For a hammer, everything looks like a nail. The same thing goes for travel professionals who look at marketing and think that there is no difference in how you should sell a discounted last-minute package vs a high-end, curated luxury travel experience. Since we are dealing with the challenge of explaining this difference in our daily work as marketing agency professionals anyway, we thought it would be nice to shed a bit light on why travel agencies, DMCs and tour operators need to adopt a different approach if they want to attract high-net-worth-individuals and stay viable in the future.
The first fallacy is to think that wealthy travelers get inspired and informed the same way regular people do. Regular people will jump on Google, visit a local travel retail office or see an advertisement somewhere on their way from work, on TV, or on their smartphone while using their favorite apps. With affluent travelers, you can safely assume that they are more educated, skeptical, have high standards, are surrounded by what you could call their court or entourage, and definitely are strapped for time. So the best way to approach media buying and advertising in this case is to look for keywords, interests, neighborhoods, magazines, apps, and events that are connected to money, luxury, and philanthropy. But that is only half the effort, to be honest.
Once you generate an affluent click you need to know what to do with it. Do you want to drive brand awareness and trust or a specific call-to-action through an advertorial on a 3rd party website (also called a funnel bridge in direct marketing)? Or would you rather drive affluent visitors to a landing page showcasing a high-ticket luxury travel package that matches the regions they were researching online? Maybe you want to win over an assistant in their inner circle through social media or email blasts? Generating the initial lead that is warm, affluent, has high intent, and is close to booking his or her vacation is an art-form, not a matter of using technology alone.
Every experienced travel agent or luxury salesperson will tell you that how you sell is sometimes more important than what you sell. This definitely applies to luxury tourism marketing across the board as well. When we talk about language in marketing we usually are talking about copywriting. What you say in your ads, on your homepage, in your marketing materials all the way up to how you sell in person in a meeting, will influence the success of your promotion and determine if affluent customers will trust you or not. Trust leads to long-term loyalty, and with these people, that is the ultimate goal to achieve sustainability in your travel business.
But what kind of language do high-net-worth individuals prefer? The key to effective luxury copywriting can be summed up on one word: emotion. Luxury is all about emotions. Utility and price are of no concern. Strong and powerful emotions that luxury travel can leverage among other things are freedom, power, rejuvenation, status, beauty, pleasure, adventure, and catharsis. In Breakthrough Advertising, a classic on long-form copywriting, the author Eugene Schwartz, mentions that the primal purpose of all copy should be to discover and amplify a preexisting desire to incredibly high levels, which, in turn, causes an emotionally triggered purchase decision. The same goes for luxury travel, the desire to experience a truly unique and outstanding vacation has to be nurtured and amplified through smart and sophisticated writing that uses the right adjectives.
In mass-marketing, showing off a couple of pretty pictures of people on a beach, a local landmark or some tasty food will usually do the trick. In luxury, we need to go a bit deeper and and develop a certain style or aesthetic that hits all the right notes, depending on a) what demographic we are selling to, b) which geography they are in, and c) what their cultural bias is. Producing beautiful editorials with gorgeous models in a luxury travel environment is the standard template that a lot of marketers and creatives use in this case. But, in our opinion, it should go deeper than that. Using a racially diverse, highly targeted and culturally informed creative concept as basis for all the photography, video and design work is a must nowadays, if you want to sell to the next generation of luxury travelers. Again, the emotional beats here are very important too, as you can express strong emotions through imagery as well as language.
While regular travelers are used to the cumbersome experience of booking their flights, hotels, restaurants etc. themselves or through OTAs and similar platforms, affluent travelers don’t want any of that hassle or technological barrier to entry. Tech has to be used to enhance and strengthen the relationship between the travel agent and the customer, help the traveler by providing support and information, as well as ease the sales and booking process in the first place. Modern luxury travel agents have to employ video meetings, calendar tools, provide support through messenger and chat apps, and use other tools that can provide everything the traveler need to know about the package in a concise and accessible form (cloud storage, for example, for important travel documents).
A big difference when it comes to mass-marketing vs luxury is also the level of personalization that technology allows. By working with a particular affluent individual or family for a long-time, a smart travel agency can collect a lot of information about their preferences, likes, dislikes etc. which is all extremely valuable data in itself. With a CRM and other programmatic platforms it has become possible to not only provide better, more targeted up and cross sells over time, but also target travelers with similar profiles via a variety of advertising platforms.
Nobody would try to sell a precious luxury watch the same way you would sell a bottle of shampoo. Yet, in travel a lot of marketers don’t differentiate when it comes to targeting affluent travelers vs mass-market discount shoppers. If luxury travel agencies, tour operators and DMCs want to survive the current epidemic and come out strong once the market rebounds, they need to start investing in digital skills, technology and savvy partners now before it is too late! If you need help with navigating this new digital world, fill out our request form and we will call you.