New research from both Ipsos Mendelsohn and the Luxury Institute display similar trends regarding an emerging luxury market segment: the affluent family. Starwood/St. Regis and Ritz-Carlton have re-sculpted their branding messages in order to attract this group among others, and membership sales of Exclusive Resorts. ER is the largest Destination Club in the world, with approximately 3,400 members. Their new member sales were up 60% in the first six months of 2011, versus the first six months of 2010. A major portion of their member-base is the affluent family.
Also, according to this research, the affluent family has now emerged as a major marketing segment, due in part to changes observed in the contemporary family dynamic. Purchasing decisions are no longer made by the head of house, but are largely discussed and influenced by the children, especially in the digital and mobile areas. Mature affluents are looking to their tech-savvy kids for advice on electronic products like mobile phones, tablets and laptops or computers. Children also have become heavy influencers on vacation locations.
The Luxury Institute?s Wealth Report for September 2011 mirrors many of these findings. The top two luxury categories in which the wealthy indicate plans to spend more are travel (18%) and technology (16%). Driven by the success of the iPad and numerous smartphones, plans to boost tech spending are up from 13% who indicated they would be spending more last year.
Private jet travel has become more popular also, with 12% of respondents planning to boost spending, compared to 9% in 2010. The Luxury Institute surveyed wealthy U.S. consumers earning at least $150,000 per year about attitudes toward luxury goods and services and future spending plans. Two luxury hotel brands, those who historically cater to both the ultra affluent and high-end travel have recently changed their messaging, possibly to attract more of this emerging segment.
At Starwood Luxury Collection hotels, that includes the St. Regis brand, their first new branding campaign in three years encompasses the theme of discovering unique experiences for its guests. The advertisements showcase what a travel experience looks like for a Luxury Collection guest through various photographs in an affluent consumer?s home, with the motto "Life is a collection of experiences. Let us be your guide."
Also, in a move toward enhancing the positive, memorable experience of the guest, Ritz-Carlton has created a new marketing concept, as it now suggests to its guests to let the brand "stay with them." With the new campaign, the Marriott-owned hotel chain invites consumers to create memories in Ritz-Carlton properties around the world that will stay with guests long after they leave the hotel. The "Let Us Stay With You" film is already being featured on the branded Ritz-Carlton website as well as on its Facebook page.
In both cases, the focal evolution appears to have moved from outer to inner, instead of externals, stories of hotel histories and their locations, the focus has moved to a deeper dimension: the experience of the guest(s), their needs and wants, and how these luxury brands can fulfill them, creating unique memorable experiences.
Finally, it is important to mention Destination Clubs. I have written about this industry since its inception. This industry has had its ups and downs in the past years, but Exclusive Resorts has emerged as its largest and arguably most visible representative. Like all of destination clubs now extant, Exclusive Resorts has consistently catered to the affluent family and their travel needs. This year, as a validation point to the previous research mentioned, Exclusive Resorts? growth YTD through June 30, 2011 in new membership sales were up 60% over the same period in 2010. They have added three new destinations this year at St. Andrews, Scotland, Doonbeg, Ireland and Montage, Deer Valley, and have partnered with Delta Air Lines and Delta Private Jets.
And, next week, members will learn about the new accessible events for 2012 that include The Super Bowl, The Final Four, New York Fashion Week, The Daytona 500 and more. ER?s logo is, "There?s No Place Like Together." Seems to fit well with the current research.