Luxury Travel, Lifestyle and Marketing Trends

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.

 

 

Insatiable Luxury in China

luxury in china

Peninsula Shanghai image from www.sienacharles.com

Post by Karen Weiner Escalera

We’ve all read about the boom in sales of luxury products in China. But nothing prepared me for the reality — the quantity and size of stores of the big names in luxury brands. Staying at The Peninsula Beijing, within two blocks there were several Chanel stores, one larger than the next. Within the hotel itself, besides the entrance being flanked by Chanel and Louis Vuitton shops, there’s a two story arcade exclusively with all the big brands. And this is repeated throughout the city.  Curiously, walking past the shops there was seldom anyone inside. Why? Our guide said that wealthy clients get the brochure of the new collection (or see it online), call the shop, and have the item or items sent to their residences much as mere mortals would order take out food.

I asked the same guide why there weren’t more top Chinese fashion designers. She said why would anyone buy a local fashion brand and pay a lot for a name no one knows. Anyone in the luxury business should not miss a visit to the “knock off” multi-leveled emporiums – the Silk Market in Beijing and several in Shanghai. It’s fascinating to see what brands are being counterfeited besides the obvious – Hermes, LVMH, Prada, etc. Beats headphones and speakers seem to be “hot” items. No wonder Apple recently announced a possible purchase of Beats. It was also interesting to see how luxury brands have to quickly come out with new lines to stay ahead of the counterfeiters. Of course new models help fuel purchases but you can’t help thinking that in any case, this counterfeiting greatly debases the brand.

Speaking of luxury and hotels, I also had a chance to see the latest in hotel technology in action by the master, Peninsula. At the hotel in Shanghai, here are some of the picks for top features:

  • Built in “nail dryer” in the dressing room
  • VOIP for free international calls
  • Humidity control for the guest rooms
  • Preset internet radio channels
  • A Yamaha speaker built into a lacquered cabinet, totally unobtrusive
  • And then the bathtub that even they have taken up a notch: luxuriate in the tub watching tv, having a conference call by speaker phone, choosing your favorite spa music, and more

All this being said I kept asking if and when the bubble will burst. As someone said, throughout the country there are thousands and thousands of unoccupied apartments bought for speculation (said one friend, in China the crane is the national bird). Makes for an unstable situation, no?

Service, Small Business and CRM

No one doubts the effectiveness of CRM systems and loyalty programs though for small businesses, the costs of implementation in dollars and human resources can be a challenge. So what’s a small business – be it hotel, restaurant, service provider to do? Here are two examples of the right way and wrong way based on my recent experiences, and then a look at the takeaway.

Two hair salons. Both I’ve been going to for several years. Salon 1: Oribe in South Beach. When the hair stylist is running late they let me know. If there’s a big traffic tie up they give a call. And the best yet, this week I called to make an appointment. First, and unbelieve, the receptionist recognized my voice ( I go every 6 weeks). Then, she asked if I’d like an appointment in the morning, remembering my preferred time. Whenever I walk in, she makes me feel as if I’m coming home.

Salon 2. They have all of the tech stuff – as soon as I make an appointment I get a text confirming it. Then, a day before I get another text and a call (overkill). The problem. When I call they always ask me for my phone number which is in the computer, act as if this is my first time at the salon, and have me spell my name more than once.

Now which salon will I recommend? What’s the takeaway? It’s so important in a service company to have a good receptionist and do whatever to keep him/her so there’s longevity and he/she gets to know the client. Tech goes just so far.

Madigan Pratt, President of MP & A Digital and Advertising who has serious credentials in CRM summed it up. “Today CRM software allows companies with a culture of great customer service to move up to another level. When they do they can achieve a sustainable competitive advantage.

Problem arises when companies think office automation software is the answer to their customer service problems. Staff may know how to push buttons, but do they really know how to empathize a customer? More often than not, the answer is no.

“CRM with a human touch just may be the answer”, he concluded.

Push-Pull on Websites: Brand Identity and Conversion

brand identity

Puli Hotel, Shanghai

My advice to everyone is when developing a new website make sure you have two points of view at the table: representatives from the Branding perspective and the other from Sales/E commerce. You may think that’s obvious, but it isn’t. With so much emphasis now on analytics and ROI, too often brand identity takes a back seat. And, to some extent it’s understandable. A sales message can be immediately measured with clickthroughs, not so branding. What is often forgotten is that everyone who comes to a website isn’t necessarily a buyer. Many have to be “sold” on the product, motivated and inspired enough to want to buy. And how do you do this? Here’s a list of my web brand identity do’s and don’ts:

  • Play up your unique selling propositions. For instance, instead of just showing a sample guest room or suite show the details that make it special, separate it from the pack – the shower, an espresso machine in suite, unusual selection of mini bar items, or even the makeup lighting (e.g. in the Peninsula in Bangkok it’s a wow, never forgot it), etc.
  • Don’t clutter the homepage with too many calls to action on sales or those promotional boxes that scream out for attention (and thus distract the consumer from any emotional response to the images, graphics).
  • No to stock photos. They’ll make you look like everyone else. Plus, we’re living in a time when authenticity is paramount, so make it real and “you”.
  • Give specifics in copy, rather than overloading it with keywords. For instance, list the water sports you offer if you have a resort, nifty things to do that are nearby. And combine that with story telling.
  • To be sure sales conversion is important. You have to make it easy and quick for the traveler to buy so except for maybe a very small, exclusive hotel or resort, the outcome should be a compromise, not a one sided street.

For more on websites, check out my earlier post.

Using Art to Market Hotels

the betsy

Hotels have been using art to appeal to the affluent market for years. I remember when we launched Ritz Carlton Hotels years ago, art in the public areas was promoted as a major amenity, as it would become with many other hotel groups and individual properties. Artists in residence, experiences with art such as the Peninsula Academy’s class in Chinese brush painting, art tours, and even one with the word “museum” in its name (21C Museum Hotel), have all been part of the appeal. But now, especially at the recent Art Basel in Miami, it has been taken to the next level, both in uses in marketing and in reaching out to new audiences.

And that’s not just travel products, but lifestyle in general, brands ranging from American Apparel and Fiat to Maserati, Harper’s Bazaar and Samsung. Publishing, apparel, automotive, beverage, food, they’re all jumping on the bandwagon and in a major way. According to a recent New York Times article, “In Marketing, Art’s the Thing”, they’re using art to reach consumers in their 20’s and 30’s who are already making art part of their lives, as a differentiator in the luxury category, and as a point of reference for relating to the beautiful and artisanal.  Miami hotels chose to wave their flag during Art Basel with popups – from The Newstand at the Standard Spa Miami and all night dining at The Raleigh to cultural events at The Betsy. The Betsy’s tie-ins were especially notable, featuring exhibits in its dedicated visual arts space, programming inviting guests to interact with the artists, and a cause related marketing initiative. Percentage of all works sold is contributed to the Zara Center for AIDS Impacted Youth in Zimbabwe.

Restaurants and bars got into the act with special themed menus like Red Steakhouse’s “Red Basel” and cocktail bar The Broken Shaker serving up drinks with their companion art. Pamela Drucker Mann, publisher of Bon Appetit cited food and art coming together, giving examples of restaurants designed to look like art galleries and “tablescaping”, designing table arrangements or centerpieces. Indeed, art sells.

Blogpost by Karen Weiner Escalera, President & Chief Strategist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Psychographics and Hotel Lifestyle Branding Part 2

Using psychographics rather than demographics (see Part 1) what are the options and new directions in hotel lifestyle branding for the hospitality and cruise industries?

The oldest lifestyle branding route is still through a celebrity recognized in a specific category, primarily food/chefs (Daniel Boulud), golf (Jack Nicklaus), and architecture/design (Philippe Starck).

Major hotel brands like Starwood Hotels and Resorts and IHG are segmenting by special interests. Starwood has been a leader in this over several decades, with its fashion brand (W), wellness (Westin) and the newest, eco-luxury (1Hotel) and entertainment (Aloft). At the same time, they continue to build their straight luxury portfolios, with high end appeal (The Luxury Collection and St. Regis).

Lifestyle brands especially from the fashion world – Versace, Armani, Bulgari, Missoni and others – are creating immersive hotel brand experiences at the high end. In a very interesting development, at the other budget end of the spectrum, Marriott is doing a partnership with IKEA. My prediction: always one to watch, LVMH will use its hotel acquisitions to showcase its full range of lifestyle product lines. Imagine this: you walk into their hotel and are greeted by runway models, offered a glass of Moet et Chandon. Want more? Visit the Moet et Chandon Ice Lounge (already in existence). Choose your fashion suite – Celine, Donna Karan, Fendi, Pucci maybe with Acqua di Parma bath amenities. It’s dinner time and you’re hungry? Head down to the restaurant through the lobby fragrant with the newest perfume from Dior, order a lobster and a glass of Chateau d’Yquem. And before heading home, stop off in the hotel shop and pick up a Bulgari or Chaumet watch as a memento of your stay.

And finally, the newest option is to brand by a niche, special interest category. Examples include the Food Hotel, Divorce Hotel, Women Only Hotel, and the Pet Hotel.  Interestingly enough, most of these have come out of Europe. Marketing associations with a niche such as Design Hotels are yet another choice, also a European invention.

Post by Karen Weiner Escalera, President and Chief Strategist

Psychographics and Hotel Lifestyle Branding Part 1

Branding

Special interests and passions are driving travel decisions more and more, from themed weeks at hotels and cruise ships and tour operator offerings to learning vacations and now, hotel brands. Drivers in travel buying decisions are increasingly about psychographics – behavior rather than demographic determinants.

Let’s take a look first at the traditional “big four” of demographics: gender, age, geography and income and their influence today:

  • Gender lines continue to blur with women taking on more of the traditional role of men and vice versa, and the advent of same sex marriage.
  • Age is also less important. Whether it’s the “coveted” 18-34 males or moms from 25-44, this is an outdated way to target for many reasons. First, people are age shifting and not living lives based on their chronological age. Second, the top end of a demographic (34) has almost nothing in common with the low end (18). Also, age demos leave out influencers and others for whom a message may be relevant. Finally, focusing on age can take you away from emotional or other relevant benefits.
  •  Then we have geography. In this global, highly mobile world, people often spend their lives in multiple cities.
  • Of the four determinants, the only one that is still very important is income, especially at the two ends of the spectrum: budget and high end.  Price will trump passion if you’re on a budget and at the high-end, travelers are reluctant to compromise their comforts and service.

However, these traditional measurements don’t tell you “why they buy”- why consumers would choose one brand over another. Psychographics, or lifestyle and behavioral information are playing a larger role in hotel branding, which was my topic as a panelist for the Urban Land Institute, Southeast Florida/Caribbean chapter, last month. What are some of these options and new directions for the hospitality and cruise industries? Check out the answer in Part 2 tomorrow.

By Karen Weiner Escalera, President & Chief Strategist

Hotel Websites Gone Wrong

 

 

Four Seasons Weddings Website

Four Seasons Weddings Website

Since starting this blog and newsletter on luxury travel and lifestyle trends in 2005, we have always focused on what’s next and new opportunities in travel and lifestyle – all positive. For once we’re making a departure – and writing about something gone wrong. Hotel websites. Granted, we haven’t seen all of the websites in existence, but we’ve seen hundreds. And the overwhelming majority are boring and have obviously used website templates. Speaking about the luxury segment  (the universe of hotels is too large to opine on), most websites have no personality, no point of view, are weak on compelling content, and don’t say “luxury”. So, you say – and are correct to say – what do we think are effective, aspirational websites? Here are some of our current favorites and why:

A special hats off to Four Seasons Hotels for its weddings website. The site reads like an online publication, rich in interesting content, with feeds from various social media channels and a section promoting gift cards.

Peninsula  Hotels – they do contemporary classic and luxury so well: gorgeous images, clean, and with a point of view. Their current campaign is “Glamour Redefined” and the site conveys that.

Standard Hotels – leave it up to Andre Balaz and his team to have a point of view – in t heir case, cool, now, and with its own culture. In fact, “culture” and community are their rallying point.

Le Cheval Blanc – In thinking of whose website to go to, who is always right there on the touch point of luxury lifestyle – LVMH. Sure enough, their website for their two Le Cheval Blanc hotels is stunning. Two full screen images pack an emotional punch as well as the strong  design element and sense of texture. Fabulous.

For an individual hotel, effective for its destination and audience, The Puli in Shanghai’s site gets high marks for sophistication, style, and classic contemporary luxury.

Which hotel websites get your vote?

 

 

Managing Your Personal Reputation Online

 

Newsle.com Home Page

Newsle.com Home Page

The other day I was reading a sad tale of woe in the New York Times about a college student who was charged with a felony but not convicted, and how his mug shot ended up on numerous for-profit internet sites such as Busted Mugshots, Just Mugshots, and Mugshots. The sites obtain photos from public record and keep them online until people pay anywhere from $30 to $400 to have them removed (or in a few cases, sites will allow people to prove they were judged not guilty and the photo is removed).  As you’ve probably heard often, the internet can be your best friend or your worst enemy if you’re not careful. One of the better articles out there which had a solid list of tips was “Tending your Image in an Age of Online Permanence”. The main point of the article was how to push the “good stuff’ about you to the top of Google search.  Here are the highlights:

  • Get on as many online platforms as possible and links as well. Articles, videos on lectures, anything that says “authority” is the best. All this helps your ranking and if there is something negative, pushes down the negative.
  • Buy your name. That includes not just buy yourfirstnamelastname.com, but also .net and .org, and populate each with different content. On .net include your academic history and extracurricular activities and on .org your writings on business or career related subjects.
  • Sent up two accounts to monitor your name: Google Alerts, and  Newsle.com . They’re both free.
  • And once you’ve done this, take the next step to proactively build your reputation by populating these profile sites with the latest information and activities you’re proud of — i.e. a new job, professional accomplishments, extracurricular activities, volunteer work, etc. This will help you professionally in everything from getting a job offer and engagements as an industry panelist to being called upon to be quoted as an authority or source.

For more tips, on getting known as an industry authority, check out our article .

Blogpost by Karen Weiner Escalera, President & Chief Strategist

Next Step in Farm to Table

Round Hill Hotel & Villas, Jamaica photo: modernfarmer.com

Hotels That Farm: Round Hill Hotel & Villas, Jamaica
photo: modernfarmer.com

Fairmont Hotels has its rooftop beehives, more hotels and restaurants their herb and vegetable gardens and buy local, and spas their herb gardens to use in treatments. It’s all part of the rapidly growing farm-to-table movement you’ve read about. Consumers, too, are doing their thing with urban chicken farming, gardening and beekeeping  proliferating across the country. In fact, this has raised issues for municipalities who are relooking zoning. The consumer phenomenon is called the “hobby farmer”, you could say a logical next step in the farm-to-table movement that has fueled a growth in farmers’ markets, community sponsored agriculture and young people going back to the land. To reach out to the market segment of “foodies”, the passionate about farm to table, and would be young farmers, there’s an intriguing new website and magazine  — Modern Farmer. Out since April, it already has a global following in Europe and Australia. I can see why. There are highly original, fascinating articles not covered by any other publication. Former President Bill Clinton contributed an article about the work his foundation is doing with farmers globally, and his memories of helping on his uncle’s farm in Alabama. Categories include food, travel, plants and animals and culture among others. Other articles have included everything from Hotels that Farm and  Farmers’ Market Etiquette to the Boston Design Center getting a 55K square foot rooftop garden, and probably more than you’d ever want to know about goats (a “hot” menu item now….the new lamb?).

Reprinted from www.miamicurated.com