Luxury Travel, Lifestyle and Marketing Trends

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.

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.

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

 

 

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 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

Novel Way to Communicate Quality Message

kwe lecole3

 

Luxury retailers are turning to offering apprenticeships for a day or less in a new twist on communicating quality, artisanry and detail that goes into making the pricey goods, one of the new luxury retail trends. Two of the more innovative programs include Van Cleef & Arpels’ L’Ecole in their 18th century mansion in Paris. They offer classes in three areas: History of Art, Universe of Gemstones and Le Savoir Faire. In the latter series, “Admiring Uniqueness and Team Craftsmanship”, participants create a mock up by painting a design in gouache, cut wax to make a model and practice ways of working with metal for the setting. Sessions start at $800 for four hours depending on the class. Patek Philippe in its New York office offers half day classes by invitation only, including insights into the craft of watchmaking and hands on instruciton. For instance, students put the Tiffany & Co logo on Patek dials using an antique stamping machine. Then they look through high tech microsopes to look at the inside of a Patek Grand Complications. It’d be interesting to know how many pieces of jewelry and watches are sold to participants after the classes.

 

 

Hotel Shopping Takes a Leap

We’ve come a long, long way from hotel shops as just a place for guests to buy needed or forgotten toiletries and beach items. The first major change was the advent of  shops with curated fashion and jewelry that made a statement about guests’ style and budget as in what would a Peninsula Hotel guest wear? A “W” hotel guest? Later came fashion exclusively designed for the hotel or resort that made a statement about pedigree and the kind of company the resort keeps (as in Christian Louboutin’s espadrilles for One and Only Palmilla). For the Clinton Hotel in South Beach we came up with the idea of a room service lingerie menu which fit in  with our positioning of the hotel being sensual, seductive, with a French touch. Or for the former Regent Bal Harbour, we offered a fashion emergency button on a mobile phone where guests could dial up a dress or suit for the evening from Neiman Marcus. Now, according to the New York Times,  the St.Regis Bal Harbour Resort in Miami Beach has taken this to the next level. When guests check into the hotel they find a closet stocked with clothing that personal shoppers have chosen with them in mind. The clothing is selected by a shopping team at Neiman Marcus based on an online questionnaire guests fill out specifying their  favorite style icons such as the “Mad Men” character Betty Draper. The James Hotel in New York offers something similar: guests find a box of accessories by New York designers chosen by celebrity stylist Mimi Lombardo. And payment? If an item is missing, it’s considered a purchase.

Countdown: #4 Travel & Lifestyle Trends in a Social Media World

And we’re halfway there! Today’s post is the fourth in our weekly series of counting down our top 8 social media trends in marketing and public relations….trends we’ve identified to be important parts of every marketing / public relations pro’s tool kit. We study latest consumer marketing research in order to find out more about current consumer attitudes and habits and how this impacts the travel, hospitality and luxury lifestyle industries.

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Countdown #3 : Travel & Lifestyle Trends in a Social Media World

Since 2008, the majority of consumers had to tighten their belts, but in the process, they discovered they could live without so much “stuff.” So when they do venture out to buy, they want a retail experience, an outing that’s about more than a purchase. Alfred Dunhill’s new store in London, is a 3 story “home” that offers shopping, dining and grooming, plus a movie viewing room and old-fashioned men’s club.

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