Last Friday I was interviewing legendary travel agent Bill Fischer for a book I am working on called “Secrets of Selling to the Super Rich.” Earlier in the week another rendition of Art Basel Miami had just concluded where luxury brands were tripping over each other trying to find the billionaires among the posers and spending huge amounts of money to do so.
And while Art Basel, black tie galas and polo may fit the picture that luxury brands want to have of where ‘best customers’ can be found (and there are some at each), it was interesting that Fischer recently arranged a birthday trip for a billionaire client who wanted a private dinner with the Duck Dynasty crew in their warehouse.
The unnamed billionaire was an avid hunter (something I have found a pursuit of quite a few UHNWs) and was a loyal viewer of the guilty pleasure show. I guess it didn’t surprise me as 15 years ago when I was working on a project for The National Enquirer I learned that the down-market tabloid actually sold best in the most affluent neighborhoods.
So while caviar and the opera obviously attract Ultra High Net Worths, Fischer said he arranges trips around the world for Super Rich clients who are big wave surfers. His daughter Stacy Fischer says plans can change with weather patterns, and luckily her clients have their own private jets so it is only the land arrangements that have to be switched on the fly.
Family trips to Disney that range in the hundreds of thousands of dollars with private games with characters are also more typical than you may think.
It reminded me of an article I posted after Lewis Katz died in a plane crash earlier this year. It is a strong reminder that while nearly 90 percent of today’s Super Rich are self-made, coming from moderate means, much of luxe brand marketing still smacks of “Pretty Woman” stereotypes.
My own estimates peg that more than 90 percent of print, television, online and sponsorship media from luxury brands goes to consumers who have limited ability to buy, and then only from time to time at the lowest price points. (See the analysis by The Washington Post on how far $250,000 goes for the Mass Affluent).
For the book, I’ve also spoken with Stacy Small, the founder of Elite Travel International, a Los Angeles-based travel agency that counts Silicon Valley billionaires as clients, Michael Reslin, the U.S. boss for Italian tailor Caruso and Henry Kim, sales chief for WheelsUp among others. The one thing their super rich clients have in common is money. Other than that the interests of UHNWs are as diverse as you can get.
Saturday often means “tailgate” parties at college football games that can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, including tents with chandeliers and celebrity chefs. Sundays mean an afternoon in a luxury box watching a pro football game. The cost for a box for a single game can run in the tens of thousands of dollars.
Research by Wealth-X estimates that 211,000 Super Rich families spend over $235 billion on watches, jewelry, handbags, shoes, suits, cars, hotel suites, safaris and so forth. While private jet travel is a commonality for the UHNW family (Kim says being able to fly pets privately is often a justification for the expense) the other point is that the Super Rich are very hard to reach, and in fact their interests are much more diverse than many luxury brands may believe.
For marketers that want to get a larger share of all those billions of dollars, I would suggest that their UHNW marketing efforts may need a fresh look.