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The New Rules for Luxury

Samantha Strawford and Jocelyn Betts, Brand and Corporate Communications Directors at Belmond

In the second in our series profiling Britain's luxury marketers and communicators ahead of the Walpole Festival of Luxury Marketing, we meet Belmond's Comms Directors Sam Strawford and Joss Betts to discover how the LVMH-owned travel and hotel business is weathering the Covid chaos, the innovative marketing campaigns the brand has initiated during lockdown, and why we should consider the 'new normal' to be the 'temporary abnormal'.
29th Jul 2020
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The New Rules for Luxury  Samantha Strawford and Jocelyn Betts, Brand and Corporate Communications Directors at Belmond
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How has your approach to marketing evolved following the Covid-19 outbreak? Or has it remained the same, and if so why?

Throughout the global Covid-19 pandemic, we have completely recalibrated our marketing communications as we have been careful to tune into ever-changing consumer mindsets and sensitivities. We ourselves had a very human reaction to the events taking place around us, and we really felt the importance of communicating the right content with the right tone at the right time.

At the same time, a crisis gives rise to innovation and creativity and is a chance to take a look at what still remains relevant with shifting consumer motivations. As the situation has remained fluid around the world, we have also had to be agile in our response to the crisis - making sure our tone and language remains sensitive while finding new ways to support, connect and entertain those in our brand community.

From the outset of the crisis, when the world of travel was put on pause, we  expanded our brand presence online and developed 'Belmond Invitations' and our Digital Care Packages - with at-home content to nourish mind, body and soul while our guests could not travel. This also allowed us to stay connected with our guests during this unsettling time and provide them with a sense of luxury escapism. At the same time, we were able to reach new audiences through our social and digital platforms and we saw an increase in followers during this time.

As we evolved through the crisis , we created a campaign titled 'Tomorrow Time' - a travel pass to the future - in response to the growing desire among our followers to make forward-looking travel plans and keep the dream of travel alive. Then, as parts of the world have begun to re-open and we focus on domestic and regional travel in the first instance, we have created hyper-localised marketing campaigns, working with local voices to tell the story of our destinations from personal point of view - such as the launch of 'My Love Letter to Italy' by Francesco Carrozzini - a personal reflection on his home land and what it means to be an Italian.

We have also tapped into the desire for reconnecting with simple pleasures and a nostalgia for fond memories. When consumers are thinking about returning to travel, they want to cherish those moments of honest luxury - the feeling of sand in their toes, the sun on their skin, surrounded by beauty and nature - they don't need clever marketing campaigns - they want purity and simplicity and they want to return to brands that they trust. This is what we have tried to capture with our new UK campaign - a nostalgia for balmy days of summer with 'Slow Summers' by Belmond, journeys and escapes throughout the UK.

What in your opinion, are the ‘new luxury marketing 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.

Despite the practical need for more digital content, human connections and personalisation will become more important. Digital content allows brands to continue to connect with audiences whilst they can't physically be within their presence, and this will continue to be an important part of the marketing mix but we will also need to develop more personalised digital content to demonstrate an understanding of our consumers' needs. Our language and tone will need to continuously evolve and respond to the shifting news agendas and mindsets - knowing when is the right time for playful content, escapism and entertainment and balancing this is with sensitive and nourishing content.

Luxury brands will always offer an avenue to escapism, however, we cannot lose sight of the larger role we can and should play in society - our unique position and growing platform allows us to lead by example and respond with agility.
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If you are responsible for the marketing and communications function of a Walpole member brand and would like to share your thoughts, please contact Jenni Rayner.