Luxury Travel, Lifestyle and Marketing Trends

Emojis and Icons, Future of Communication

Two billion smartphone users send over 6 billion emoticons or stickers each day around the world on mobile messaging apps according to Swyft Media. They offer the benefit of instantly understandable communication without the barriers of variable written  or spoken language. So it’s not hard to believe that this can be the future of communication.

Indeed, a few months ago I went to the opening of an exhibit by prominent Chinese artist Xu Bing at the Frost Art Museum in Miami. He did a series of works communicating a story entirely with icons, an idea which occurred to him while sitting in an airport and seeing the signs that were meant to communicate in a “global language”.

Getting back to emojis. They have already been discovered by select major brands as an opportunity to participate in a space that has been difficult to penetrate. Plus, as described by Evan Wray, co-founder of Swyft Media in a recent article in Adweek, they offer the benefit of not being viewed as advertising, but as self expression. Earlier this year Ikea launched 100 branded emoticons, or social stickers. Coca Cola in Puerto Rico created 30 they called “emoticoke” and GE, AT &T, Comedy Central and others are also on board.

How to do it? The emoji keyboard (emoticons are emojis expressing emotions), standard on many smartphones, has emojis approved by the Unicode Consortium which can be a difficult process to penetrate. Adweek suggested that brands who want to create their own emoticons and stickers need to make their own apps or partner with messaging apps like Kik, WhatsAPP and Facebook Messenger. Worth it? I definitely say so.

Are you getting on the bandwagon?

PR and Hotel Trends, ROI

In case you missed it, here’s a podcast with agency President and Chief Strategist Karen Weiner Escalera on public relations trends, PR and ROI and travel trends including the niche economy. The interview appeared in www.hospitalitytimes.com.

The link to the 23 minute podcast, click here.

Real People

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The rise of selfies, success of “Real Housewives”, interest in story telling: advertising and magazine covers with real people had to come. And so it has. This fall Redbook will be forgoing celebs and opting for “real” women on its cover. The women are winners of the magazine’s Real Women Style Awards sponsored by Dove. Said an exec in Adweek, “This is just a way to put our money where our mouths are and actually celebrate these women as being just as cool and exciting and inspiring as any celebrity out there”.

And how about advertising? Have you seen the ads for Dolce & Gabbana lately? A comely model next to  Italian grandmothers that could be off the farm or from some small country village (or without the young model as in the image above). There’s also the ad campaign for Celine with 93 year old Iris Apfel who’s stylish and chic, but not your usual demographic for a high fashion brand marketing campaign. So the age barrier is starting to break and how about weight? A major step forward is Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue this year which included plus size models. Plus size women are also more in evidence on national television, in the interview shows.

Interestingly enough, there’s another current, and that’s the recent backlash in France against anorexic models. A debate has been going on in the French Parliament that would set minimum weights for women and girls to work as models as a way to address the serious problem of anorexia. Modeling agencies and fashion houses that employ models whose body mass indexes (BMI) don’t meet certain standards could face criminal penalties. For example, in the index a woman who is 5 feet 7 inches tall would have to weigh at least 120 pounds. Israel already has legislation in place that prohibits the use of underweight and underage models.

And the travel industry? In many cases, it still hasn’t even embraced multi-culturalism and gender diversity in advertising and website images. Fashion almost always leads the way.

High End Bricks and Mortar Retail: Last Man Standing

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All the signs are there in luxury retail trends. Soaring urban real estate costs. Inevitable lifting of rent controls, most recently in Spain. Struggling popular priced malls. Lower middle class and middle class incomes strapped by stagnating wage growth. And add to this the rapid acceleration of online shopping.  In the developed world malls and mom and pop retailers are going away, the pace picking up steam.

What will replace them? For starters, in the short term, more ubiquitous and ever larger emporiums of global luxury brands and shopping centers geared to the affluent and elite affluent. Every summer when I go to Madrid I see it happening – independent fashion boutiques replaced by the names you know. In Miami, it’s starkly apparent. With Brickell’s CitiCentre project by Swire Properties, Miami-Dade County will have four high end shopping destinations – Bal Harbour Shops, Village of Merrick Park, and the Design District. During Art Basel I paid a visit to the new section of the Design District and frankly couldn’t believe my eyes – I thought I was transported to Beijing and the shopping center adjacent to the Opposite Hotel (operated by Swire Hotels).

I wrote “the short term” because I think that longer term, the affluent will be looking for more alternatives to the same global designer fare you find in Paris, London, New York or Shanghai. LVMH, Hermes and others have recognized this, and for awhile a few years back there was talk about going global and thinking local, as in designing products that were more of the place. I think they were on to something big, but there hasn’t been much talk of that recently. Absent this, and there will come a time when the affluent will look elsewhere, which they’re already doing online.

At the same time, the cost of marketing for small, independent retailers used to make business challenging, but now, with social media, promotion for a small budget is in the cards. And how about rents? I predict independent high end retailers will thrive despite the rents, considering the kind of profit margins they enjoy.

But there’s a lesson here too for smart real estate developers. My advice? To sprinkle their shopping centers with unique shops at mid-high price points to not only provide variety, but also, draw in the lesser affluent who can make one time luxury purchases and patronize the restaurants and bars. I read that CitiCentre plans to do this very thing. The shopping part of the project is run by the owners of Bal Harbour Shops. It will be very interesting to see what they do. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

Super Rich, What are they Buying?

G650 Gulfstream, the jet of choice of the uber rich

G650 Gulfstream, the jet of choice of the uber rich

 

A colleague said she developed a high end cooking tour to Italy, 7 days with classes each day and stays in Renaissance palaces. The cost? $10K plus airfare. She said she was concerned that she might not be able to sell it at that price. My advice to her? Charge a lot more and you’ll sell it.

As Robert Frank, chronicler of the top 1% wrote, today there are the “haves and the have mores”. And what’s selling are products and services for the top one-hundredth of the 1 percent. While sales of the smaller, cheaper jets, and 150 to 200 foot yachts have dropped, sales of $65 G650 Gulfstream private jumbo jets and yachts over 250 feet are booming (the largest is now the 590 foot Azzam owned by the president of the United Arab Emirates). A recent article by Frank in the New York Times quoted Jim Taylor, a wealth specialist and managing partner of YouGov, a marketing research and survey firm who said, “ The very wealthy are often the ones pulling the trigger right now, and they have a very big trigger.”

How many are in this financial stratosphere and what’s their fortune? The 16,000 families in this category have fortunes of at least $111 million. And, parenthetically, they’re also buying double digit million dollar condos and houses and art. Not surprising the art world continues to break records. If these ultra rich have to fly commercial – pardon the expression – there are new facilities for them as well. Eithad Airways’ A380 has a $20,000 suite with three rooms and dedicated butler and within no time of its being announced,  its 10 initial flights were booked.

To be sure, this is a limited market in terms of the numbers. But then again, with the markups and commissions to be had, you sure don’t have to sell a lot to make a good chunk of change.

 

 

Culinary Tourism Trends: What’s In and Out

Eat With ; Hummus Brunch with Naama Shefi & Noam Bonnie ; Photo By: Eilon Paz

Make no mistake about it, culinary tourism is booming. It’s now a mature special interest category which brings with it higher expectations for novelty, creativity, and innovative offerings. Cooking and mixology classes, food and wine pairings, and food festivals seem so, well, yesterday. Here’s a look at what was and what’s now.

 

THEN NOW
Cooking classes Behind the scenes with the chef
Wine tastings Hot sauce or other specialty food tastings
Eating local Eating with locals in their homes or outside venues (e.g. mama cooks, eat with a local)
Group food tours Personalized dining itineraries based on food preferences, traveling configurations, budget
World’s Fair with Food Courts Food themed world’s fair (Milan Expo 2015)
Chef driven menus Crowd sourced menus
Dining as party Dining and conversation (“silence is the new luxury”)

 

And in the category of dining trends, it’s important to not leave out gluten free. Any major restaurant has to cater to the needs of gluten free diners. Not only is it expected, but the absence of sensitivity to these special needs loses business and also makes a statement about service.

It’s interesting that in two restaurant visits in Miami in the past 45 days, one to a multi million dollar upscale restaurant operated by an international group, there were only two items on a multi page menu for gluten free. I was with a group of 8 and the diner walked out. In another case, another high-end restaurant, the waiter and kitchen staff had obviously not been trained about this special needs group. Take note!

Photo courtesy of Travel and Leisure

 

Behind the Scenes Travel Experiences

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It’s natural to think, who would be interested in a behind the scenes look at the engine room of a cruise ship? Or a look at the housekeeping department of a hotel? The answer, a lot of people. One of the favorite pastimes of cruise ship passengers at Carnival is the engine room tour.

In this day and age when all surveys point to an interest in travel experiences, certainly up there at the top are opportunities to see what is happening behind the scenes. This works not only for travelers, but also, for luxury brands in particular. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate craftsmanship, artisanry, expertise. A company that really gets the value of this is LVMH. And when they get behind a concept, they go all the way.

Case in point, in 2011 they launched what they called Open Days in which 25 of their brands from Dior to Dom Perignon opened their usually closed ateliers to the public. Tickets were free, but reservations were necessary. As reported in the New York Times, in year one 6,000 spaces allotted for Louis Vuitton’s workshop in Asnieres were taken within 90 seconds of release; for the Christian Dior Couture atelier it took 3 minutes to fill. They wrote, “From Paris to Poland, where Belvedere vodka is based, some 100,000 people attended the first open atelier weekend. Last year, the total was 120,000 and a third weekend is planned for 2015.”

This is obviously a low cost/no cost initiative and one most products and services could be able to do. Love to hear any behind the scenes offerings you do at your firm.

Photo courtesy of www.nytimes.com

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).

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.