Here’s What Happened When Club Med Hit the Refresh Button on Its Brand

In an ephemeral world that typically rides on 140 characters, where consumers’ eight-second attention spans rival that of goldfish, most brands find it challenging to maintain awareness and relevancy.

The situation is particularly difficult for legacy brands that once dominated markets. The stability and familiarity of long-standing consumer favorites are constantly being eroded by new trends in mindsets, desires, and values.

Yet some companies seem to have cracked the code on not only surviving but thriving in today’s new era and offer methods that any business can leverage for success.

One example is Club Med a company that began as holiday “camps” offering tents and straw huts with a slogan, “the antidote to civilization.” Club Med experienced massive rise, then such a devastating decline that Harvard Business School once used Club Med to illustrate the death of a brand. Now, Club Med Chairman and CEO Henri d’Estaing reports that the company is experiencing record growth and that there will be seven new properties by 2018.

So how is this company experiencing such success after 67 years in the market?

1. It’s keeping its ear to the ground

Although it sounds a bit cliché, strength really does come from understanding your company’s core target and how to target satellite customers. Explains Xavier Muffragi, CEO Club Med, North America and Caribbean: “Today, millennials are looking for experience, discovery, and activity when traveling, so naturally we’re tracking this pattern and creating offerings around it. We also looked at how their values impact boomers and Generation X in terms of overall travel mega-trends but also for our own brand, since a lot of our business is multi-generational family groups.” Thus, for companies focusing on enlivening an established brand, the key is to watch direct patterns closely but also to analyze the extended, ripple effects. That way, a wide net of customer behavior knowledge can be cast and leveraged.

2. It’s anticipating tech trends.

Club Med has also been focused not just on following trends but driving desire through of-the-moment ways of communication. The company is now consistently delivering virtual reality content to key travel agents so that potential travelers can experience brand offerings before even booking a flight. In addition, the company is adamant about mobile commerce. “Our mobile bookings have doubled in one year due to consumer shifts, overall, but also because we are placing our marketing investments towards more mobile ad formats as well as totally rebuilding our site to offer a ‘responsive’ (meaning mobile friendly) shopping experience,” explains Club Med’s Sabrina Cendral, VP of marketing and digital. In addition, on the resort sites, the company has invested in RFID-style bracelets that each customer receives at check-in that enables one to do everything from pay for various items at the resort to open one’s hotel room door. For an older brand, applying and anticipating trends in technology rather than playing catch up is vital.

3. It’s forming partnerships.

Club Med has applied a portion of an infusion from Chinese investment company Fosun to form a new partnership venture with Cirque du Soleil to offer a completely new travel activity. The Club Med Opio in France’s Provence, for example, has a 33,000-square-feet outdoor stage of sorts where all ages are invited to learn acrobatics in various forms from Cirque-trained instructors. The ambitious project includes giant bungees, vertical walls, various trapezes, and aerial hoops. “It’s all created so that whoever comes to ClubMed can actually learn to do the Cirque du Soleil show,” says d’Estraing. Indeed, the right partnerships can lend high-profile allure from which established brands can greatly benefit. The edge and sex appeal of organic business collaborations can turbo-boost interest and drive social media chatter.

Of course, only time will tell if Club Med can keep the momentum going. Certainly, legacy brands walk a tightrope every day that can only be balanced by creative innovation and calculated risk.

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