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Obviously, Skift is not in favor of suppressing speech. But we, along with many experts in the field of high-end branding, do think that certain terms have passed their usefulness.
Anyone who has any knowledge of travel marketing is all too familiar with hackneyed clichés such as “hidden gem” or “something for everyone.” Well, luxury travel has its own set of overused chestnuts.
Let’s start with the word luxury itself.
“True luxury whispers, it doesn’t need to come into the room and scream. In marketing the concept, there should be nuance in tone and language,” said Stewart Colovin, executive vice president and chief creative officer at MMGY Global.
One such nuance — avoiding use of the word ‘luxury” as a descriptor.
“If you define yourself as luxury, you’re not luxury,” said Jacques-Olivier Chauvin, CEO of Fauchon Hospitality who formerly worked at Louis Vuitton.
“At Louis Vuitton, luxury was a word that was actually banned. Sales people were not allowed to use that word. We wanted them to focus on creativity, legacy, quality.”
Once companies start overusing the word luxury, it demeans the concept to the point where it becomes a commodity.
The Luxury Marketing Council calls itself a global thought leader in high-end marketing. Chris Olshan, the organization’s CEO, thinks the word luxury is both overused and misused.
“Luxury used to be about classicism, tradition or what was rare,” he said. “Nowadays, though, rare and bespoke (cliché alert), in a world of 3-D printing, is not necessarily luxury. If luxury products should be characterized by something today, it should be about being at the forefront of creativity.”
Interestingly, though, there’s very little creativity in word usage when it comes to the sector’s marketing efforts. MMGY’s Colovin has a list of overused terms including “curated, award-winning, exclusive, bespoke and sophisticated.”
“Most luxury travel brands, in trying to show how they are different, use the same criteria. Everyone talks the same way as everyone else. So, they end up sounding like they are all the same,” he said.
Barak Hirschowitz is president of the International Luxury Hotel Association. The group is a forum for luxury hoteliers to share information.
Annually, Hirschowitz notes with a touch of humor, the group opts to “ban certain words that have been overused in previous years.” Among the terms that it has “embargoed” recently are personalization, millennials, loyalty, sense of place and experiential.
Marketing “experiences” is another concept that sticks in Chauvin’s craw. “Experience – this is a word that has been overused. Crossing Madison Avenue is an experience; boarding an airplane is an experience. I much prefer the word memory. What do you retain 10 years later? What sticks in the memory? A collection of memories makes you who you are. Luxury hospitality should be positioned as a memory creator.”
Then there’s the dreaded ‘resort fee,’ an idea which the marketers say is antithetical to the luxury ethos.
“Resort fees are not in the spirit of luxury. There’s more and more pushback about nickel and diming. A la carte costs make the consumers’ heads explode. If you are luxury, just put it all in one price and make the price extremely high,” said Olshan,
ILHA’s Hirschowitz agrees. “If you make them break out their credit cards, you are wasting your guests’ time,” he said
“Anything that creates a negative experience for a guest is not luxury. If you need the extra money, build it in the price upfront.”
In considering alternative words to use to frame the luxury conversation, Colovin points out that affluent travelers don’t always identify themselves as luxury travelers.
“So, in using certain terms, I wonder if we are doing a disservice that it turns people off. When they use these words…who are the luxury marketers talking to? Are they just trying to outdo the other luxury brands? They certainly aren’t talking to the traveler; they aren’t speaking the language of the people they are marketing to.”