Luxury Expert Spotlight: Doug Gollan of Elite Traveler Media
Behind every great luxury blog, you will find a great story. Luxury bloggers are real people, not machines, and to successfully work with them, we recommend you get to know them a little better. Through our years at LuxeInACity, we have talked, collaborated and exchanged ideas with dozens of great bloggers from around the world.
Since bloggers rarely talk about themselves – they tend to talk about everyone else instead – we hope to showcase their skills, expertises and opinions in this blog series.
Get to know them, learn from them and hopefully you will find an innovative way to collaborate with them.
Today’s blogger is Doug Gollan the Group President and co-founder of Elite Traveler Media Group, a pioneer in media targeting the global Ultra High Net Worth consumer. He is co-author of “The Sky’s the Limit” and a contributor to Luxury Society. He is considered an expert on the super rich and their lifestyle habits. He has been referenced on NBC, CNBC, Fox News, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. He is a member of The Luxury Marketing Council and has participated in Northwestern University’s “Future of Luxury” think tank and has been a guest lecturer at New York University’s Stern School of Business. His blog Douggollan.com highlights opportunities for luxury marketers to sell more to the ever growing global Super Rich.
Every luxury expert has a different story on how they got started in the industry. What is yours?
“It was 2000 and I was running a $30 million dollar group of trade magazines in the travel industry vertical catering to travel agents. Our flagship Travel Agent magazine was a weekly and was large enough to be ranked by Advertising Age as one of the Top 10 magazines in the country by ad pages. Our former owner like many of the wealthy was unhappy with the deteriorating service level of the U.S. domestic airlines. He had switched his travels to private jets. Coming from the publishing industry, he noticed that while the passengers on private jets were rich, most of the magazines were targeted to the pilots and the only consumer reading material readily available was local newspapers and magazines, which were sporadic at best.
With my B2B experience in controlled circulation, I knew if we could figure out the distribution, and put together a product that appealed to these folks, we would have a unique and desirable audience. I was ready for a new challenge and wanted to expand my knowledge beyond travel, so it seemed like a good idea. I convinced my colleague who was running sales to jump with me, he did, and we are still at it nearly 15 years later.”
Tell us about Elite Traveler. Who is your core audience and what marketing opportunities do you offer luxury brands?
“Elite Traveler is positioned as the private jet lifestyle magazine. You now have the private jet, we are about everything else you might enjoy. We are the first and only publisher to claim private jet distribution and have it successfully audited by a third party on an ongoing basis, in our case BPA. We have an audience of over 400,000 readers every issue with a Household Income of $1 million or more, about 10 times more than other publications such as Robb Report, Town & Country or Departures. We have a beautiful magazine, but others have nice magazines too. The simple difference is our distribution puts Elite Traveler in front of Ultra High Net Worth consumers, whereas others rely on charge card databases, subscriptions and newsstand meaning their audiences are necessarily more mass.
We have multi-platform marketing opportunities ranging from Elitetraveler.com, with over 300,000 unique visitors per month to Elite Traveler TV, our web based television channel and a global database of private jet owners. We have private events during events such as the Monaco Yacht Show and Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show where we have readers from around the world. I think the last point is our distribution is global – we are in over 100 countries, from Nigeria to China to Brazil to Russia. We like to say wherever in the world you’re from, wherever in the world you happen to be, if you fly by private jet Elite Traveler is with you. In other words, we reach this hard to reach audience.
In the luxury business, you never know where your next top customer is coming from, or where he or she happens to be today. Our distribution covers that for our partners making sure they are always in front of them. Our two month publishing cycle adds value and shelf life.”
In what ways has your publication changed over the years? And how has your publication remained successful in light of competing digital magazines?
“When we launched in 2001 we were ahead of the curve in terms of making our information accessible, understanding that our readers were on their private jet, sharing the magazine with friends and family. We utilize our oversize format with lots of pictures. We are the only magazine in the world that is regularly featuring top suites as opposed to just the generic hotel, but then again, our readers are the folks who are spending $1,000 to $40,000 per night to stay in these places. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.
We put in contact information with the name, phone number and email of a hotel general manager or the name of the manager of a boutique featuring the watch or handbag we are writing about. We use award winning writers and reporters, but challenge them to write in a short-form format realizing time is money. We give you the names of top guides in the places we write about. We give you the names of the manager of the restaurant with the hot table. We are like a friend to our reader, telling our reader, “If you want this bracelet, make sure to ask for Janet and use my name. She’ll take good care of you.”
Our format doesn’t have jumps. We follow a format that makes it easy for regular readers to find what they are looking for and our size and heavy paper re-enforce the private jet lifestyle image. I think a lot of luxury magazines talk to their readers like the storekeeper in Pretty Woman. We recognize 90 percent of UHNWs are self-made. They are not buying the products we cover as validation. They are buying them because they want them. Knowing our readers are the movers and shakers of the world, people who made innovations that changed millions of peoples lives, heads of state and even royalty, top celebrities and sports stars makes us very humble that they read our magazine!”
What do you think is the future for print publications, as compared to digital alternatives?
“Richard Branson said the magazine business hasn’t changed its circulation model in 150 years. Our model of getting the magazine to private jets is different. We figured out a new way to slice bread, so for what we do I think the sky’s the limit, pardon the pun. Since the recession, and the end of free money from credit cards and home loans for the mass affluent consumer, marketers of luxury products are more focusing on wanting to reach people who can buy their products regularly, or heavy users in ad speak. We reach more of this target with less waste than any publisher in the world. I’m happy to repeat that, but if you look across the business world innovation rarely comes from incumbents. The fact that we were new to consumer publishing enabled us to create a model that the big players missed. It’s truly amazing. Advertisers challenge their media partners to come up with a big idea. That’s what we do every day – bringing our partners to the laps of the richest and most influential people in the world on their private jets. It’s very exciting and fulfilling!”
How has the world of social media affected print publications? And what is your strategy when it comes to social media?
We are active on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. We have over 25,000 followers. I think it’s hard to tell what percentage are UHNWs vs. regular folks who want to get a glimpse of the private jet lifestyle. I can’t say it’s something we do better or worse than lots of others. We like to observe. I guess the best way to put it is I think Mark Zuckerberg can rest easy.
Many print magazines have established relationships with bloggers. How does this benefit both parties?
It’s not something we have done yet, however it’s something we are looking at. David Ogilvy once said it takes around a dozen impressions to get the notice of a consumer. We want to create as many touch points as possible with our readers, yet we also know that it’s impossible to be great at everything. We don’t believe in vaporware, so we don’t like to dive into things until we know how to make them work for what we do, yet we also know there are bloggers who develop a very loyal following. I guess the best answer is watch this space.
What do you think constitutes a successful marketing campaign? And what are some examples of successful campaigns that have featured in your publication?
Magazines are first and foremost best for awareness and branding. Today in the luxury market, in virtually every segment – watches, jewelry, auto, fashion, hotels, shelter – there is product overload, meaning creating awareness of what you do and what you offer is more important than ever. Today’s Super Rich are self made and didn’t grow up with luxury brands. They may know the brand names, but they know a lot less about the products than luxury marketers believe.
Regularly we have advertisers who track sales of jewelry sales in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and real estate in the millions sold directly from the magazine. We have had presidents of countries spend $500,000 booking a floor of suites after reading about it in Elite Traveler. We have had royalty place million dollar orders for watches after seeing an ad in our magazine. These are people you can’t reach through credit card databases and you will never get to come to a boutique opening for a free glass of champagne, yet each issue we have over 400,000 readers like this. Yet it is hard to track every sale.
We also tracked millions of dollars in transactions for watches, jewelry and accessories ranging from $1,000 to $10,000, which for the normal person is a big deal, but for our readers regular shopping. Every CFO will put my picture on the dartboard, but I believe that the overweighting of ROI takes away for the need that luxury companies need to spend more money creating awareness of their ever-growing line of products. As an example, it wasn’t too long ago Montblanc only made pens, now they wave accessories, watches, jewelry and so on. Do the super really rich know what you are selling? I often find sales reps for luxury brands have trouble keeping up with their own product lines.
You also blog on a regular basis. What is your main goal as a blogger?
I think the UHNW segment is underinvested by luxury marketers. The idea that you bring somebody into the brand through accessible price points such as fragrance and one day they become a billionaire and buy $100,000 necklaces is a fallacy. Today – globally – the best prospects for luxury companies know less about what these companies are selling than the junior manager sitting in her cube flipping through Vogue. The UHNWs made their money many times in some mundane industry. They figured out a better way to make widgets. Chances are they came from a middle class or even impoverished household. Look at Larry Ellison or Lewis Katz. Their early years were spent borrowing money from relatives and using credit cards to invest in their business, not taking fancy vacations. Their spouse and children probably worked in the business as well. Now they are rich and they know less about your brand than you think. It’s a great opportunity, and all research out there shows the rich are getting richer.
The top 1 percent are going to become the core segment successful luxury brands need to build loyalty with. The next 9 percent are going to more and more buy less and less in luxury and will increasingly gravitate towards ‘look for less’ solutions. My blog is about my passion for highlighting the UHNW market and the marketing opportunities. I also love the spending by UHNWs creates jobs for entrepreneurs and folks who are trying to make ends meet. When an UHNW has a $3 million party, the money goes to the waiters, bartenders, florists, security guards, black car drivers, those freelancers who support the entertainers, the venue designers, the construction workers who build out the venue, on and on and on.
Anything else you want to share with us?
When you love what you do, it’s not a job. It’s been said again and again, but I can attest it’s true.
If interested to collaborate with Doug Gollan or the Elite Traveler Media Group, reach out through social media on Twitter at @EliteTravelerDG or on Google + at +DougGollan or once again, don’t hesitate to ask us for an introduction.
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