Luxury Travel, Lifestyle and Marketing Trends

Crafts: New Antidote for Stress Relief

New idea for meetings

Timberland coloring book

 

In a 24/7 demanding world,  even yoga and exercise don’t always work for stress relief. Enter crafting, the newest antidote not only to help rest the mind, but also to stimulate creativity in the workplace and a new idea for meetings. So no surprise that, as reported in Adweek,  adult coloring books are “taking the nation by storm”. They’re on Amazon’s list of best sellers, and cropping up in major brands such as Timberland’s marketing efforts. Even Vogue magazine has come out with its own entry. Coloring books also offer the benefit of being portable, inexpensive, appealing to all demographics and fun.

Michaels Craft stores now offer 150 coloring book titles along with other surfaces people can color on like T shirts, and canvases. And for the ultimate in stress relief, there’s the Meditation Coloring Book that combines calming thoughts with hands on craft activity.

Now how about this for a novel coffee break idea for a group meeting? Combine it with a juice bar and nutritious  snacks and voila. Or have a craft bar with easels for sketching or painting, day by day planners that you can personalize with stickers, and kits for making handstitched photo frames. All refreshing ,relaxing and creativity stimulating  options that are sure to be crowd pleasers.

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.

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.

 

 

Online Dating Goes Microniche

GlutefreeSingles

As you probably know by now, we are major proponents of the importance of going niche, even micro-niche having written about its emergence and acceleration since 2005, the founding year of our Luxury Travel and Lifestyle Trends newsletter. But the latest incarnation surprised us – microniche online dating sites, with services we would never have guessed. We’ve already seen fractioning sites for everyone from Christians, Catholics and Jews, to seniors and millennials; now there are new entrants for farmers, gluten-free singles and devotees of Ayn Rand, The American novelist, philosopher, playwright and screenwriter. Farmers Only boasts 100,000 users with the tagline: “City folks just don’t get it”. (Not sure where that leaves urban farmers). The already ten year old site, THE Atlasphere has 16,000 dating profiles, where followers of Ayn Rand can meet online for conversation and possible meet-ups. Feeling alone, awkward, or a burden because you’re gluten-free? The most recent entrant is GlutenFree Singles that would seem to be a prime target for romantic resorts offering gluten free menus.

What possibly could be next? We’d love to hear your ideas. For a more in depth read,you might enjoy this article in the Wall Street Journal, “Farmer Seeks Same: Looking for Love in All the Niche Places” (love the title).

 

Luxury Marketing Trend 2013: Upgrade Product, Price Point

An interesting article in Luxury Briefing documented a repositioning trend with upmarket brands.In an about face, a luxury marketing trend 2013, major  players are making strategic moves to switch emphasis from entry level and aspirational products to those driving sales of higher end goods and price points. It’s all about raising the quality and exclusivity, as they look to price rather than volume to be the revenue driver.  We’ve  documented in KWE’s trends letters how the anti-brand movement continues to grow, especially in retail, where counterfeit goods have weakened the appeal of logo merchandise.  Both Louis Vuitton and Gucci report particular sales success with their non- monogrammed products, with Gucci’s leathergoods and exotic skin items posting double digit growth last year.  The big names are looking to slow the rate of new store growth, preferring to concentrate on improving profit margins in existing locations and seeing this as an opportunity to prevent excessive inventory which leads to big markdowns. Raising opening price points, they all would agree,  also enhances upmarket positioning which helps with the most robust segment of the affluent market, hyper luxury . In a similar vein, there’s also a push toward more made-to-order and bespoke in everything from leathergoods and watches to jewelry and fragrance, all available at higher price points of course.

What’s trends in market niches? Aspirationals

While reports abound that aspirational ‘trading up’ is over, luxury marketers still need to consider them as opportunities for new revenue streams and new ideas. Why? read further…

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What is the New Luxury?

I was recently involved in a LinkedIn group discussion on what constitutes “new” luxury. Here’s my “sound bite” on the subject – and feel free to chime in if you agree or disagree:

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The future of luxury

French born Dr. Clotaire Rapaille, author of the “The Culture Code: An Ingenious Way to Understand Why People Around the World Live and Buy as They Do” gave a thought provoking talk this week at Miami’s Luxury Marketing Council.

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Luxury and Social Media

Luxury brands and social media are a combination that has not been a love affair. Some feared diluting their elite and exclusive community. Another concern is that luxury is not just a product, it’s an experience. Consumers need to see and feel luxury with their own eyes and hands. They want first-class service, personalized design and unique touches unavailable elsewhere. This need for a “touch point” is precisely why retail outlets have traditionally been so essential to a luxury brand. It’s not a “feeling” conveyable online.

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