Ritz-Carlton. Omni Hotels. Alaska Airlines. Air Canada. These are the upscale brands that top the recently released JD Power and Associates travel survey. We know that all four of these companies are consistently noted for their customer service. Over-the-top customer service, in fact. The Ritz-Carlton credo says, “The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.”
That’s right. Even the “unexpressed” experience is presented at the Ritz. Pretty ambitious. While customer service is the touchstone of luxury brands offline, there are also some common practices that high-end travel brands share when it comes to digital marketing. We’ve identified four of them that could also be useful to non-travel brands, and even brands that don’t cater to the affluent.
1. Audience Exclusivity: High-end travel brands have no issue targeting a small group of what they know to be their best customers. They have no problems leaving some customers out. They target with precision. For example, Emirates Air will run print marketing campaigns in high-end but relatively small circulation magazines such as The New Yorker. Online they will be just as selective. They have identified the relatively small segments of travel customers that will spend money to fly first class overseas and pay a steep premium for the services offered.
2. Selective Direct Response: Even The Ritz Carlton has empty rooms on occasion. Even Omni has some locations that can use some help on occasion. When high-end travel brands use digital advertising for direct response offers they do so by picking the right partners, whether they’re media partners or corporate partners. The Ritz has several discount and experience packages in conjunction with American Express. It also advertises on niche sites such as AsiaTravelTips.com when it communicates special offers and promotions. Another thing to notice about the way luxury brands do DR: The price is secondary. The experience is primary. Yes the price of the brand is being discounted but the integrity of the brand is not.
3. Big Branding: When travel brands go digital they go big. Many luxury brands that we work with use rich media and rich images, large executions and even customized formats to get the brand image across. When affluent consumers go to content sites or even booking sites, they expect that a brand or destination will at least hint at the experience itself, beyond the typical combination of rich media and static ads.
4. Custom Branding: Many luxury brands like to control their content. There’s a lot to be said for that in the digital space. Omni, The Ritz Carlton, The Four Seasons and most airlines produce a print publication and several digital publications. Links to advertorials are common. Custom brand executions are very creatively done, especially when a luxury brand advertises on a booking site. Customization by type of content site could be utilized by more brands.
Customer experience can extend to advertising. The advertising for a luxury travel brand is the beginning of the experience process for a customer. It can be the same for all brands. Target with precision; customize for content.