Social media and the yachting industry: building a brand

Written by George Wiscombe

Yachting brands target an elite customer base which presents a specific set of challenges when building an effective digital experience. Due to the focus on exclusivity and an older consumer demographic, it’s no secret that yachting companies have been slower to embrace the opportunities created by digital technology than many mass consumer brands.

This was something in which was touched heavily upon by one of the industry’s only social media influencers, Alex Jimenez akaThe Yacht Guy, last week at SuperYacht Gallery London. During his 45 minute seminar at the Saatchi Gallery, industry professionals, owners and captains proved that there were still many questions unanswered, with many of the audience eager to ask Jimenez just how to properly execute social media for brands, engaging their audience and promoting their products.

The luxury sector has traditionally been able to work to its own rules and keep its products beyond the reach of the mass consumer. Now luxury brands must work out how to create an exciting, alluring digital ecosystem while maintaining an aura of exclusivity, quality, bespoke service and powerful heritage. Here, George Wiscombe, Founder and Managing Director at digital branding agency Maido, gives some tips on how yachting brands can create an effective digital experience.

Be customer-centric

This is often described as ‘customer-first transformation’ - put simply, it means prioritising the customer and their experiences above all else. To do this effectively, you require a detailed understanding of customer behaviour, expectations, and lifestyle. Superyacht brands cater for the world’s super rich. A growing number of these buyers now come from emerging economies such as Russia, China, India and Brazil with digital behaviours varying between countries.

Therefore, it’s important to test different versions, using data to determine what works best for your brand and customers. For a luxury yachting brand, this also means ensuring any bespoke services and the exclusivity of offering are still apparent online. Look for ways to add value with special features which can only be achieved online — digital concierges, private member groups, and loyal customer rewards for example.

Consider where you can add interactive elements that will allow people to use your product in an engaging way, such as letting them visualise certain recommended cruising routes or scenarios with virtual reality. Bentley created an app, Bentley Inspirator, which uses emotion recognition software to advise customers on their perfect Bentley car. By analysing facial and emotional reactions, Bentley suggests personalised colours and interiors whilst building a memorable brand experience.

Harness data

Your website, app and other online sales channels should collect and use data throughout the customer journey. Store customer information and use it to be more targeted with future online services, offers and marketing communications, based on their preferences.

In today’s world of information overload, consumers are bombarded with about 3,500 pieces of advertising every day - and that is a conservative estimate. As a result, most people have become savvy about filtering out the info they’re not interested in. However, a more targeted approach can lead to great results.

Importance of a strong digital brand

Yachting brands don’t just sell a product, they sell a lifestyle - one that can be encapsulated through imagery, colour, tone, and interactions. These are all great vehicles for evoking the aspirational emotions that feed our desire for luxury goods and experiences.

The growth of image-led social media channels like Instagram and Pinterest represent a huge opportunity for yacht brands to raise awareness and extend their influence through the use of amazing photography and footage. This will also appeal to people’s desire to share and display their status online. Fashion brands like Burberry and Chanel have long capitalised on the opportunity for reputation building via these channels. Chanel’s beautiful imagery has made it one of the most ‘pinned’ brands on Pinterest, with more than 1,244 pins of Chanel products pinned on the social network per day on average, without the designer ever joining Pinterest.

Yachting brands could be doing the same, focusing on which social media channels are most influential in key countries, VK which is short vkontakte - Facebook - in Russia, for example.

Speed is of the essence

The digital world allows us to be fast and responsive in how we use new insights about our customers or market. As a result, we should not focus on creating a complex digital infrastructure and handing it over completed. Getting a product to market quickly is far more effective — allowing us to test and refine it over time. We do this through tried and tested fast-paced prototyping.

This does not mean rushing out an imperfect product. It means releasing an initial version faster, so that we can make decisions based on real data about how people are using it. This process ensures that we avoid the trap that many luxury brands fall into online — allowing style to triumph over substance. While creating visual impact is key, it is equally important that the website works smoothly across all devices, from PC to mobile. Everything that a user could want to do with your online service should be made apparent and simple, with concise messaging and clear ‘calls-to-action’.

Authenticity is key - tell your brand story

Smart luxury brands merge content and commerce to create an overall experience of which the products are just one part. Building a strong narrative around a brand brings it to life and makes it more memorable, encouraging customer loyalty and referral. For many brands, their heritage is a large part of their appeal; people like to feel they are buying a small chunk of history.

A brand’s customer appeal lies not just in the products, but in why they do what they do. People like to engage with brands they feel mirror their values and interests. Pair beautiful imagery with aspirational content likely to be relevant or interesting to fans of the brand. This could take the form of advice features, blogs or interviews.

George Wiscombe is founder and managing director of award-winning digital design agency Maido. Learn more about Maido here.



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