A CMO’s View: Luxury Brand Marketing Is About Authenticity, Says XOJET CMO
Serving as the Chief Marketing Officer for XOJET, Shari Jones says her brand’s focus on the passenger is what sets the private jet charter company apart from its competition.
“We offer a complete suite of flight solutions, from on-demand charter to customized flight programs, which give private flyers the utmost choice and control over their travel experience,” says Jones.
According to Jones, XOJET has gained a competitive edge by putting the passenger first, providing flexibility and making its service accessible. It also helps that she has a laser-focus on what her audience truly wants.
“Often when people are looking at a luxury product from the outside in, they make assumptions of what will be appealing to the people who can afford it,” says Jones. She’s found that authenticity, family and the realities of work travel are more compelling than talking about caviar and champagne.
“It’s not about the lifestyles of the rich and the famous, it’s about how your product can make their lives easier and more seamless. Getting a business executive home in time for dinner with her family on a Friday night. Helping to make a road show more effective so you can see more cities in the same number of days. That’s what’s important to our audience.”
Today, the CMO shares the challenges and insights that come with managing the digital strategies for a luxury brand.
1. Use digital to improve the experience, not replace it. Connecting your CRM and consumer data to help inform the media strategy helps you deliver messages that are contextually relevant.
2. Ensure all marketing touch points are staying true to the level of excellence that you’ve set for your brand. Every channel has to be dialed in to the brand voice with the same level of love and attention. To that end, creative is still important. You have to break through, especially for a target that’s difficult to reach. It’s about striking a genuine, authentic tone.
3. Data and measurement are a marketer’s friends. They allow you to be constantly learning and evaluating in order to use your dollars efficiently. Luxury brands often don’t have luxury budgets, and digital can help you punch above your weight.
Amy Gesenhues: To start, tell me more about your role as XOJET’s CMO.
Shari Jones: As CMO, I’m responsible for developing and implementing integrated marketing strategies across XOJET’s product offerings and communication channels. I joined the company in 2013 after nine years leading consumer marketing for Levi’s in the Americas.
Someone recently said I went “from jeans to jets,” which is a fun way to think about it. I have an excellent team supporting me, and we’re seeing great results.
Our marketing efforts drove a 40-percent increase in online traffic on XOJET.com, a 99-percent increase in web-generated sales leads and a 20-percent increase in retail charter sales — all in the first half of 2015 alone.
It’s exciting to see our work play a role in XOJET’s turnaround journey.
Amy Gesenhues: When managing the digital marketing efforts for a luxury brand, how important is it to create the perception of exclusivity within your marketing and how do you maintain it on a social front?
Shari Jones: We actually don’t want to be perceived as exclusive. That’s one of the key differences about XOJET — we’re an approachable private aviation company.
Luxury needs to start evolving along with the consumer, but a lot of advertising still speaks to this old idea of the “classic rich person,” someone who prefers a deferential tone and speaks of the “finer things.” The modern luxury consumer is different: They’re adaptable, fast-moving, smart yet approachable and have a younger mindset.
We believe that luxury should — and can — be accessible and aspirational at the same time. With this in mind, our latest campaign, “Power to the Passenger,” talks about private aviation in a fresh way by allowing the viewer to experience it from the flyer’s point of view.
We worked with Walrus advertising in New York to develop digital videos, a series of banner messages and billboards that highlight XOJET’s accessibility, high-touch service and focus on empowering passengers. It also speaks to the realities of our clients’ lives — they’re very family-oriented and often use XOJET for leisure travel with friends and family.
Amy Gesenhues: What are the challenges as a digital marketer focusing on a “high-net-worth” audience?
Shari Jones: A challenge for all marketers is finding the right client and connecting with him or her using the right message, at the right time.
This challenge is magnified when your audience is comprised of high-net-worth individuals. We have a stronger understanding of this audience than ever before thanks to data, but they’re still difficult to reach. Everything they do tends to be documented, so they’re constantly bombarded with messages and less active on social media as a result.
On top of that, you have to create a compelling message that they will actually choose to see.
Digital doesn’t negate the need for great creative. This is especially important for luxury brands talking to a high-net-worth audience, who tend to be more selective in how they engage with brands in a digital and social environment.
Amy Gesenhues: Where does technology fit into your overall digital strategy?
Sophisticated clients want a human connection. Technology should help facilitate that, not replace it.
Like all categories, we’re evolving and trying to figure out how digital fits into what is a highly personalized and curated interaction. It’s the difference between shopping on an e-commerce site and having a personal shopper who meets you at your favorite store.
We’re figuring out where digital best fits in a category that’s historically very high-service and high-touch. The brands doing the best are the ones preserving the warmth and personalization, while using technology to enhance that.
Amy Gesenhues: What do you believe are the major differences between digital marketing strategies for a luxury brand and strategies for a standard consumer-oriented brand?
Shari Jones: A lot of marketers talk about having one-to-one conversations with consumers, but luxury brands are truly doing it.
With luxury, your target audience is much smaller and niche, whereas other brands can talk to a profile of a certain segment. We’re speaking directly with an individual about XOJET, which means greater accountability and expectations to create an authentic, relevant connection.
Digital enables us to do that more accurately and efficiently — and with a lot more heart.
Amy Gesenhues: What digital channels do you use, and which have you found to be most effective for reaching your audience?
Shari Jones: We take a digital-first approach and use a carefully crafted suite of tools, platforms and partners who help us bring it all together. Online video, programmatic, social, search, retargeting are all at the core of our strategy. With clients who are always mobile, we have to leverage best-in-class tools to connect with them on the go. Social media can be a tricky platform with high-net-worth individuals.
From a targeting standpoint, it gives you tremendous power and can be a laser-focused awareness vehicle. On the other hand, XOJET clients don’t engage on social networks like Facebook the same way our customers did at Levi’s. When we look at social community building for XOJET, we focus more on influencers and people who have a passion for aviation. Digital is effective in enhancing our efforts, specifically with the traditional forms of marketing that our clients continue to rely on, such as print, broadcast and out-of-home. Things like geo-fencing around billboards and location-based marketing are working well for us.
Amy Gesenhues: Can you expand on XOJET’s focus on influencers – how do you engage advocates within an audience that wants privacy?
Shari Jones: One of the most effective ways to connect with our audience without seeming intrusive or interruptive is by tapping into pockets of interest. Marketers have to remember that high-net-worth individuals are human, with a lot of interests and passion points, just like us. As an example, XOJET has a partnership with the Golden State Warriors that speaks directly to our large customer base in the Bay Area. They love this sort of content, and the interaction rates on our channels prove it.
We also focus on executive assistants, who support our core audience, help them curate their life and organize business travel. Connecting with them is important, as is connecting on an enterprise level to highlight the value proposition of XOJET to businesses that are increasingly flying private.
We’re having different types of conversations tailored to different audiences all the time. That’s something all marketers should be thinking about.