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Redefining Influence in Luxury Travel

By Melanie Brandman, CEO The Brandman Agency & Founder Travel Curator
2 August 2020
5 min read
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Everyone has influence.

Certain people may have wider circles than others, but the choice someone makes when they follow you—or when you follow them—speaks volumes. Following someone proclaims, “you are now part of my tribe, and I care about what you care about.”

That person has credibility. When they speak, post, or recommend a product or place, you listen. This explains why influencers have become so valuable. Relationships matter.

Despite the explosion of influencer marketing, many of the biggest luxury players still commit a fundamental mistake: an unfocused and outdated influencer strategy.

As the role of influencer continues to evolve – accelerated by pandemic – smart luxury brands are refocusing efforts on an important subset: creators. Experts from a wide range of luxury industries – from fashion and photography to interior design and nutrition – who are organically engaging their loyal followers through a travel lens. When advising our global luxury hotel and resort clients on a proactive influencer strategy, our agency philosophy is centered around the mantra “creators are the new influencers.”

Build Your Strategy with a 360 Lens
What I’ve been seeing is the incredible value that savvy, well-curated creators with strong points-of-view – and more importantly, more authentic, loyal tribes – can provide, even if their follower count doesn’t hit six figures. Beyond the social content these alignments bring to luxury properties, there is an opportunity to approach your influencer marketing strategy with a more modern, 360-degree approach.

A great example of this is the partnership we formed with luxury jeweler Temple St. Clair and La Mamounia in Marrakesh. In her twenties, while living in Florence, Temple was invited to join her family at La Mamounia, where her parents surprised her with a beautiful bracelet. This treasure became one of the early catalysts and sources of inspiration for Temple’s career as a designer.

Her return to La Mamounia almost 30 years later translated to rich social content that told an authentic story for both the hotel’s social channels and @templestclair’s 22.4K Instagram followers. It also inspired a new collection, weaving in everything from the patterns and symbols from its gardens to architecture to the history of Berber jewels, offering the PR team rich, authentic, and newsworthy content to pitch luxury editors.

A New Type of Success Metric
As this example illustrates, influencer opportunities should not be judged on numbers alone. In the COVID-19 era where resources are limited, we recommend a proactive influencer approach centered around creators and anchored by the composition of their audience. Who is following them? Are they influential people in their own right? How does this creator’s brand authentically connect to my hotel? Do high value editors or power players regularly engage with their posts?

Determining the company these creators keep is more valuable—and impactful—than going after more “traditional” influencers, who offer sky-high follower count with no depth. Quality always trumps quantity – especially in the luxury segment. Global hotel and resort brands have to be selective and do their homework.

Diversify Your Creator Strategy
With so many creators – and traditional influencers – to choose from, it can be easy to get tunnel vision and focus on established players in the space. While this strategy can be highly impactful, it can also come with a hefty price tag. Keep an eye on a handful of most-wanted magazines that matter to your business to spot up and comers in the earlier stages of their career. While their number of followers may be more modest, the quality and quantity of content these creators generate and their enthusiasm to be targeted by a luxury brand often pays off in spades. This strategy also helps brands authentically engage with next-generation luxury consumers. We’re also putting an emphasis on BIPOC creators across a variety of industries that authentically align with our luxury hotel and resort clients.

What You’re Getting – and Why
Everyone asks the million-dollar question: What’s the return on investment? Do hearts on Instagram translate to revenue? Do comments indicate an uptick in bookings?

Success isn’t measured in black and white when creators can contribute to many outcomes: driving awareness, bookings, and engagement. Likes, comments, and re-posts are all tangible metrics, but for luxury hotels and resorts influencer engagements should be viewed differently.

Influencers also provide innovative, social-first content that speaks differently to an audience than editorial, and brands can negotiate the ability to share unique photo and video content they can use on their own channels after the stay. One-off projects aren’t ideal; building authentic alignments with a host of like-minded creators of true influence is an opportunity to stand out in the post-COVID era.

About the author
As Founder and CEO of The Brandman Agency, Melanie’s clients are the who’s who of the luxury travel and lifestyle industries. With offices in New York, Los Angeles, London and Sydney, Melanie is a trusted advisor to her global roster of clients as well as a resource for media and tastemakers. She is also the founder of Travel Curator, a digital publisher dedicated to luxury travel which now reaches more than 650,000 targeted affluent, forward-thinking global travelers. Melanie is the recipient of the HSMAI Winthrop W. Grice Lifetime Achievement Award for Public Relations. She was also named ‘Most Compelling Woman in Travel’ by Premier Traveler magazine and has spoken at various conferences including The New York Times Luxury Travel Conference in Singapore

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