EAT LOVE SAVOR® as part of our editorial mandate since our inception, embarked on a mission to showcase true luxury brands, to celebrate excellence, and through luxury expert insights, help readers make sense of the true luxury lexicon in order to foster greater understanding and clarity of this complex ecosystem. We believe this is especially important during a time of great change in the luxury landscape as a result of the overuse of the term and in the face of luxury democratization. In this special editorial feature, we interview thinkers, leaders and creators that serve the luxury market to inform and shedding light on the multi-faceted complexities of luxury and how it is expressed. We had the opportunity and pleasure of speaking with luxury marketing expert Lorre White and bring that discussion to you in this interview.
Lorre White, CEO and Founder of White Light Consulting a company specializing in marketing to the UHNW (Upper High Net Worth); that 2% of the population whose wealth is high, their numbers limited, their buying power vast, but their identities and access to them is a matter of deep understanding and discretion.
A seasoned expert, Ms. White is called upon to assist brands, offering a range of luxury marketing services that today are all the more vital due to the rapidly changing landscape, attitudes and the ripple effect that democratization has had on luxury was once a more insulated segment of the market. Democratization and its effects on luxury, now more than ever, requires finesse and greater education for better understanding in order to cut through the confusion and misinformation.
With an illustrious career path that included modelling and syndicating thoroughbred racehorses, whilst studying at Simmons College in Boston Massachusetts, then, on to Wall Street. Eventually leaving the Stock Market for a more fulfilling path, she founded a company in event planning and marketing for a high profile clientele, many of whom she met whilst on Wall Street. This experience enriched her understanding on handling the needs of an exacting client who has unlimited resources and high expectations with often non-traditional approaches. This refined her abilities to serve this segment of the population, learn how they communicate and what moves them.
Her accolades and accomplishments many, Ms. White continues to share her strategic approach and expertise with generosity and graciousness whether for the corporate clients she’s worked with like Berkshire Hathaway’s NetJets or the many charities she has supported over the years. Her current enterprise White Light Consulting invites luxury brands for the UHNW to “Step into the light”.
Q. How did you get your start working in the field of luxury and what drew you to it?
At university, I was a double major in Marketing and Finance, and carried a minor in Advertising. It was really Marketing and Advertising that fascinated me. For my senior year, I had to do a work/study internship for a semester and then write a thesis. I was particularly interested in how certain high price point products defied all the rules of marketing and advertising I had been studying. This was then the undefined study of high-end luxury marketing.
For my internship, I chose to work at a Boston financial institution that syndicated thoroughbred race horses. For my senior thesis, I did a study of the company’s qualified investors and their reasons for purchasing. Because this was a financial instrument, it meant it was highly regulated by the S.E.C. – there has to be complete transparency. I was curious why investors invested after being told that they had a much greater chance to lose money then make it. Still a greater chance of only breaking even, only a reasonable chance at some profit and unlikely chance to hit it big, that these highly educated people from the top universities globally still bought racehorses.
I did surveys with the investors, which had a large participation, I think only because I was a student doing a thesis, and it was the beginning of understanding how the UHNW have very different motivating factors than most people. My paper was very well received by the company, my university, and garnered a lot of attention from other companies that needed to reach this particular demographic. Since it was an unpaid internship, the company reciprocated by sponsoring me to get my series 7 (required federal S.E.C financial license for Wall Street & financial institutions) credential while still in University. I only added the degree in Finance because all the jobs I wanted were in New York City, and at that time, I did not think I could make it there on a marketing and advertising newbies’ pay.
Q. Tell us about your company White Light Consulting and its mission/vision? What prompted you to create a company of this kind? What sets yours apart from others?
I am very entrepreneurial by nature. I love my independence and I hate working in the confine of a 9 to 5 structure. I get bored with every day being the same. I love working virtually because it serves me and my clientele well. My early mornings are spent on calls and virtual meetings in Europe. I often travel or even temporarily relocate to meet client’s needs. Working for others, often does not allow for all of one’s interest and talents to be utilized. My clients are private jet companies, superyachts, private banks, wealth management, 5 star travel, luxury media, racehorse breeders and syndicators, etc.
I get such a delicious variety of wonderful businesses to savor. What they all have in common is the need to reach the same @ 260,000 UHNWIs ($30 Million and up in liquid assets not including houses, jets, art, etc.) globally or 22.4 million VHNW (between $1 – 30 million). I have been doing this for 30 years and have never met someone else that does exactly what I do. I am the CLMO (Chief Luxury Marketing Officer) for several companies. I sit on the board for several luxury companies. I am a luxury marketing, media and business development specialist with an international clientele.
What is most unique about my work is that I work within the luxury sector with luxury professional at established brands, but I also have a direct reach into the UHNWI end user. For my clients, NetJets and Marquis Jets, when I was the global head of marketing for the BBJ (Boeing Business Jet) program, I worked directly with their wealthiest clients. It was a jets that commercially held over 200 passengers, but theirs was configured for only 18. It had two bedrooms, 3 marble bathrooms with showers, etc. I started a blog to facilitate my work and save me time as I would get questions like” If I am can only spend 4 days at the Cannes Film Festival should it be at the start or at the end”, “What are the best parties”, “Is the Ft. Lauderdale yacht show or the Monaco Show better”, etc. I also got information from my other clients about products hitting the market, that I would share with my jet clients, so I started a blog. It spread by word of mouth. From having this UHNW following, the media got wind and started asking me to do TV and other media, and thus “The Luxury Guru” was born. It was a title that the media gave me because I would speak about, or write about so many different topics, but all within the luxury sector.
One of my long time clients (MacPhearson Travel that morphed into SeaGate Travel), then it was purchased by the UK company Hogg Robinson, I helped take from 188th to 10th largest in the US. It became the largest private individually held travel company in the US. I worked with all of their top clients that included luxury brands like Cartier, to sports leagues. We did all the travel for the NBA, USA Basketball Olympics, NHL, MLB. I was instrumental in the creation of the NBA airline, and off season the jets were repurposed for another client through our charter division – The White House, to use for the journalist following the president.
Mass marketing is almost the antithesis of luxury marketing, especially the elite end of the sector like superyachts, private jets, wealth management and other high price point items that have an exclusively UHNW buyer.
I have traveled with many teams. The NBA does preseason games every year in other countries, the Japanese paid to have a real season games, so every other year I accompanied one of the teams to Japan for opening season games. Before the Olympics, the US Dream Teams have a 6 week tour, to give the players the opportunity to play with each other before the Olympics. I escorted several Olympic teams and their spouses and families through different counties. I took Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls to the World Championship in Paris, back when he was still a player. With other clients I have traveled with celebrities, financial wizards, top luxury industry leaders. I could not begin to tell you here about all the wonderful, and often hysterical adventures I have been on.
I love to travel, I love business development, I adore luxuries and attention to detail, and working this way has given me so much more than I could have within the confines of someone else’s design. Everyone has a natural talent they were born with; something that they are just naturally good at, without having to try. Some sing, other dance, or draw…..I breath luxury marketing! Being a consultant with many clients, also benefits my work, as I am able to create synergies and cross marketing and business development through my knowledge of what is going on across the luxury sector.
Q. What do you wish people knew about luxury as it relates to your field of expertise?
I regularly get people that do not understand the difference between marketing and sales. I must get 16 emails a week from someone that wants me to sell art, real estate, yachts, jets, or something else to my UHNW following. I never do sales. I do not raise capital. I do not seek out luxury brands to do ad sales. I am a luxury marketing, media and business development specialist. I work with C-level management of elite brands globally. Sales is a conflict of interest to my work. When a company hires me, they must trust that my recommendations are for the best of the company.
In luxury, a company’s marketing is over sales, because marketing and sales goals can diverge. In luxury, the purpose of an ad is as much about maintaining the brand image as it is selling anything. Marketing will sometimes sacrifice short-term sales for long-term branding. The most challenging part of my work is dealing with people that do not understand the luxury sector and how vastly different it is from the mass market business that most people know.
Most people don’t know that luxury is professionally defined business term, it is not left up to each individual’s preferences. Although too extensive to handle in its entirety here, it boils down to: Luxury industry products and services are not mass produced, not mass distributed and they are not price sensitive and they usually are not trendy.
The redundancy of having to educate them just enough to successfully advance a project, so that their limited understanding does not become a hindrance. The Luxury sector is very different, there is actually a luxury industry MBA, a MLBA. Mass marketing is almost the antithesis of luxury marketing, especially the elite end of the sector like superyachts, private jets, wealth management and other high price point items that have an exclusively UHNW buyer. It is this high end of the luxury market that I specialize in. There are not many people that do.
Q. What was the best advice you received about being in business today?
“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life,” ~ Confucius. I define success as having the time, resources and influence to do only what I want, when I want, how I want and with whom I want. Freedom.
Q. Generally speaking, luxury is misunderstood and it is thought that the definition has changed. Democratization has also made it too accessible and mainstream. How do you serve a more refined and sophisticated client who wants true luxury versus the mass approach to luxury?
When I write articles about the luxury sector, there is always someone that makes a statement that whatever was covered was not a luxury “to them”. Some people say it is a luxury to have a roof over their head, or food, or medical care and I would argue that these are necessities, not luxuries. As an international luxury marketing expert for elite brands that need to reach the global wealthiest demographic due to the price point of their product or service, I get asked all the time to define Luxury.
Articles written by a middle class employee, are most likely not going to be relevant to an UHNW consumer and their expectations.
Most people don’t know that luxury is professionally defined business term, it is not left up to each individual’s preferences. Although too extensive to handle in its entirety here, it boils down to: Luxury industry products and services are not mass produced, not mass distributed and they are not price sensitive and they usually are not trendy. This professionally define business definition of luxury has not changed. Luxury must always stay interesting and ahead of the mass market. Luxury industry spends more in development, and often much of what they do, trickles down and applied to the mass market. Luxury industry pays the prices to stay “sexy” to the most demanding audience, so in one sense you could say it is always changing….but not really from a professional business definition. Remember that it was once considered a luxury of the wealthy to have indoor plumbing, and today it is expected and mainstream.
Often journalist say that it seems the definition of luxury has changed, but it has not. What they are experiencing is the misuse of the word luxury. That is often seen in advertisements for mass market and premium brands. Premium is the best of the mass market. Examples of premium brands is Nike, iPhone, Gray Goose Vodka. Other examples of professionally defined terms that have been slaughtered by the mass market advertisers is Haute and Bespoke. The UHNW demographic, just like any other group, has predictable actions and responses, it is just different than that of the mass market. Tossing the word “luxury” in your verbiage and showing pretty pictures is not going to fool the UHNW demographic. Luxury marketing is very different than that of premium brands and other mass market products. The number one cause of failure by brands in the luxury sector, is the use of mass marketing techniques. Be wary of professionals that claim to be luxury specialists, but then proceed talk about premium brands. The luxury industry actually has its own luxury industry MBA, an MLBA, because it is so vastly different than the mass market.
Often journalist say that it seems the definition of luxury has changed, but it has not. What they are experiencing is the misuse of the word luxury.
The luxury market is divided into two groups, the Aspirational and the UHNW (Ultra High Net Worth). The cosmetic, fashion, spa, skin care, accessories, etc., industry depends on the first category for up to 80% of their sales. The private jet companies, superyachts, wealth management, private banks, have only UHNW. This is the sector I specialize in. The second group is not as affected by downturns in the economy. The truly rich are rich even after losing half their net worth; If you are worth a few Billion and loose half of it…you are not skipping any meals. The less a company must rely on aspirationals, the more insulated they are from the economic swings. Although a $900 pair of Chanel Sunglasses and $230 million dollar superyacht both require luxury marketing, you cannot compare their strategies.
I find a great deal of conflicting articles out on the luxury market. The reason is that most journalists are not specifically trained to understand the luxury market and unwittingly publish information that can be misleading. Often times they do not know the industry definitions of different terms. This accompanied by the fact that many readers also have the same limitation, means that there is a lot of confusion. Just one example is the term “affluent”. To the general populace affluent would be interchangeable with the word “wealthy”, but in luxury marketing it has a defined wealth range that it represents in data. The entry point for affluent starts as low as $75,000 annual household income. Thus articles on how “affluents” are reacting, is not indicative of how the HNW, VHNW or even more so, how the UHNW are behaving. The reader’s and the journalists’ inexperience in reading and interrupting the luxury marketing data, have them rolling all these very different responding groups into a mishmash that is not accurate.
In addition to not understanding the luxury marketing industry terms, the journalists and their readers bring their middle class perspective. When they write about the luxury market, they tend focus on the low price point brands that they know, like Chanel, Michael Kors or Tom Ford, but do not include most of the elite luxury brands that are not commonly recognized by the middle classes like Pagani, Blohm + Voss, Ferretti, Lürssen, Dassault, Bombardier, etc.
Several years back I was contacted by a journalist who was being paid by one of the world’s largest news sources, to write a travel article for wealthy travelers for their luxury section. She called on me, since I am a Luxury Expert, to ask questions – she wanted to know why wealthy people liked the Caribbean island of St. Tropez so much? First, I pointed out that St. Tropez was not in the Caribbean, secondly that it was not an island, but on the southern coast of mainland France, and thirdly that the UHNW already knew why they liked St. Tropez and so this article would be of more interest to someone much less well traveled and of a lower financial demographic than she was supposed to be targeting. This is a perfect example of why the UHNW do not follow most media sources. Simply put, a travel article written by a middle class employee, is most likely not going to be relevant to an UHNW consumer and their expectations of a property/product/event. This is part of the reason that the UHNW are harder to reach.
Q. What is the No. 1 luxury item of the UHNW?
Time. The higher up on the affluence level, the more “time” is worth. For example, if it took a person one hour to clip coupons that save them $30 at the store, than that hour was only economically well spent if they make $30 or less an hour at their work. A person that makes $100,000 annually, their hour is worth much less in dollar terms, than Warren Buffett or Bill Gates who makes more in an hour than they make in a year. There are two aspects of time: Quantity and Quality. To successfully market to this demographic, one must address TIME not COSTS. Most customer service for luxury brands is to save the customer time or improve the quality of the time spent. The higher up on the wealth scale, the more time is worth. The UHNW are willing to exchange their excessive amount of dollars to save time. The farther down the financial scale, the less value time has, and that is why aspirational consumers are willing to spend time calculating credit card points, travel on off-days to get discounts, fight crowds to shop sales, and other less pleasant, more time-consuming activities to save dollars.
Q. What are your personal philosophies about luxury as a mindset and approach to living?
As “The Luxury Guru”, I am most often asked how I personally would define it, beyond its professional definition. Luxury is the best of any art form and, like any art, luxury is defined by its ability to evoke an emotion. Like any great masterpiece, quality is inherent. Luxury comes in every category. It is something that separates itself from the others by uniqueness and creating pleasure. Not all luxuries have an expensive price tag, but often the rareness, the increased time to produce and the more expensive components do drive price. The fastest growing luxury segment is the one that supplies an emotional component, experiencing life to its fullest. Luxury supplies a very special opportunity to experience something new. It is often educational and can be shared with friends and loved ones. Luxury as a “quality of life”, not simply amassing quantity “ It is an enlightened approach to living”, Private jets to Perfume, Yoga to Yachts, Exotic car to Candle, Watches to Wines.
Q. Where do you see the luxury business heading overall and as it pertains to your line of work?
It has been said that of all the creatures, man is the only one that share God’s the desire to create. Luxury is the best of man’s creation. Luxury will always exist, it will always innovate as man seeks more; more success, more happiness, more beauty, more ease, more adventure. As basic needs are accomplished – then then flights of fancy soar. Luxuries exist in every category. In luxury there is so much optimism and opportunity. Luxury is a huge business and will always exist.
Q. In your view, what has been some of the biggest changes in the way UHNW clients fulfill their luxury lifestyle needs today? How has this affected how you guide your clients? What do you foresee coming for the luxury sector overall?
The fastest growing luxury segment is the one that supplies an emotional component, experiencing life to its fullest. Luxury supplies a very special opportunity to experience something new. It is often educational and can be shared with friends and loved ones. The Robin Leech 80s excessive decadence, disrespectful wastefulness of resources, and gaudy gluttony is gone. It is now an enlightened approach to living. It is about creating last memories. Don’t just exist… Live! Luxury is what we do above mere survival; it is the art of living.
Luxury is the best of man’s creation. Luxury will always exist, it will always innovate as man seeks more
Millennials have put pressure on brands to live up to a certain standard themselves, including not investing or supporting businesses that do not have women in top levels of management. The day of the one token female is gone and luxury brands are promoting women into c-level positions faster than ever before. Luxury consumers require a consciousness not just about social issues, but environmental issues like the yachting industry has for finding ways to reduce their footprint. Or sustainable resourcing of skins for hand bags and shoes. Luxury is often where advancements are made because they must be cutting edge to stay relevant to a ‘been there done that group’. Often luxury industries advancement trickle down to the mass market where they have lighter budgets, so it benefits all of society. It was a billionaire NBA team owner that paid for the advancement to have live TV on planes, now every budget Jet Blue seat has their own individual TV.
Interviewed by Angela Tunner, Founder, Editor in Chief and Publisher of EAT LOVE SAVOR®. Luxury experts and intellectuals specializing in the HNW and UHNW market that wish to be interviewed in this series can contact editor @eatlovesavor.com