Our final 'spotlight' for today is on Belmond's Samantha Strawford, who will also join the Black Tomato team during next week's Festival to discuss how the luxury travel brand adapted to the global pandemic - and how, with all of their properties closed, the team had to find new and innovative ways to reach their guests while they were unable to travel.
How have the events of 2020 impacted on how your brand or business communicates with your customers?
At the very start of the global pandemic, with all of our properties closed, we had to find ways to reach our guests whilst they could not travel to us. We were quick to develop a lot of online programming on social media - addressing the need for cultural enrichment and entertainment (edu-tainment). We have had such a positive response from our guests to our new and increased digital experiences that we will be continuing to develop these further for now and into the future, developing content that transcends the need for properties to be open or not. This enables us to connect with our guests whilst they cannot travel, but it also allows us to reach new audiences, those who wouldn't normally access Belmond, in a way this period of time has helped us democratise the brand.
As our customer landscape has changed due to the continued travel restrictions, we have had to develop hyper-localised marketing campaigns and have sought out local experts to tell very personal stories about a destination, such as the launch of 'My Love Letter to Italy' by Francesco Carrozinni. Because in the current times, and for the foreseeable future, we have to focus on domestic and regional travel and we have to re-imagine how we tell our stories. We feel the best people to tell the story of a destination are those with a deep emotional connection.
What has been the biggest marcomms lesson you have learnt since March?
Just how important it is to tune into shifting mindsets and to have the confidence to change plans, to be agile and responsive, knowing when is the right time for playful content, escapism and entertainment and balancing this with sensitive and nourishing content.
It is only by listening to what our consumers want and what the industry is saying that we can be sensitive to ever-changing news agendas and respond with 'in-tune' communications. It is not ok to carry on as normal, consumers want brands to behave with authenticity and honesty.
What do you believe are the ‘new marketing luxury rules’ for the ‘new normal’?
We've been trying to avoid the term 'new normal' based on our desire for this to be more of a 'temporary abnormal' - however, there is a definite shift for luxury marketing following this crisis as consumers recalibrate what is important to them. Consumers will make decisions based on trust and will spend with a brand that aligns with their own values - the issue of sustainability has rightly risen up the agenda and brands need to demonstrate good corporate citizenship, doing the right thing in the world for people and the environment.
We have also seen a desire for simple luxuries, a nostalgia for fond memories - a need to seek out reassurance and comfort of the trusted and familiar. We have moved from pre-pandemic indulgence and celebrations with parties full of jet-set glamour to a much more subdued appreciation for the simple pleasures of life - as a brand, we have adopted a more gentle tone in our communications to reflect this shifting sentiment.
We have often referred to Belmond a 'cashmere blanket' - a warm embrace within the arms of timeless luxury in a world of constant change - and we have rolled out that warm embrace offering hope and reassurance with our communications.
What can we look forward to hearing you discuss this September?
How to pivot your plans - to quote Dr Kathy Sullivan, Astronaut and Oceanographer - 'A plan is nothing, but planning is everything'.
Have the confidence and agility to make changes - no one knows your brand like you do. Times of crisis can see the emergence of great creativity - now is an opportunity to innovate and pioneer new ways of communicating.
What headline insights will you be sharing?
Purpose and meaning should be at the heart of everything you do - we not only have the opportunity, as luxury brands, to offer a sense of escapism, but a duty to act as guardians of heritage and champions for a more sustainable future.