Finally…. Luxury Car Brands are Taking Tips from the Kings of Customer Service

Key Takeaway from The Luxury Doctrine (a new resource in development):

If you want to be successful, especially in luxury, you have to think of, and act like the customer, at all steps in the value chain… you have to manage the customer’s experience

– Edmund Amoye, Lessons in Luxury

For those who have been following my posts on the different luxury segments, you’ll notice that the key catalyst for success in today’s environment is innovation in managing the customer experience. If you are new to this customer-centric theme, I have a list of related posts at the bottom, to get you up to speed.

In every business there are seasons and cycles – ups and downs. At their rollout to end-users, luxury goods and services are sometimes heralded as innovative novelties and “must haves”. However, as brands permeate, manufacturers innovate, and marketing teams penetrate (I had to use that rhyme… too easy to pass up), commoditization sets in. Luckily, the Ford Motor Co. is doing something about that with its Lincoln automotive brand.

– Top View of the 2013 Lincoln MKZ Continue reading

Part 2 – This Thing Called Luxury

Building on the confusion of yesterday’s post, today’s entry focuses on the academic justification for a firm’s participation in the luxury segment. Though what appears below is very intellectual, it is very similar to the thoughts I had on the matter long before I ever knew I wanted to work in the luxury segment.

In his work covering business strategy, Michael Porter explains that there are two main categories, in which a firm’s competitive strengths fall: cost leadership and differentiation. Depending on the firm’s market focus (broad or niche), and the uniqueness of its products (custom or commodity) and services, Porter posits four generic strategies a firm can use to develop a competitive advantage. Continue reading

Protected: Job Openings for Masonites: Hospitality (password hint – first name of the bubbliest Admissions staff member)

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Aman Resorts: A Tough Sell for DLF

Amangiri – Utah, USA

Two weeks ago, there was some news that China-based conglomerate, HNA, had sent in a bid to buy Aman Resorts, a collection of unique luxury resorts in some of the most sought-after destinations in the world. Aman Resorts, which is owned by DLF, an Indian development company, represents the company’s biggest non-core asset.

To bring you up to date, DLF currently has a net debt of more than $4 billion and is looking to raise as much as $650 million to shore up its debt levels and put some cash on its balance sheet. In 2007, the company had bought a 97% stake in Aman Resorts based on a $400 million valuation, while the remaining three percent was held by Aman founder Adrian Zecha. Considering that the purchase was made right before the global financial crisis, DLF has been desperately looking for a buyer for this property.

HNA Hotels and Resorts is part of China-based HNA Group. With assets exceeding $30 billion, the group has its tentacles in airlines, hotels, airport management, real estate, retail, financial services, logistics, and tourism. Annual revenues are around $10 billion (as of Dec. 2011). The hospitality segment of the group consists of a total of 43 luxury hotels and resorts in China and Europe (40 in China and three hotel assets in Brussels and Belgium).

Reports are out that HNA is out of the bidding process for Aman Resorts, since it never received any feedback on its undisclosed bid. Reuters reports that “bids came in the $300-$315 million range”, which means that the market feels these luxury assets are overpriced. This is a huge setback for DLF considering the list of companies interested in Aman Resorts. They include:

  • Malaysian sovereign wealth fund, Khazanah
  • LVMH, and
  • Kingdom Holdings, which owns a 47.5% stake in the Four Seasons chain of luxury hotels

It’s looking bleak for DLF, but maybe some other group will step up to take over Aman.

Adding Value – Train Rides and iPads

Train rides are very enjoyable for me because I get the chance to remain terrestrial. I’m not driving myself, nor am I on a bus going pretty much the same way I would have driven myself. Since train tracks do not always follow “car routes”, I get to take a more scenic view, stumbling upon sights that don’t come into my view on a regular basis. I also like to take trains at times they are sparsely occupied, so that I have a lot of space to myself. The combination of those components makes the ride an enjoyable one. However the real luxury experience can be summed up in one picture from my last trip on Amtrak: Continue reading

A Room With a View of Your Porsche, Ferrari, Benz, …

30-day Challenge – Day 29

In the second half of this past semester at business school, I took an immersion course in real estate – the best course I have ever taken. The course not only exposed me to the business of real estate, but also introduced me to the nuances of an industry where success is not necessarily about reality, but your ability to create a perception, in which people want to participate.

Real estate can give you a means to exercise your networking, negotiation and selling skills. At the same time, real estate allows you to be very creative in realizing your visions of developing mixed use, multi-family apartments, commercial, or industrial structures. You can literally do anything and the next lines will show that. Continue reading

Hospitality Jobs Coming in Europe

30-day Challenge – Day 22

As my classmates and I get closer to graduation in May 2012, the anticipation of finding a job only increases. Today’s post will shed some light on where some luxury companies may be hiring – specifically hospitality.

Hilton Worldwide recently made an announcement of its intention to add more than 8500 new jobs in Europe by 2014. Check out the press release here.

The company is opening more than 110 hotels in Europe, via new builds and conversions. Key growth markets for the company include the UK, Russia, Turkey, Germany and Poland.

A range of award-winning training and development initiatives are also available at Hilton Worldwide such as the fast-track graduate programme, Elevator, which identifies and nurtures talented graduates and high potential candidates from within Hilton Worldwide. These rising stars go through a thorough 18 month training programme before assuming their first management position, and then are usually fast tracked to senior leadership positions, with the aim of developing into successful hotel general managers.

Differentiating Upscale Hospitality Series: Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

30-day Challenge – Day 14

If you have been in touch with much of the happenings in hospitality, then you would have noticed a huge emphasis on rolling out more value-added services to complement the commoditized room revenue segment.  Over the past year, one of the hotel and travel components being actively pursued by hospitality groups, developers, and licensees alike, has been spa services.

I can’t remember where I heard or read it, but someone once said something very profound about luxury brands:

Luxury brands don’t discount, they add value.

Continue reading

Differentiating Upscale Hospitality Series: Ritz-Carlton

30-day Challenge – Day 13

An image from the Ritz-Carlton "Let Us" video

Today, I am going to highlight an ingenious new brand platform put out by Ritz-Carlton. If you don’t want to read the post and just get to the core of an exciting and counterintuitive differentiation strategy, play the video below.

Continue reading

Differentiating Upscale Hospitality Series: Orient Express

30-day Challenge – Day 12

Today, I am looking at emerging themes in luxury with a focus on the hospitality industry. With rooms becoming commoditized, hotels have but one option to capture the hearts of its customers – differentiate. How do you differentiate one luxury hotel brand from another? Well, for starters we are way past thread counts, serving sumptuous breakfasts, and delivering the morning newspaper. Upscale hotels are having to differente themselves on the experiences they can provide their guests. In the next posts, I’ll talk about how some hotel groups are doing just that. We’ll kick off the series with Orient Express.  Continue reading

Sustainability – The New Dimension of Luxury

30-day Challenge – Day 11

Over the course of writing this blog, I have learned a lot by covering the evolving themes in the business landscape occupied by premium brands.

For any of my readers interested in working in the luxe space, these themes are what I believe will dictate and most possibly define their success. I have talked about luxe-related issues ranging from social media to responsible business. Today I want to talk about sustainability. If you have already got a dose of this in my earlier posts, then I am re-emphasizing it in light of recent news articles highlighting how some brands are introducing sustainability in their corporate strategies.

Who would have ever known that acclaimed jeweler, Tiffany, would build a dedicated web page to highlight its efforts in corporate social responsibility (CSR); or that the renowned Peninsula Hotels would make a bold (and maybe costly) decision to stop serving shark fin in its restaurants?

Well, its happening all around us today. Whether or not you believe in the sincerity of these varying corporate initiatives, sustainability is no longer a matter of lip-service. Brands are actually paying attention to many of the concerns of consumers. In his opinion piece on luxurysociety.com, Leslie Pascaud, Director of Added Value Paris, discusses why luxury brands should and will embrace sustainability in the near future. See the article here.

Luxury Hospitality Giant Shows Love

30-day Challenge – Day 7

     

Today, I am both glad and proud to write about a company, with which I have done business: both as a pre-MBA professional and as a consumer. I have to say that I wasn’t surprised when I came across this article announcing Hilton Worldwide’s initiative to give people around the world better access to the hygiene that can help prevent fatal illnesses such as diarrheal diseases and pneumonia.

In partnership with the Global Soap Project, Hilton Worldwide is leading the charge to help develop a cost-free way for hotels around the world to recycle left-over bars of soap, which are provided to guests during their stays. In the first year of this partnership, Hilton Worldwide expects this investment to result in the donation of more than one million new 4-ounce bars of soap to people in need. Learn how it works here. Continue reading

Fine Wines and Luxurious Accommodations in Virginia

Luxury and Retail Club members with Kristen Duffeler (5th from left)

Pictures

Last Friday (10/28/11) the Luxury and Retail Club (at The Mason School of Business) went on a company visit to The Williamsburg Winery and Wedmore Place located at 5800 Wessex Hundred, Williamsburg, VA. As a club, we thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to sample wines from the largest winery in the state of Virginia; and see the luxurious accommodations at a European style hotel. We also found out more about the hospitality, and the wine & spirits business segments. Our itinerary for the day included: a tour of Wedmore Place with Kristen Duffeler (GM of Wedmore Place and In-house Counsel for The Williamsburg Winery); a tour of The Williamsburg Winery with Courtney Darden (Assistant VP of Marketing, The Williamsburg Winery); and a Q&A session with the Patrick Duffeler I (family patriarch and founder of The Williamsburg Winery and Wedmore Place) and Patrick Duffeler II (current President & COO of The Williamsburg Winery).

Continue reading

Conde Nast – 2010 Business Traveller Awards

The business segment constitutes a vital profit segment of the travel and hospitality industry. As you try to zoom in on a couple of companies to apply for internships and full time jobs, take a look at the 2010 Business Traveller Awards by Conde Nast. These are the top-rated hotels catering to business travelers. Click the picture for the full results.