American Marketer

Events / Causes

Changing marketing sphere is biggest challenge for small luxury brands: Exec

September 20, 2013


NEW YORK - An Auberge Resorts executive at the Luxury Retail Summit: Holiday Focus 2013 Sept. 18 said that the hotel chain's small size allows it to swiftly enact changes and develop stronger relationships with its guests.

Rather than exerting energy and expending resources on rapid global expansion, Auberge prefers to cultivate the reputation of its nine current properties. In doing so, the brand is able to build enduring relationships and retain the exclusive aura that is sometimes forfeited by other luxury brands.

“The biggest challenge for a small team is keeping up with the changing marketing sphere," said Caroline MacDonald, senior vice president of marketing for Auberge Resorts, Santa Monica, CA.

"But also for a small team, it is easy to adapt," she said. "We know our clients and we know what their behaviors are, so that is what we focus on.

“We are a small company and we have the luxury of knowing many of our customers intimately. We do a lot more personal content.”

Luxury Daily produced the Luxury Retail Summit: Holiday Focus 2013.

Adapting briskly

Auberge's small portfolio allows it to track and implement changes on a brand-wide scale relatively quickly, according to Ms. MacDonald. Also, the small luxury hotel operator can quickly deploy mobile applications than synchronize properties.

The brand does not have to contend with subtle cultural sensitivities due to its sole presence in North America.

Panel at the Luxury Retail Summit: Holiday Focus 2013 Sept. 18

Similarly, each property can become adept at handling the cultural preferences of its local environment.

Luxury hotels that dabble in the native cuisine, explore the surrounding area and delve into the local culture will stand out to consumers and help the properties get ahead of their competitors since these packages provide experiences that cannot be emulated elsewhere.

Since luxury consumers are known to research their trips and hunt for exclusive experiences, putting together well-curated packages that immerse guests in new realms may boost the number of bookings. Investigating the nuances of the local culture and environment is becoming more popular and should not be overlooked when trying to attract guests (see story).

Auberge invests heavily to create opportunities on site to ensure that guests have fresh activities to do when they return.

Napa Valley Festival del Sole at Auberge Calistoga Ranch, CA

Spreading awareness

To boost awareness for the brand, Auberge concentrates mainly on print advertising.

“We do a lot with print and we probably do a lot on the PR side," Ms. MacDonald said. "So, again, it’s really looking at what channels our guests are looking at and what makes the most sense for us to invest in.”

However, Ms. MacDonald emphasized the inimitable power of word-of-mouth. If the chain's consumer base is spreading positive messages about the brand, it impacts more prospective guests than other forms of advertising.

The best way to influence word-of-mouth promotions is by personalizing every trip.

During one initiative, Auberge invited guests to entertain their daring side with a slew of new adventure-themed experiences at its properties in the United States and Mexico.

Each Auberge Adventure has been custom-tailored to make the most of each property’s natural surroundings, culture and history. The adventures vary from fitness to cultural experiences and include activities such as twilight dog-sledding and a wine country photo tour (see story).

Since many of its chain's loyalists have families, the brand generally has strong turnouts during the holidays.

“The holidays for us are always full," Ms. MacDonald said. "For instance, we book about 50 percent of our holiday traffic right after they depart.

“We’re fortunate because we’re not just a holiday transaction, we’re very seasonal," she said.

Final take
Joe McCarthy, editorial assistant on Luxury Daily, New York