he headline in The Wall Street Journal
read "Courvoisier to Launch Clothing Line," and the article below
it described how the venerable cognac brand was launching a
collection of luxury sportswear.
The company projected that first-year sales could reach $3
million, but a spokesman for its parent company, Allied Domecq,
acknowledged that the larger goal was to help transform Courvoisier
into a lifestyle brand.
Similarly, when I recently spoke with Bulgari CEO Francesco
Trapani -- his company is best known for producing jewelry, perfume
and watches -- he said he felt comfortable opening Bulgari Hotels
& Resorts because focus groups had assured him that his
traditional clientele believed that Bulgari "understands their
lifestyle." He, too, indicated that the hotel's financial goals
were secondary to creating buzz about his brand.
The trend of converting product buyers into lifestyle consumers
has been going on for some time, but there seems to be an
acceleration of the notion that travel can figure prominently in
For the most part, the efforts have been modest -- the Bulgari
Hotels, the Cuisinart Resort and Spa on Anguilla, the Palazzo
Versace on Australia's Gold Coast and the Hard Rock and Planet
Hollywood properties come to mind -- but there are signs that
interest in travel-related products is growing. The spokesman for
Allied Domecq, which owns Malibu coconut rum as well as
Courvoisier, mused aloud that a holiday resort called Malibu would
fit in well with the company's goals.
If turnabout is fair play, let's consider what travel brands
could become lifestyle brands. It's one thing to stick the name of
your resort on T-shirts and ashtrays and sell them in the lobby
gift shop, but quite another to expect Saks Fifth Avenue to carry
them. If Bill Marriott's Mormon background didn't make it
unthinkable, would anyone be interested in buying cognac by
Courtyard by Marriott?
I think there are some possibilities. Let's start with the
low-hanging fruit: Hedonism is already the name of both a travel
product and a lifestyle, and seems ripe for extension into
everything from spirits to hot tubs to lingerie. Westin Hotels and
Resorts says it's doing a brisk business selling its "Heavenly
beds" and accessories on its Web site, but so far has no retail
presence. Perhaps it should consider a few well-placed boutiques
(or even temporary "guerrilla stores," the latest retail
For now, the closest the industry has to lifestyle brands are
Disney and Virgin Atlantic, but neither started as a travel firm.
Disney initially extended into travel from feature films, but gets
points for coming full circle, with theme park rides serving as the
jumping-off point for movies.
Virgin, one of the premiere lifestyle-branding companies in the
world (150 enterprises, from cola to financial services) gets major
points for bringing a nontravel brand to the airline industry and
running a profitable carrier, something even experienced airline
executives can't always manage.
And, unfortunately, there aren't many opportunities in the brand
extension arena for legacy airlines -- the poor-morale, confused
and struggling lifestyle has yet to capture the public's
Look for additional details on this article in the February 23
issue of Travel Weekly.