When Fyre Festival documentaries launched in January this year detailing the rise and fall of the luxury music festival, comments starting popping up on Yacht Week’s social media.
Its Instagram and YouTube channels showing long-limbed millennial’s dancing to the backdrop of a crystal sea were not far off the infamous Fyre Festival’s and consumers were starting to notice.
“The content that we put out is similar to Fyre Festival and we definitively saw through comments on social that parallels were drawn,” Will Weeks, director of marketing and technology at Yacht Week’s parent brand Day 8, explains.
However, before Weeks could become too concerned past holiday makers began replying.
“Both [Fyre and Yacht Week] are selling a dream but the difference is we have 13 years of history backing it up with a dedicated and vocal community, who to our benefit set the record straight and were answering these comments with their own experiences.”
The result was it didn’t damage the brand’s business but the experience did solidify the sense of community the brand was already trying to foster through the creation of Day 8. The parent company of Yacht Week, Ski Week and Oh!So was formed last year to bring together the three brands, solidify their communities and spot opportunities for new products.
Weeks explains: “The idea of that community is that people feel more brand affinity beyond our products, so we drive affinity and loyalty. This means when the time comes for them to choose a new product or we release a new one within the group they know the standards.”
Yacht Week began as a small holiday offering for young professionals looking to hop between islands but it has to grown to become a floating festival that features a new DJ every night.
In 2013, the brand branched out into Ski Week to cater to its audience over the winter. The latest offering is Oh!So, which it hopes will reach a younger audience providing cheaper road trips across Croatia and Albania.
However, combining all three under the Day 8 parent company has been a consciously slow process.
Weeks explains: “Yacht Week and Ski Week were relatively small compared to large tour operators but we have quite a lot of brand equity so what we wanted to avoid doing was a rebrand that would lose some of that.
“Instead we’ve been slowly integrating the group in some of the messaging within the community and we’re looking at how [Day 8] can be continued and defined as its own entity.”
Day 8’s focus has been on building communities through its email newsletter and app, where users can add events from the three different brands. Weeks has also started a Facebook group in order to solidly the sense of community that he hopes will go beyond just the brand.
“We knew our community was going to be the catalyst for the group and we’ve started to communicate organically who [Day 8] is through that. But it is not something we moderate and its where our users have conversations get tips for different areas around the world look for different couch surfing opportunities,” he says.
Marketing to Gen Z and the end of the influencer
Weeks believes most of the travel industry is “missing a trick” when it comes to marketing to a younger audience and argues that the end of influencer marketing is looming.
“I’ve worked within the influencer community for the last almost 10 years and seen it grow and rise to a saturation point and I’ve had doubts as to the effectiveness of it in such an oversaturated market,” he notes.
This cynicism has led him to cut the use of large-scale influencers to instead introduce ‘ambassadors’ – holiday makers who have large social media followings themselves.
He explains: “Rather than [creating] lots and lots of activity that drives significant reach but might not create a legitimate connection we’re looking to build long-term relationships with these ambassadors who actually have an investment and interest in our business and are our customers so they value it differently.”
He claims Gen Z are less taken in by high production advertising and are instead moving towards “authenticity and reliability”.
He explains: “There is nothing more valuable than the relationship you build but that takes time and consistency. There was such a quick move in the last five years to shift into digital advertising, which had such quick returns, where maybe that doesn’t have as much of a lasting impact than things which aren’t visible.”
What’s not visible, Weeks argues, is genuinely unique experiences that can’t be replicated
“Anyone in the travel industry is going to have hundreds of views on what they think are the cause and effect of the state of today. It’s so easy for young people to seek inspiration and validation about where they should go and book online.
“However, providing experiences that aren’t so easy to access and are not the quick wins – things that are special and unique – you cant compete with that on Booking.com.”
However, there are limitations and Weeks admits that experiential brands struggle with loyalty.
“It’s something that a lot of experiential brands suffer with because you sell a once in a lifetime opportunity. I was previously with another travel operator where loyalty was a real problem but with Day 8 and the brands [it offers] it is between 14% and 20%, which is pretty strong in travel”.
The key it seems is to offer variation, with Day 8 ensuring that the experience is tweaked – largely through different locations.
“What we find with our guest, because we offer a similar experience at different locations they go once and they’re not really sure what to expect and then they fall in love with it and then next time they go bigger and better. They’ll get a crew together, they will upgrade to a more expensive launch or a different location and they will come back over time.“