Can we really achieve social status just by traveling? It wasn’t that long ago when the well-to-do went straight for purchasing (and showing off) expensive new possessions. Want to get a leg-up on the neighbors? Buy a new Mercedes or Rolex or Gucci purse. But there’s only so many pairs of Louboutins a person can buy before needing something “more.”
In comes living through experiences, and almost crucial to this trend, social media. Today, it’s all about letting your friends and followers see where you are that they aren’t. Travel and experiences have become today’s social currency. And businesses are catching on, tapping into the experience trend and curating marketing strategies to cater to consumers.
When it comes to reaching that well-off community in the most successful way possible, think about these three things — curated content, showing off, and going beyond social influencers.
Keep the Curated Content Coming, But Be Careful
Posting from exotic destinations (and the more frequent, the better) says you’ve got the discretionary income and the time to live a life of leisure. Most days we don’t see posts on Facebook or Instagram of something one of our friends purchased, like a car or new purse. But nearly every day we see a post of a stunning ocean sunset, a spectacular resort pool, or view from the top of a mountain — all geo-tagged from where the picture was taken. This type of social activity opens the door for brands to embrace travelers’ newfound love of sharing travel experiences through these nearly real time posts.
In many ways, it’s been this way for years. The sharing was just different. As a young boy, I remember my parents dragging my sister and me over to the neighbors to see slides from their trip to the Grand Canyon. A movie screen was set up in the living room and for hours we were subjected to slides and stories from their two-week road trip.
Fast-forward 40 years, and now, through social media we’re still subjecting our friends to our vacation photos. Savvy travel brands learned that utilizing photos taken by travelers with substantial followings can help them increase their own status. Luxury hotel and cruise brands often build entire marketing campaigns around guest-generated content. Talk about increasing your own social status.
Tap Into Experience
Thinking bigger than typical social content, brands should think more like travelers themselves. Use the trend to your advantage. Maybe that’s offering a checklist for guests to complete when they check in to their hotel or a checklist of the top Instagram-able spots in an obscure European city.
One company that has embraced travel as a new social currency is Expedia. While it’s often considered a more budget-friendly deal finder, it has reaching affluent travelers down. In 2013, Ogilvy and Mather UK launched the “Travel Yourself Interesting” campaign, ultimately a campaign built around the insight that travel can be a conduit for personal progress. Supported by print, OOH, mobile and Twitter activation, the campaign has driven strong results and won awards.
Using humor, Expedia’s campaign brings to life the elevation a person experiences post-trip. A coworker is suddenly the boss’ new favorite employee through sharing stories from abroad. A horse trainer’s assistant is no longer the laugh of the stable because he’s been to New York and has pictures to prove it. Ordinary people become extraordinary (or at least more interesting) through travel.
Go Beyond Influencers
It is obvious that travel has become a competition of sorts, we see that every day on our own social channels, and it’s up to luxury hotel and travel brands to think beyond that. Travelers are aiming to visit as many undiscovered places as they can before friends even know the place exists. All along the journey, posting and updating as visual evidence of your achievement. It is no longer enough to hit the classic destinations — today’s luxury traveler has “been there, done that.”
Tourism infrastructure has expanded the globe with hotels (or luxury safari tents) and restaurants (real or pop up) in exotic locales. Smart brands understand this insight and go beyond social influencers to spread content and experiences and stimulate interest.
Undoubtedly, travel has always been about experiencing new destinations, meeting new people and becoming more personally enriched. Social channels have given us a newfound relationship with the brands we experience along our travel journeys and have created a social currency travelers use to elevate their own social status.
Travelers who’ve already achieved this status know there’s no better feeling than hitting the open road in a new Mercedes, but they might stay a little quiet, too busy enjoying that drive. Now it’s the time for brands to give that feeling to the luxury travelers who crave it. Use social to your advantage, tap into the trend and let your future consumers know it’s your brand that will give them the perfect Instagram post, with maximum likes.
Editor's note: This article originally appeared on Aug. 31, 2016, in Engage:Affluent.