Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Luxury Brand Strategy: Is Privacy the New Luxury Expenditure? Part 3

Personal privacy on the Internet is one of the most important topics in current events today.   Is privacy truly the new luxury expenditure?  Would you pay for a subscription to Google or the social media platforms if your privacy was guaranteed, and all ads were on an opt-in basis? Or would you hire a pair of meerkats?

The Snowden affair is an indication of the state of privacy on the Internet.  “Snowden was an employee and technical contractor for the United States National Security Agency, and a former employee of the Central Intelligence who leaked details of several top-secret United States and British government mass surveillance programs to the press.” (Wikipedia)  This surveillance included information obtained from Google, Verizon, Facebook, Yahoo, Amazon, and Microsoft.

His disclosures have fueled a variety of debates branding him a hero/whistleblower or a traitor.  His stand is “to inform the public as to that which is done in their name (the war on terror) and that which is done against them”(the 4th amendment).
Here is the excerpt from the Bill of Rights, and is known as the 4th amendment.
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
In an article in the Guardian, a British newspaper, John Naughton (a newspaper columnist) writes in an editorial piece, that the media is telling the wrong story: “the story here is where the proper balance between freedom and security lies”.   The most important outcome of this he feels is that the days of the Internet as a truly open global network are numbered if governments can demand wholesale information on its citizens activities.  And, how do you divide the Internet and which country is watching what and whom?

In conclusion, Mr. Naughton quotes Neelie Kroes, vice president of the European commission, "If businesses or governments think they might be spied on," she said, "they will have less reason to trust the cloud, and it will be cloud providers who ultimately miss out. Why would you pay someone else to hold your commercial or other secrets, if you suspect or know they are being shared against your wishes? Front or back door – it doesn't matter – any smart person doesn't want the information shared at all. Customers will act rationally and providers will miss out on a great opportunity."

What do you think?

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Monday, July 29, 2013

Luxury Brand Strategy: Is Privacy the New Luxury Expenditure? Part 2

Mining Your Personal Data
In Part 1, we discussed the effects of digital footprints or tattoos, and the impact of “free” usage of social media.  Here is the latest way to mine your data by Facebook.

As companies are reporting earnings for the last quarter, it is important to note that Facebook’s earnings have improved because companies are willing to spend money advertising on the social network.  Facebook has recently expanded its mobile ad strategies by spending time with its potential ad buyers and listening to what they need and want. 

The facts are that marketing budgets are eager to participate in mobile ads, because so many are connected to their mobile devices.  Facebook by virtue of its numbers is the logical place for these ads.   Com.score reports   “American consumers spent 225.4 billion minutes on Facebook mobile app and mobile Web pages in the second quarter, about double from a year ago.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, “What advertisers particularly like about Facebook mobile is to advertise on the news feed-the spot on member’s pages where they post their own news and read what their friends are posting.  The ads, with colorful photos are hard to miss, right in the middle of the scroll of updates.”  This fall they are planning to enhance this feature with video advertising.

How does that affect the average consumer?  Facebook has teamed up with Datalogix,  “which identifies people who have been exposed to an ad on Facebook and then mines credit-card and retailer purchase data to determine whether those people bought the product.” Wall Street Journal

What do you think of this practice?

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Friday, July 26, 2013

Luxury Brand Strategy: Is Privacy the New Luxury Expenditure?

This question was posed at the e-luxe conference in Paris.  What many of us don’t realize is that every time we interact in a digital environment such as: TV, mobile phone, the World Wide Web, and social media, we create a digital footprint (some have dubbed it a digital tattoo). Wikipedia defines it as “the size of a person’s ‘online presence’ measured by the number of individuals with whom they interact.”

When social media came on the scene, many rushed to make and interact with as many friends as possible without discriminating as to whom they were associating with.  The theory was: it is free, and perhaps something will come of it, the more, the merrier!  Fast forward to 2013, we are all realizing, that we may have given too much information in return for “free”.

In an article written by Jeffrey Lambert, titled, How to Erase Your Digital Footprint,

Mr. Lambert says, “Like stepping in wet concrete, these trails we unwittingly leave behind can be tough to erase. With the rise of identity theft, corporate tracking, and the ability of “Big Brother” to access our private data, it is more important than ever for Internet users to be aware of how past and future data can be erased and controlled more effectively.”

One of the recommendations he gives to understanding your digital footprints are several tools, when added to your computer will monitor what Google gathers in terms of data to allow them to search and target advertising. 
“Download the free software offering Google Alarm, created by F.A.T. Labs, which is available for both Firefox and Chrome browsers. This add-on will notify you each time you are sending data to Google. Just make sure you disable the sound option for this. I jumped out of my chair the first time the (very loud) alarm went off, and kept going off almost every time I visited a new site.  Unless you have a serious love for air horns or are trying to induce a heart attack don’t forget to do this!”
Go ahead and read this article for additional suggestions for monitoring your privacy.  In the end the most expedient and time saving procedure may be paying someone to switching your concrete prints for some cloud light slippers.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Luxury of Freedom: New Rage or Outrage?

We had been noticing this “ecoATM” machine at the Thousand Oaks Mall for many months. We still had an old phone from the days of yore (prior to the arrival of the smartphones) and liked the idea of recycling it.  So, yesterday, we made a point of taking the phone with us in order to recycle it, using this self-service kiosk.

The business model of the “ecoATM” is to give you cash for recycling phones and simultaneously to contribute a part of their proceeds to charitable foundations such as Make-A-Wish-Foundation.  This all resonated with our point of view as we very much support efforts to create a greener America and this particular charity. 

One customer review said, “Broken iPhone laying around? You have to check out these machines.  Got back $100 for a cracked iPhone 4!”  We thought, “why not pay for lunch by recycling our old phone?”

Here is WHY NOT:

When we discovered that the machine asks to scan your personal photo ID, take a photo of you in front of the kiosk (to compare using facial recognition software, no doubt) and requires a thumbprint on top of all that, our jaws dropped!  Certainly there is justification for this, i.e., to make sure they are not collecting a stolen phone.  But, this really got our blood boiling with outrage. Never have we seen a red flag waved in our face so blatantly for the potential of identity theft or a breach of privacy.

We asked the Mall security guard, his thoughts on this.  He said “they are a reputable company”. And, we know this to be true.   However, just a couple of days before, Apple’s app developer site was hacked.  They were able to quickly contain the damage.  But, what level of assurances can this vending machine company make that this will not happen, here?

The question of privacy on the Internet, on social media and Internet connected devices must be examined by each of us.  There are some that say, “Privacy is for old people”.  Perhaps, these people also believe that the luxury of personal freedom is just an old fashioned notion, too.   Or, have they not yet connected the two concepts?

When personal freedom gets severely eroded will the pendulum swing?  Will personal freedom then become the new rage?  New rage or outrage, the choice is yours?

What do you think?

P.S.  We took our old phone into the Apple store located a few doors down from the kiosk and they gladly recycled it for free.  The YOUNG Apple staffers also were outraged when we told our story. They had no idea what that machine did.  And, we happily paid for our lunch, which was a drop in the ocean compared to the price of our personal freedom.

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Luxury Brand Strategy: No More Naked Popcorn

“Small Indulgences” is an important product and service area of luxury brand strategy and marketing.  It does not mean that the item has to cost a lot. The cosmetic industry thrives on this principle of small indulgences. Starbucks built a global empire on it. 

Not long ago, a college student from Chicago made it big by identifying an uncontested small indulgence market niche. He dominates a product category that he himself defined and is passionate about. Meet Brian Taylor, CEO of Kernel Season’s the popcorn seasoning company.  

Brian has a mission:  To rid the world of naked popcorn.  He started out by getting a local movie theatre to test-market his products for free.  This grew into a multi million-dollar business based on Brian’s love for popcorn and his curiosity about seasoning it. Now you can find Kernel Season’s (cleverly similarity to Colonel Sanders of KFC chicken fame) in the popcorn isle of most supermarkets. 

The brand name itself tells you what the brand is. It even has an avatar like the Colonel.  The slogan, “No More Naked Popcorn”, tells you, in just four words, exactly what the brand stands for.  

There is no mistaking what this new product category is or in which larger category this niche belongs. It is also intuitive where you would find the products in your local market-right next to the popcorn. 

Type in the search term, “popcorn seasoning”, in Google and this brand will come up first. But, not because of brilliant SEO work. There just is not much competition in this field.  That is the beauty of identifying an underserved or uncontested market niche as a luxury brand strategy.

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Luxury Real Estate Marketing: Impeccability--Are You Up to the Challenge?

A touchstone is a benchmark or a mental yardstick that one uses to see if things or experiences measure up to this standard. Dining at Les Crayères, in the Champagne region of France is one of our touchstones for excellence in fine dining in a majestic setting with impeccable service. 

We first heard about Les Crayères just one year after it opened in the 80’s, and stayed in one of the 20 rooms at this fully restored classic French Château for a weekend we have never forgotten.  On our recent trip to Paris we returned to Les Crayères to celebrate Alexandra’s birthday, just for lunch. The trip took under one hour from Paris via the amazing TGV train traveling at about 250 miles per hour. 

When we arrived we were graciously greeted and escorted to the outdoor patio that overlooks a spectacular park with acres of lawn. We were served some delightful tidbits to amuse our taste buds and to accompany a wonderful glass of Bollinger Rose Champagne from the region.
Then we were called indoors to the dining room to indulge in a French gastronomic extravaganza that exceeded our extremely high expectations and our memory from of our first experience there.  

The meal was sublime and the service was, once again, impeccable.  What we appreciated the most was the level of consistency that has been maintained over time by this fine establishment.  It was as if time had not elapsed between visits. And, that was remarkable!
As a purveyor of luxury goods or a provider of luxury services impeccability is a standard worthy of striving for in your business or profession.   To embody this standard requires a commitment to excellence over time. Are you up to the challenge? 

Written by Ron & Alexandra Seigel-

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Luxury Marketing Tip: NO MONEY, NO HONEY! What if We Had Baidu?

Photo by flylosky
When we attended the Club eLuxe International Summit in Paris, we learned about the Baidu business model.  Baidu,Inc (pronounced By- doo in English) is the Chinese equivalent of Google whose user interface is very similar to Google. The name “Baidu”, according to the company, was inspired by a poem that was written during the Song Dynasty, 800 years ago.  The literal meaning of Baidu is “hundreds of times represents persistent search for the ideal.”

Baidu ranks as one of the top 10 sites in the world according to Alexa.com, with a 98% share of the Chinese market.  In December of 2007, it became the first Chinese company to be included in the NASDAQ-100 Index.  

Just today, Bloomberg said the company has struck a deal “for $1.9 billion to acquire the majority stake in China’s most popular third-party store for smartphone apps. This move mimics Google Inc. when they backed the Android operating system and started its own app store to gain share against Apple Inc.”

Their business model is very simple:  “No Money, No Honey!” There is no search engine optimization with Baidu, no convoluted algorithms, no “natural”, or “organic” search engine or social media contortions to gain a higher ranking. Baidu generates revenue from its pay for placement platform (P4P). The P4P platform is an online marketplace that introduces Internet search users to those businesses who bid the most money for top placement with defined keywords.

From our perspective a Baidu business model could be a colossal time saver.  Many would be writing blogs for enjoyment, instead of writing posts for search engine robots and artificial results. Social media as we know it today would be social and not another means of high ranking on Google.   

Perhaps, there are many people who do not realize that time is money. The belief is that it is “free” to write unoriginal, keyword-laden blog posts, and “free” to keep up with Google’s ever-changing algorithms, an exhausting pursuit. Also, one would not need to be present and accounted for on every social media platform.

How much is your time worth?  That is the real question. Would it be easier and ultimately less expensive to just pay to be #1 on Google, free up more quality time for yourself, your friends and your family where the real honey is?  What do you think?

Written by Ron & Alexandra Seigel-

Monday, July 15, 2013

Luxury Real Estate Marketing: Is There a Niche for YOU?

luxury marketing, luxury real estate marketing
Whenever we write or talk about finding an uncontested luxury real estate marketing niche in which to excel and dominate, the response often is, “this is so hard to do, or all niches have already been taken”.  Here is an example of something we discovered yesterday.

Brix Chocolate for Wine was invented by pulmonologist (lung specialist), Dr. Proia, from Ohio who felt that ordinary chocolate did not pair well with wine.  So he researched chocolate and found that a chocolate grown in Ghana was perfect when blended with confectioner’s chocolate.  A niche in the chocolate business was born. 

The word “brix” used as the brand comes from a term used in the winemaking industry. It means to measure the percentage of sugar in the grape, which determines when the grapes should be picked.   In winemaking 55-60% of sugar becomes alcohol.  The ideal brix is 20 to 25, which results in a wine with about 11% alcohol.

Brix makes 4 types of chocolate. Each has recommendations for wine pairing.  For instance, extra dark (70% cacao) pairs well with Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux, Barolo and Malbec.  If you are not a wine lover, you can pair it with Brandy, Cognac, or Armagnac.

The difficulty that many luxury real estate marketing professionals have in identifying an uncontested market niche is thinking outside of the box.  These niches are just not obvious.  If they were, they would already be taken by the competition.  That is where a strategic branding expert becomes invaluable. 

Written by Ron & Alexandra Seigel-


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Marketing Luxury Real Estate: Brand Names and Their Darn Good Stories

When thinking of branding yourself or your luxury real estate firm, one thing to keep in mind is that some of the best brands often have the best stories.
On a recent visit to the Carpinteria Wine Store, we discovered this wine, at a modest price of $14.99.  As brand strategists and students of brands, these thoughts popped into our minds:

Who produced this wine and why?  Herman Story Estate, Russell P Rom (owner of and grandson of Herman Story,)  decided that after "having one too many bottles of bad wine at friends' weddings, I had to come up with a solution to this insidious problem..."

What does it taste like, or what is the consensus of opinion of this wine in wine world? Here is a review from winediscount.center.com,

"90/100 - Our score.There is just no excuse for drinking bad wine, especially at a wedding! Damn Good Wedding Wine is silky and rich with flavors of black plum and blackberry along with a touch of black pepper spice and alluring oak on the finish. Like his Herman Story wines, production on this wine is tiny. Whether you are getting married or not, this wine is worth checking out!"

Where is it from?  Here is an explanation and a recommendation from Robert Parker, a leading US wine critic who wrote,  "Readers looking for super-concentrated, extroverted, exuberant, powerhouse wines from California's Central Coast need look no further than the Herman Story estate. For those who love the wild side of Rhone varietals pushed to the limit (but not over), these are highly recommended. Moreover, prices are  exceptionally fair for this level of quality."

The winery is located in Paso Robles and the fruit is sourced from various vineyards in the Central Coast.

The most memorable brands have the best stories, regardless whether they are luxury brands or any other brand.  And, we are not suggesting that someone brand themselves, as "Damn Good Luxury Real Estate Agent"!  LOL

Written by Ron & Alexandra Seigel-

Monday, July 8, 2013

Luxury Real Estate Marketing Tip: Concierge Service -The Real Deal

Concierge service is a concept that has been so over-used among luxury real estate marketing professionals that it has almost lost its original meaning.  Pronounced, cone-sea-air + a soft ‘g’ (like the g in judge), the term concierge originally meant “the keeper of the candles” who tended to visiting nobles in castles in the medieval era.   

Today a concierge at a hotel is able to advise guests on restaurants, nightlife, sporting and theatrical events, sightseeing shopping, etc. He or she is an important resource for both vacationers and business travelers.  

When we attended the Club eLuxe International Summit in Paris, the concierge at the Meurice Hotel saved the day for me (Ron, here).  I had forgotten my reading glasses at our apartment.  So, I asked the concierge if he had an extra pair.  He did not.  But, he sent someone out to a store to purchase some glasses and brought them right to my table at the event within 20 minutes! They fit perfectly, were appropriately stylish and reasonably priced. 

Les Clefs d’Or, pronounced, "lay clay door," is the international concierge professional association. The English translation of this French term is the keys of gold, which is symbolized in the gold crossed keys, a pin proudly worn by its members. Years of hard work and dedication to quality service are represented in this symbol.  

Les Clefs d'Or concierges are motivated by a genuine desire to serve. This level of service cannot be faked. As a luxury real estate marketing professional, if you claim to offer this level of service you had better be able to back up your claim. Otherwise, those clients who have experienced the “real deal” will see right through you.