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Q&A with luxury brand expert Adam Deflorian

Sun. Sand. Sweeping, panoramic ocean views. World-class dining. Lavish accommodations.

You wouldn’t think that selling people on a luxury vacation would be a very difficult job – after all, who wouldn't want to spend a week getting pampered in Beverly Hills or lounging poolside in Hawaii? But when you’re one of several top-tier resorts competing for the attention of a very small, very selective portion of the population, you have to go all-out with your marketing efforts. And when it comes to marketing for luxury brands, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone with more firsthand expertise than Adam Deflorian.

Adam has been designing and creating innovative digital solutions for international luxury hotels and resorts for over eight years. As founder and CEO of AZDS Interactive Group, Adam works with some of the most prestigious brands in the market, including Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Montage Hotels & Resorts, ETC Hotels (including Shutters on the Beach Hotel and Hotel Casa del Mar), The Leading Hotels of the World and The Sereno Group (Hôtel Le Sereno, Saint Barthélemy and Il Sereno, Lake Como).

We recently got the opportunity to chat with him about what it takes to become a part of the luxury conversation, the importance of producing extraordinary content and some really cool ways that marketing a lifestyle can help you sell a product.

What’s your quick elevator pitch for what AZDS Interactive Group does as an agency?

Simply put, AZDS is a boutique marketing agency that specifically works on digital strategies for luxury hotels and resorts. We build their websites, we do their email marketing and lead targeting, and we give their customers a really elegant overall experience from a design perspective. We really aim to deliver their guests a luxury experience from the moment they start their journey all the way through to their stay at the actual property itself.

How do you have to approach marketing and brand management differently for the types of luxury brands you represent?

The key difference (in my opinion) is that the individuals that we’re marketing to – and also our clients themselves – are very particular in the way they view the brand and have exceptional, discriminating tastes. So both our clients and their customers expect us to deliver things that are not only well designed and functional, but also things that will maintain integrity of the brand. On the client-facing side, we’re also expected to deliver a very high ROI, so we have to come up with strategies that have a very benchmarked, tested approach.

What specific strategies do you use to overcome those challenges?

Well for one thing, we're really focused on quality content. The content that we’re producing is written by great writers – editors of magazines like Vanity Fair and Town & Country. We also have writers in our network that write interesting content pieces about our destinations and things to do in those destinations.

Our content works really well because it’s generally written by someone who “lives the lifestyle,” if you will; they come from the upper echelons of publishing – magazines that cater to the same high society audience that we have staying at our hotels and resorts. They understand the luxury tone and the luxury voice, so that helps us connect with potential guests from a conversational perspective.

And then in order to expand our reach to other potential guests who don’t know about us, we take that high-quality content and reach out to partners. So let’s say we’re doing a piece on “The Best Chocolate Shops in Beverly Hills" or “The Best Restaurants Along the Pacific Coast Highway in Los Angeles.” We’ll reach out to each of those restaurants or chocolate shops and say, “Our clients spotlighted you in an article, and we’d love it if you’d share it on your social feeds.” And since they want to be associated with the luxury brands we work with, they’re generally excited to do it. And by cross-promoting with brands that are catering to similar, high-tier luxury consumers, we’re able to write ourselves into the luxury conversation, which I think is a really neat thing to get to do.

So how do these tactics translate to the email marketing you do through Emma?

A lot of our email marketing is our storytelling. So that might mean sending out refined newsletters that feature our content or promoting things that are going on at our hotels, like wellness retreats. We also use email to promote other events that are at or on property: a concert series, a summer dining experience on the rooftop, a Rosé tasting at Shutters on the Beach before a show on the Santa Monica pier – things like that.

And for event-focused emails, we segment our list down to a particular area, so if it’s happening at a property in Beverly Hills with limited seats, we’ll send the email out specifically to the Beverly Hills, Bel Air, West LA communities.

Do you have any examples of email marketing campaigns you’ve run for your brands that have been particularly successful?

I can actually think of two really great success stories:

The first campaign was for Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica, which is a luxury hotel that’s very close to the Santa Monica pier. One of LA’s favorite summer traditions is the weekly Twilight Concert at the Pier, so Shutters holds a Twilight Rosé wine series right before the concert each week. They offer flights of high-quality Rosé and people come, drink the wine, watch the sunset and enjoy themselves before the concert.                                                                             

We started sending out emails focused on the Rosé series, and we got really strong open rates. And we wanted to expand that audience, so we started writing content about the Rosé series on the Shutters Blog. We actually set up a trigger on the page so that about 30-40 seconds after someone started reading the article, an email opt-in would appear that gave them the option to sign up for a series that would tell them about the Rosé series for that week. It grew our audience exponentially, and the open rates for that series were well above 25-28%.

Another great campaign that comes to mind was for Montage Hotel & Resorts. They have five hotels that are all located in luxury destinations like Laguna Beach and Deer Valley. For that brand, we send out a monthly newsletter called Montage Impressions – their online editorial. We produce about ten pieces of content each month for it, covering lifestyle topics from style to spas to design.

The newsletter happens to have a reservation link in the navigation, but it doesn’t have any specific calls-to-action within the email about booking. But amazingly enough, that campaign drives more revenue than any of the other campaigns for that brand, often by two-fold. It’s pretty amazing.

What we took from it is that the people we’re marketing to – these luxury consumers – are more interested in engaging with the brand and elements of the brand (style, design, etc.) than receiving offers. They don’t care about the offers, they care about the lifestyle. And that’s an important thing to remember when you’re working within the luxury market.