Where only superlatives count
Why homogenised language is a by-product of high standards and few limitations…
I recently wrote an article entitled ‘Super, mega, giga, tetra’ that explored the various distinctions we rightly or wrongly draw between superyachts. As it happens, people had some pretty strong and differing views on the use of these prefixes and internally it raised some more questions about the language that we use as an industry and whether or not the use of said language is effective in honestly promoting the full scope of superyachts and experiences available to buyers and guests.
In a break with convention, I am going to start with a conclusion. I believe that the superyacht market is far more diverse than some give it credit for, and I must admit that in the past I have probably been guilty of this myself. The notion that superyachts all just look the same is patently untrue and we know for a fact that superyacht experiences are becoming more unique as more and more options become known and available to superyacht owners and guests. However, I do not feel that this breadth of product, services and experiences is necessarily showcased effectively through our marketing or rhetoric.
We used to joke in the office that if you selected a number of buzz words, wrote them out and attached them to a darts board, with three darts you would be able to create a relatively strong set of terms for marketing a superyacht or superyacht brand. Words like design, bespoke, timeless, excellence, tradition, quality, luxurious, unique, engineering, elegant, contemporary, custom, classic, cutting edge, beautiful and experience turn up time and time again across PR, marketing and websites. All of the aforementioned terms are fair terms to use for describing superyachts and superyacht brands, but their frequency of use has arguably helped solidify the idea that superyachts are all the same when they very clearly aren’t.
The superyacht world, however, is at a slight disadvantage when it comes to creating unique marketing and messaging. Unlike watches or cars, there are no cheap versions or entry point products that any Tom, Dick or Harriet can afford, rent or lease, the minimum accepted standard for superyachts is excellence and, by and large, this standard is reached by most renowned shipyards, brokers and so on, and those that don't reach it tend to copy the language of the market leaders. It is therefore hard to find appropriate adjectives given that only superlatives can paint an accurate picture. That being said, when one considers the relative standard of superyachts against one another or indeed their designs, usage profiles and so on there is plenty to differentiate between them.
In recent years there has been a shift in superyacht rhetoric that has seen yards, brokers and so on move away from product descriptors and towards more personal messaging that speaks to experiences and values, but even this shift has been relatively homogenous throughout the industry and herein lies another challenge for the market. The superyacht model and experience is so broad that it can, in essence, account for most hobbies, interests and values, provided they are not completely contradictory to the market’s core experience of being on the water. How then are superyacht brands and businesses to avoid falling into the trap of homogenised messaging when even the smallest superyachts are able to account for most pastimes and passions?
The two above arguments may at least contribute to explaining why word of mouth marketing remains probably the most valuable tool available to the superyacht industry. Words, unfortunately, often fall short of accurately painting a picture of the superyacht experience and this is just one of the many reasons why developing superyacht buyers and guests into ambassadors will be vital for growing the superyacht industry. That being said, there is clearly more space for differentiation within the market, without necessarily needing to adopt irrelevant terminology. Indeed, there are a number of brands today that are successfully distinguishing themselves by working hard on what they don’t say. By avoiding certain terms that should be assumed descriptors of the superyacht experience, certain yards and brands are successfully positioning themselves as confident market leaders.
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