaways? Aren’t there more creative possibilities than golf and boating?

You men out there, what do you think? What would you like to see?

5 Tips to Market to “Seniors”

marketing travel to seniors

A market segment of senior travelers crave soft adventure

 

Seniors I speak to don’t like to be addressed as such, so it was no surprise to read results from a recent survey about five must “do’s” and “don’ts” in marketing to baby boomers and older.

With the kind of disposable income this demographic has, it’s well worth the time and effort to give heed to this valuable advice from Bronwyn White, co-founder of the Sydney based travel research firm MyTravelResearch.com.

As helpful background White said: “Today’s seniors were a product of ‘the swinging sixties’ and the seventies. In Western societies, they were a generation that saw liberated sexual experiences, the pill, the rise in feminism, experimentation with substances and a new freedom never experienced before.

“Many of them were wild, adventurous and exploratory. Today they are looking to rekindle that fire through travel adventures now that the kids have left home. Senior travellers come with a natural intrigue and a zest for life rarely seen with any other segment of the market,” she added.

Here are her five tips along with Karen’s additional comments:

Use ageless marketing, particularly imagery

Seniors don’t think they are senior, therefore they do not readily relate to images of seniors or text that talks to seniors. Age-based marketing is counter productive. Age does not define values, attitudes or behaviour. Use ageless marketing that emphasizes universal values such as love, friendship, loyalty, altruism and fitness. (Karen’s note: I’d also add that they downright dislike being called “senior”. I recently asked a small group why, and they said because focusing on age conjures up images of limited possibilities and opportunities which they don’t like to be reminded of).

Emphasis value, not low cost

“Contrary to popular myth, the senior traveller is not obsessed with cheap deals. They are very clear about this. When they do their research, they are simply looking for value for money – travelling in off-peak periods, bonus night offers, food and beverage deals, late check-outs, or tie-ins with local service providers. (Karen’s note: definitely do not use the word “cheap” as it connotes low quality)

Be smart about search engine use

“It is not necessary to use the term ‘senior’ on your website, unless you are referring to a discount in your pricing (then they’ll happily become a ‘senior’). The secret is to talk to a mindset and attitude rather than an age group. If you are paying big bucks for the term “Senior Travel” through Adwords or any sort of pay per click campaign, think again. Seniors who do actually include the search term ‘senior’ tend to be penny pinching and will give you a very low conversion rate.

Use language that hints at life-changing experiences:

“Seniors are not so interested in acquiring material assets. They’re interested in acquiring life-changing experiences – especially in travel.” (Karen’s note: and don’t underestimate the desire of some in this age group to crave soft adventure – many are fit, in good health until their 80’s and like to boast of their believe-it-or-not feats)

Market to single seniors

“We have seen a rapid growth in senior singles wanting to travel. The majority are women. They may be newly divorced or newly widowed. Or we have often come across a married single senior whose husband or partner has no interest in travel. It is important to appeal to a sense of emotional security.” (karen’s note: They like to travel in groups but there’s also a market for ones who want to travel on their own with the services of a guide in every destination).

Photo courtesy of www.mytravelresearch.com

 

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.

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.

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.

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.