It has become one of the most powerful business tools in the world, but surprisingly social media is often overlooked as a vital contingent to a successful business strategy. When it comes to social media in the superyacht industry, few would argue that it is being used to its full potential and many are confused as to how to optimise the tool in light of the confidentiality agreements that entwine the industry.

During The Superyacht Design Forum, we called on the expertise of two influencer marketeers and social strategists and a superyacht influencer to explain how companies within the superyacht industry can excel in this vital area and use it to amplify their exposure and ultimately grow their business.

“The branding that I often see in the yachting industry is very functional, there is often a focus on the specifications and specifics of a yacht, which is still very important,” begins Chris Donnelly, founder and CEO of Verb Brands, one of the leading luxury digital agency for fashion, hospitality and lifestyle brands. “But, look at someone like Bugatti or Ferrari and how they sell the brand, they call upon the history, the heritage and what makes that brand what it is, which is incredibly powerful.”

"Look at someone like Bugatti or Ferrari and how they sell the brand, they call upon the history, the heritage and what makes that brand what it is, which is incredibly powerful.”

- Chris Donnelly, founder and CEO, Verb Brands

It would seem that many companies in the superyacht industry focus only on posting pictures of yachts on Instagram, which can work well of course, but there are more intelligent ways to approach social media in order to engage the correct audience.

“A lot of brands, traditionally are trying to sell their products really deeply, and that is not necessarily what consumers are after,” says Ben Jeffries, CEO and co-founder of Influencer, a data-driven platform that connects brands with influential content creators.

“It is much more important to bring them on a journey with you and focus on the lifestyle element, especially in the luxury markets,” Jeffries continues. “That is what Ferrari really do, they sell a lifestyle, even if it’s not people actually advertising a Ferrari, they are advertising experiences which are connected to the brand.”

Due to the countless confidentiality clauses surrounding the yachting market, many find it difficult to showcase their work on social media. But as Donnelly and Jeffries explain, there are many ways to work around this, from focusing on the lifestyle element, connected experiences or just a few details of a project.

Due to the countless confidentiality clauses surrounding the yachting market, many find it difficult to showcase their work on social media. But as Donnelly and Jeffries explain, there are many ways to work around this.

“When companies ask us to come on board, the brief that we get from the majority of brands is to reposition them away from obvious product selling, towards building that lifestyle element,” offers Donnelly. “We work with a lot of high-end jewellery brands, like Boodles for example, where we [create] a lifestyle and what it means to be part of that brand and to be a Boodles customer.”

As Donnelly explains, when people buy into the lifestyle element of a brand it can be really successful sales technique and benefit the band exponentially.

“In the industry we often see a helicopter shot, a photo of the bow looking up, or a woman on the front of the boat looking out to sea,” observes Matthijs Rhee, owner of the @MrSuperyachts Instagram account and superyacht broker. “Most accounts don’t show the family hanging out together, or swimming, but this obviously links back to the confidentially clauses.”

One of the examples used in the discussion is Red Bull, which has done exceptionally well by linking itself to other areas, giving the brand maximum exposure. “They very rarely ever advertise what the actual product is, but they attach themselves to experiences,” says Jeffries. “People then genuinely think that when you have Red Bull they are part of all these experiences around them, which is what brands should really be adopting, especially in the luxury market, when you are trying to stand out.”

Many are under the impression that the target market in the superyacht industry, i.e. the owners, wouldn’t engage with a company’s social media channels. However, this may be all about to change, as Jeffries explains.

“What is predicted to occur in the next ten years id the biggest generational shift in wealth that has ever happened,” he says. “You have an unbelievable level of wealth that is being transferred from parents to children, and those children are the most digitally savvy people on the planet. They have had all the technology from the youngest age and are completely capable of interacting with all those channels. It debunks all these theories that the UHNWIs won’t be on these channels, because they will be.”

“You have an unbelievable level of wealth that is being transferred from parents to children, and those children are the most digitally savvy people on the planet."

- Ben Jeffries, CEO and co-founder, Influencer,

So, what can you really do with social media as a company bound to a confidentially agreement?

“What we try and do is communicate that we understand a certain style and a certain value,” says Donnelly. “if you were a designer for example, you would try to seduce someone in to thinking that you understand style and you get how design and products work rather than showing the finished product. The communication of style in the side shots and corner shots can convey something really well without giving away the final picture. Sometimes it’s actually better not to reveal all of something as it can be more seductive.”

“we would typically sit down with a brand and identify what they are hoping to achieve by having social media. Adds Jeffries. “It’s like what you would define if you were building a website. We would ask what the brand is hoping to hoping for consumers to see when they first visit. Then we would build a strategy, which would convey which group are we going to target to actually come to the site. We have a platform that helps to target very niche audiences so we could tell you which influences have audiences that are fans of Rolex for example."

“These car brands have entire teams dedicated to social media. But in most cases in the yachting industry, it’s someone just doing it on the side of their actual job.”

- Matthijs Rhee, owner, @MrSuperyachts and superyacht broker

As explained by the panel, the potential that social media holds for companies it far too great to ignore. “These car brands have entire teams dedicated to social media,” says Rhee. “But in most cases in the yachting industry, it’s someone just doing it on the side of their actual job.” Often the social media responsibility is just handed over to the youngest person in the room, even if they have no experience in the area.

The opportunity of social media is vast and there is so much that brands in the superyacht industry could be doing to improve its social media standing. Even when it comes to the subject of confidentiality, as the panel explains, there are many ways to get around this issue and even use it as an advantage.


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