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Luxury marketing techniques applied to superyachts

How do luxury brands in different sectors engage with ultra-high-net-worth individuals?

There have been many discussions about the often mediocre marketing techniques of the superyacht market. Evidently, as yachts are some of the most expensive products on earth, the target customer base is limited to a small, select group, but as the number of ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs) grows, the superyacht market has the opportunity to engage with a growing pool of potential clients.

Here, we illustrate marketing techniques and models successfully used in the luxury market – be it in high-end property, retail or travel – to see if, and how, they could be effectively executed in the superyacht brokerage world.

Influencer Marketing
‘Influencer marketing’ has risen to prominence thanks to the ubiquity of social media. In essence, influencer marketing focuses on a select group of individuals using a prominent figure to ‘influence’ a target market. Indeed, Verb Brands, a luxury digital agency based in London, estimates that 70 per cent of all adult purchasing decisions are driven by online content. There is an element of trust in this relationship; individuals who follow bloggers, journalists or influencers (also known as micro-influencers due to their relatively small, yet targeted reach) have a direct connection with their audience.

For yachting, a ‘semi-offline’ influencer marketing initiative, which relies on a closed network to spread awareness, could be successful. “The superyacht industry needs to focus more on using digital to assist traditional marketing,” believes Chris Donnelly, founder and managing director of Verb Brands. “Luxury hotels do huge influencer campaigns that are semi-offline, where they will get travel agents to stay at one of their resorts for the weekend and sell the idea to the travel agent. Then those agents sell it to the client.”

In terms of influencer marketing within the yachting world, the most effective technique could be ‘offline influencer marketing’ or face-to-face events with prospective owners and current owners. This peer-to-peer marketing is an incredible powerful way to develop trust with a particular brand because potential owners can hear from a select, trusted group of ‘influencers’ from within the yachting market.

"Peer-to-peer marketing is an incredible powerful way to develop trust with a particular brand because potential owners can hear from a select, trusted group of ‘influencers’ from within the yachting market."

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Pay Per Click (PPC)
This is an established marketing technique but one that, through a simple Google search, it is clear the superyacht industry is largely ignorant of. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is an organic way to reach more customers by appearing higher up in the search results on sites such as Google or Bing. According to research undertaken by Verb Brands, if your brand is positioned from 1st to 3rd on Google, the chances of it being seen increase by 70 per cent.

This is problematic for our market due to the very nature of yachting; the majority of those searching for yachts online are not in the position to purchase them. “The biggest fear is that [brokers] are going to have to deal with 100 per cent more leads but they are all nonsense,” says Donnelly. “Yachts are the most unbelievably aspirational product. 99 per cent of everyone who has browsed yachts cannot and will not buy a yacht. So all the figures from a campaign would be skewed. You’re going to spend a lot of money cultivating maybe 100,000 leads but only about two of them can purchase a yacht.”

Website and social-media presence
Many luxury brands are now embracing user-generated content (UGC) on social media because this is a powerful method to promote authenticity. Short videos and photographs of the product will be more engaging for potential clients if the posts are created by individuals rather than through an orchestrated campaign. For example, if a 35-year-old UHNWI sees a video or series of images originated by a peer, they are more likely to respond to that than to a static or forced marketing image. As a result, in recent years there has been a shift in communication; there is now a dialogue between the company and the client rather than the conversation being dictated by the brand.

If we apply these methods to yachting, behind-the-scenes glimpses of life on board could develop a relationship between the user and the company posting the content because the individual can place themselves in the situation portrayed by the social-media post.

Building customer loyalty
Finally, many luxury brands rely on customer loyalty from individuals to drive sales. Donnelly cites Louis Vuitton as an example of this. Louis Vuitton is very effective in looking carefully at all their online touchpoints when targeting potential clients. When a new client aged between 18-25 browses online, Louis Vuitton understands how to transmit their lifestyle, create a desire, engage with their young consumer and eventually see the sale of the desired item. This first purchase has a significant impact on the individual that lasts forever; they buy a smaller item and then develop a loyal relationship with the brand. Donnelly explains that when this individual is older (and can spend more), they will remember the initial purchase and are therefore likely to remain loyal to the brand.

Chris Donnelly will be leading a session digital strategy and effective marketing techniques at next month’s Superyacht Design Forum. To learn more about the event and reserve your place, click here.

This article appeared in full in issue 186 of The Superyacht Report.


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