Luxury Travel, Lifestyle and Marketing Trends

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.

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.

 

 

4 Trends in the Business of Restaurants

kwe blog le locamerchant-1Not much has happened in the business of restaurants in recent years. I’m talking about innovations other than in the cooking itself or culinary approach, to increase revenues. With the tremendous competition now and rising rents and food costs, we’re finally beginning to see some new, creative ideas that are worth noting. Expect to see a lot more in coming months, especially with Priceline’s recent purchase of OpenTable.  Here are several restaurant trends that have a lot of promise:

!.How to increase covers in the downtimes of 5:30 to 6:30/7? Fine restaurants are trying to make diners feel as if they’re special, going out of their way with attention and service. Restaurants realize they need to overcome the traditional stigma of diners feeling like second class citizens, part of an “early bird special” group.  In addition, all matters of special incentives are being offered, from smaller portions (and prices) of signature dishes and a small bites menu to unique menus such as New York’s Le Cirque offering what they call a heritage menu with items like Dover sole and wild Burgundy Escargots. Read more in “No Shame in a Table at 5:30” in the Wall Street Journal.

2.As the top 1% get richer and the stock market continues on an upward trajectory, demand at the top restaurants in peak hours has been off the charts. New apps have sprung up like Zurvu and Resy that cooperate with restaurants sharing revenue for the most in demand dining times  and access to prime tables (a “commission” from $10 a person to $50 a table).

3.Restaurants hosting a visiting chef from out of town or out of country has been around for a long time. But now there’s a new twist – a visiting local chef.  Harry’s Pizzeria owned by star Miami chef Michael Schwartz hosted a series of themed dinners with Miami colleagues. We’re also seeing several chefs team up to do special dinners at a colleague’s restaurant. The idea? Copromotion which makes a lot of sense.

4.Reservation websites are providing incentives for early bookings. Members of Opentable get more points for booking early time slots and another app. leloca, gives last minute discounts at participating restaurants to users (like the restaurant counterpart to Hotel Tonight).

Emotional Marketing and Music

You can’t help reading these days about emotional marketing —  forging an emotional connection with potential buyers or clients as a key to sales success. Story telling and appealing to the senses are touted as  effective ways (and I concur as you’ve read). In the case of the latter,  incorporating aromatherapy and visual candy (design, art, fashion) into the product and marketing are becoming a “given” with many hotels and lifestyle products. But what about the hearing sense? Some interesting information and data recently crossed my desk . Rightune makes music for websites, 1000 of them right now that are active, as well as online ads and applications. They claim this has increased business by 15 to 20%, the highside being in the hotel, travel and lifestyle industries. Here’s an example of what CEO Erez Perlmuter says is one of the more successful of the sites (click on the name to hear the music):

Europa Hotel 

How does this work?  They customize the music based on branding values, target audience, mood to be created and business goal (e.g.lead generation, purchase, staying time). The client then gets a code snippet to embed on their website which will give a user a playlist. The user’s behavior is tracked and music updated as needed. Clients get a dashboard where they can see what was played and its impact on website business performance. What kind of music works? Not surprisingly, soothing tunes in the morning and more upbeat works in the afternoon.

I asked the obvious question, how do they know how many people to the site don’t like the music? They said on average 4% of visitors mute or lower the volume and 96% stayed longer.  I have to say, I found the music on the Europa Hotel relaxing (he said the music increased their business by 50%). What do you think?

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.

Images for Blogs: Branding and Photography

images for blogs

Just as all employees need to be trained on the importance of how to deal with online reviews, an equal amount of attention needs to be paid to training them on catering to bloggers’ photography needs. As we all know, images affect branding – especially in luxury. But the fact is, we can try to direct, but cannot control, bloggers’ output. And the best way to maximize your visual coverage is to train staff in effective ways to deal with bloggers’ photography and video needs.

Here are four tips:

1. Don’t ban photography.

By doing that, you risk having media decide not to feature you and/or it will create a bad impression. Case in point – I saw a handbag in a Madison Avenue storefront that I wanted to feature on my personal blog. Since images without glass photograph better, I walked inside the store and asked to see the handbag to photograph it. They said corporate policy prohibits photography in the store and that I’d have to call the PR department to waive the policy. The upshot of this? I used the photo taken through the window, not the best quality, so I could post it immediately. This inconveniences a reporter who is  probably on deadline and used to taking pictures — and sharing them with friends — whenever they want.

Besides taking the risk of not being featured in a publication, you also run the risk of missing a captivating image that you hadn’t thought to take. A case in point: as she recently told me, when former USA TODAY hotels reporter Barbara DeLollis took a hard-hat tour of the Capella Washington D.C. with Capella CEO Horst Shulze a year ago, she looked at the large, circular bathtub in the luxury boutique hotel’s premier suite and asked its size so she could tell readers about it. Before someone could respond, she stepped inside the tub and asked GM Alex Obertop to take her picture sitting inside it – in, of course, her suit and heels.

“The tub was so sumptuous that simply stating its dimensions wouldn’t give readers the whole story,” said DeLollis (soon to launch the travel site barbdelollis.com). “Showing them a photo of someone they know sitting inside it was worth 10,000 words. That picture, by the way, generated a lot of comments on social media.”

2. Make it quick and easy for bloggers to obtain images.

Have the staff know where to retrieve images for blogs (ideally online without a password) or, better yet, have them offer to get a particular image the blogger wants sent to him/her. If you know that a writer is on deadline, it would be wise to ask them if they would like you to email them a particular image to save them time. Or, at the least, have business cards for the PR contact/agency ready to be handed out by staff/employees or the list of contacts available at easy access to give to bloggers on the spot.

3. Create USB memory sticks with property or product images for blogs.

If they like the images, they’ll tend to use them rather than take their own. One caveat: Others will insist on taking their own images as they’ll want to express their own voice or take their own pictures because they’re more “real” than generic, touched up images.

4. Plan ahead.

When a press visit is confirmed, be sure that the person – before they arrive – receives a few relevant images (spa, food and beverage, sports, etc., depending on their interests) along with the link to the image gallery. Ideally they’ll have a look before their trip.

Is Instagram the new most powerful social platform?

instagram social media

According to reports by L2’s Intelligence and GlobalWebIndex it is. Both studies account that Instagram is growing faster than any other social media sites worldwide, with an active user base increase of 23 percent over the last six months.

L2, a retail analytics company based in New York, released a new data-driven research that offers insight into influential brands’ investments on Instagram and the platform’s e-commerce potential. GlobalWebIndex’s report, published in January, was based on responses from some 170,000 users across 32 countries.

Due to its extremely high user engagement, Instagram is becoming an important tool for brand marketers. As noted by survey performed by Pew Research – based on data from telephone interviews conducted on August and September last year – over half of users use the app daily, while 35 percent do so multiple times a day.

Instagram users are even interacting with brands that do not have an official presence on the platform. One example is Chanel, which has about 5 million photos posted by users with the hashtag #chanel.

The photo-sharing network’s revenue potential is being explored by many of the world’s top brands. Both luxury brands and mass-market retailers have been taking advantage of the app to generate interest and potential growth in sales. L2 predicts that it will generate $250 million to $400 million in revenue only this year.

Pau Sabria of Oliapic, a New York company that helps brands solicit and publish photos of their products taken by ordinary Instagram users, told the New York Times that by adding user-generated photos to a retail site the number of visitors who turn into buyers increased by 5 to 7 percent and the average order value rose by 2 percent. One of the reasons for the increase, according to him, is that clients can explore how a product looks “in real life” by Instagram users. He affirms that the platform is already generating real revenue for brands, such as some of his clients: American Eagle Outfitters, Lancôme, Coach and West Elm.

One of the reasons for the great success of Instagram might be thanks to the extensive use of mobile handsets for social networking services. Cellphones are now the most popular for access, with an average of 66 percent users compared to 64 percent for PCs and tablets.

Another advantage of Instagram, when compared to platforms such as Twitter and Tumblr, is its visual appeal. While text can be a little harder to absorb, a short video or a photo say it all in a few seconds.

Guest post by Bruna Indalecio

Media trends 2014: celebs and content

Everything seems to constantly change – except the public’s appetite for celebrities. Sometimes it’s just too much, especially when it comes to Justin Bieber these days. But back to the point at hand…..

Celebs images, even “B” list it seems, are front and center in the media who chronicle their every step and, ideally in their eyes, misstep. But that’s nothing new. And now, it seems we’re getting the benefits of their wisdom as magazine columnists as the printed product in particular struggles to keep front and center in the public eye. As recounted in Adweek in article “It’s Written in the Stars”, this month kicked off A list celebs picking up the pen for magazines from Brides and Vanity Fair to Redbook, InStyle and Glamour. 

The lineup includes Drew Barrymore on beauty for Brides, Pippa Middleton on a guide to watching rugby for Vanity Fair, Alison Sweeney for Redbook, Q &A for InStyle with Diane von Furstenberg, and Girls’ Zosia Mamet for Glamour.  Does it build readership? The jury is still out but results are promising. Actress Olivia Wilde’s “The Dos and Don’ts of Turning 30” was among the top 10 most shared stories of 2013 on Glamour.com.

 

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Using Art to Sell Real Estate

faena development miami

The latest luxury real estate trend: high end condo developers have found the perfect new amenity — art, and they’re using it to generate buzz, separate themselves from the competition, and for community relations, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal.  New York and Miami developers are leading the pack in this innovation.One of the more creative uses of art is to make friends in the neighborhood before the building’s opening by holding a monthly tour of area galleries.  For instance, the lobby turns into an art gallery every six weeks at 350 Bleecker in New York’s West Village, complete with an opening party for 50 to 75 people and actual sales of the art. An invite to a potential client becomes a social event and time for bonding.

Probably the boldest initiative is from Argentine hotel and real estate developer Alan Faena (hotels in Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro) who is building a $100 million exhibition space called Faena Arts Center by starchitect Rem Koolhaas that will make the development (pictured here), which includes a hotel, a cultural destination. It will feature art exhibits and dinners with visiting artists. The Faena Group also sponsors an annual art award with $75,000 in prize money ,and commissions original work as well. Also in Miami, the new Oceana Bal Harbour has commissioned $14 million in art from mega artist Jeff Koons. After five years, the art can be sold upon an 80% majority vote of homeowners. Similarly, at the Ritz Carlton Residences in Chicago, buyers of apartments selling for $1 to $11 million will get a share of a half million dollar art collection. They can choose to change it or sell it and split the proceeds. It will be fascinating to see how this plays out as, though it’s a noble effort, if you’re ever been on a condo board you know how contentious even the smallest thing can be.

The Future of Print and Broadcast Media

mc cherry bombeAt an HSMAI presentation I gave to the South Florida chapter early last year I was asked about the future of print and broadcast media. I answered that there will always be a place for print, though it will become a niche medium, much as books published by the likes of Assouline and Taschen. And sure enough, in a recent issue of Departures magazine, a news short entitled “Defying the Digital Age, One Issue at a Time” discussed new niche titles that are charging as much as $72 for four issues. Most charge no less than $25 or $35 for two issues a year, so they can profit on the subscription side versus the special deals I’ve been getting from mass market, upscale magazines charging $1 a copy. These new titles include Lucky Peach, the new baby of Momofuku celebrity chef David Chang; Cherry Bombe, featuring beautiful women making gourmet fare; and Man of the World, Alan Maleh’s “tribute to an all American lifestyle, handmade and rough shaven”.

Similarly in broadcast, consider a franchise like TV sports. What is the business strategy of behemoth ESPN? To dominate the field exclusive of the niche channels like golf (Golf Channel), tennis (Tennis Channel), etc. Likely though, that if and when these niches become really big, they’ll buy them out. Let’s see what happens with the WWF’s new wrestling channel.

Blogpost by Karen Weiner Escalera, President and Chief Strategist