Luxury Travel, Lifestyle and Marketing Trends

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.

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.

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

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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.

 

Spirits Tourism

Kentucky Bourbon Road Trip

Kentucky Bourbon Road Trip

Wine tourism has been around for decades – tours of vineyards, wine hotels, and wine trails, from California and New York to New Zealand, Australia, Europe, the southern tier of South America and more. Of late, thanks to craft breweries we’re seeing a growing number of craft beer festivals and museum like brewery tours. The newest link in the chain, not surprising given the celebrity status of mixologists and interest in new beverage taste sensations, is spirits (as in liquor) tourism. Spirits tourism is following what is a major growth in spirits revenue nationwide. Excluding wine and beer it has doubled to over $50 billion from 2000. Its appeal is also based on an interest in local products and history and, similar to craft beers, the boom in craft liquors. A recent google search revealed a surprising number of states – Delaware, Washington, Oregon, New York, that have gotten on the bandwagon with spirits trails, sometimes combining them with wineries and breweries.

Not only distillers, but also state and local governments see this as a new source of tax revenue and jobs, as well as a new tourism niche. Kentucky, in particular, is getting in on the act, enjoying a special upswing from bourbon, with new distilleries being built, complete with a tasting room for sipping bourbon and looking at the local scenery. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail, a collection of distilleries on a scenic route, attracts thousands of visitors annually. Distilleries offer behind the scenes tours where one can watch vats of yeast bubbling and workmen rolling barrels of whiskey as they’ve done for decades. In downtown Louisville, Whiskey Row is being revived with a new distillery for Old Forester, the country’s first bottled bourbon. Another producer, Wild Turkey, has paid double in taxes this year, twice what it paid in 2010 thanks to robust sales. For hotels and restaurants, craft spirits are a new avenue for public relations, with the media devoting more space to everything from drink recipes and signature cocktails to star mixologists. One of the more clever outtakes is the bar at the new Traymore restaurant at the Metropolitan by COMO. It has a gin bar boasting 40 different kinds of gin and the Apotheker at the Shelbourne Wyndham Grand South Beach, a riff on bar as pharmacy.

Photo courtesy of NationalGeographic.com