I know of at least a dozen international spa brands re-thinking their identities for fear of seeming outdated or irrelevant. There’s nothing unusual about a bit of brand self-reflection. After all, brands need to keep evolving while staying true to their core values. What’s interesting is that many of them emerged only within the last decade. That’s an awfully short time to be threatened by extinction, which leads me to wonder why spa brands’ life spans are in peril.
In addition to having to adapt to radical market changes, as well as economic and digital disruptions, it doesn’t help that many spa brands today lack a clear differentiation or a compelling value proposition. Many were launched without the forethought required to manage a brand and plans only extended as far as a catchy logo and swanky interiors.
Another challenge is the spa industry’s schizophrenic and ambivalent attitude towards its own identity. Ten years ago, we were questioning who had the right to call themselves a “spa”. Today, we’re running away from the much-maligned descriptive.
We bemoan how consumer behavior is evolving faster than our ability to adapt. We are slow to catch on to how technology is changing the entire customer experience, and equally slow to capitalize on market opportunities – men, the silver set, retail prospects. Need I say more?
For example, I can understand from an operational perspective why spas limit their product range to no more than two or three items. But this doesn’t reflect the reality of today’s increasingly fickle consumer who uses an average of six to eight skincare products in their daily routine. In Asia, I’d venture it’s even higher.
Spas and product brands get caught up in the world of “professional” vs “retail”? Guess what, guys? Your spa consumer couldn’t care less. They want great products and they’ll buy it wherever it’s available, including online. Exclusivity in distribution is not an expression of luxury from a consumer’s perspective—it’s an inconvenience.
Rest assured, spas are here to stay. (It’s hard to argue against centuries’ of history.) But if spa brands want to achieve what they aim to deliver to consumers – longevity — they’re going to have to change their game plan. Brands die because of shortsightedness and hubris. And all is not well in spa-dom. The ultimate Holy Grail in the brand game today is engagement and the way to achieve that is through what we’ve called the holy trinity of brand survival: Experience, Engagement and Emotion.
Experience — Spas have this down pat. Where they fall short is in delivering it ‘consistently’ and distinctly. Another area where experience is virtually non-existent is in retail. And this spells brand suicide. The demand for new experiences has radically changed the playing field, and spa retail is very much in the Dark Ages. Virtually every retail environment – whether it’s physical or online – is being radically changed by fast-developing digital technologies making “immersive retail environments” the new norm.
Empathy – Being “green” and “socially responsible” is a business imperative, no longer just a marketing ploy. But this is not what we mean by “empathy”. It is a brand’s ability to understand and share the feelings of their consumers. Today, customers rule. Empathetic companies naturally tend to be some of the most successful because they’re highly attuned to subtle changes in the marketplace, and are in a more competitive place to respond.
Do you truly understand your customers? Can you connect with them on a deep, intuitive level? Do you really know what they want and need – and more importantly, why? You’re probably thinking, ‘Of course I do!’ Now ask yourself, ‘Do your marketing efforts reflect this?’
Emotion — This is where the battle for dominance will be won. The key to success is winning hearts and minds. This can only be done through emotion. Brands that can make you feel good, make you laugh, cry, remember, think and reflect, move you to act, are here to stay. Brands that can stir passion, wonderment, joy, and yes, even sadness, leave lasting impressions. They engender experience and memories. They have the sticking factor. And even if digital Darwinism threatens them, passionate fans will fight for their survival.
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