“Personality goes a long way…” to steal a line from Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. Actually, the biggest threat to any luxury brand (and I say luxury in terms of details or non-monetary value) is this ridiculous notion that corporate professionalism should come in the form of a very uniform and sterile identity. Also the ability for a brand to behave with honesty, transparency and sincerity. Most global businesses seem to want to filter out personality, instead opting for rather meaningless interaction. We are really fortunate in our industry that we can get to know our customers or prospects very well. We are not sifting through thousands of names in a CRM system, we are having 1:1 conversations at events which are designed to allow us to be ourselves, yet offer a truly memorable moment to the attendees. The other, slightly more obvious thing, is to not be overly concerned about disrupting the norm!
Turning Princess Yachts, a luxury British company into a global success story
By maintaining our business with a “craft in-house” business model. We are vertically very integrated and complex and have over 2050 employees, of which the average age is 41 and the average length of service is 11 years. Rather unique – in the zero-hour contract and outsourced production world of today – if you consider that over 85% of a Princess Yacht is created here in the UK by our employees stretched out across 5 sites in the South West. We even make the water receptacles (black water tanks, for waste water collection onboard) in our factory. That’s pretty much unheard of. We are also a success story because we have remained true to our principles. We are boaters, who build great boats for boaters. And, we don’t discount heavily in order to achieve stretched sales targets. That forms part of a long-term strategy that means the residual values of a Princess Yacht are pretty much benchmark. That tends to make our customers happy, and is undoubtedly a driving reason for our sales to loyal customers eclipsing 67% last year. Additionally, we still operate on a very personal level, and currently we are recognised as having the strongest global network within our sector. Over 65 dealers all across the world who not only offer the usual expectations of customers, but pride themselves on being able to repeatedly exceed those expectations, too.
Standing out from the crowd without losing your values
Be yourself, but be well thought-out. The rest will follow. We have very recently initiated an opening of the doors into our world and our brand by celebrating our 50 year history. Currently we are not re-inventing the brand, just simply taking many of the more personal characteristics that already exist within our organisation and presenting it nicely to the world. I’m personally rather left-of-centre creatively so relish being out of my comfort zone, and there is incredible talent within our organisation across all disciplines, and they all seem to be pushing in the same direction – so we are developing things in a manner which the industry is not accustomed to seeing, and executing them really well, too.
We are seeing some of the other brands in our sector sitting up and taking note, and even some of them replicating aspects of our new material verbatim. A great example of that is another yacht builder using both the forward line motif from our latest Princess ad campaign (a line that faces 20 degrees to the right which emulates the orientation of the font within our logo) as well as elements of our latest brand campaign. Last year in September we released new brand messaging based on “Experience The Exceptional”. And even some of that wording seems to be popular, all of a sudden, too! It is sort of flattering, but also very telling in terms of the creativity within the pond we are floating in. Hopefully, that is not the industry, and that is simply one brand’s behaviour. In terms of losing marine industry values? Not a chance. The greatest thing about this industry is how refreshingly open it is. Yes, you have some lack of bravery, but at least the conversations are real, and the average behavior of people within the industry is far from pompous or superficial. I spent a great deal of time in other industries across many different countries before joining Princess Yachts, and so I am acutely aware of just how shallow and soul-depleting certain industry behaviour can be. But as long as you stand out in the right way, which means with integrity, and deliver your message and activities with intensity down to even the tiniest of details, you don’t really run the risk of alienating people.
Branching out into the Asian market
Treat the market organically with the expectations of year-on-year growth taken from a more developed market place and understanding. Don’t enter in under full force hoping to conquer the world within a year. As relates to our specific business, our customers are trans-global. They all expect the best, and very much on their terms (how they like – when they like). We are not oriented to make products that sit around as stock items, so with literally each order at Princess being placed by a customer, we tailor the entire experience to that one particular customer. I get asked a lot about how we cater for Asian customers. My answer is pretty simple – the same way we cater for any other “one” of our customers. On a very personal level, whenever I hear others answer that question with stereotypical claims of what an “Asian customer” wants, they more often than not mention mahjong tables and not liking the sun. I simply cringe when I hear that. And I say that seriously. It is not in our nature at Princess Yachts to think in that way. I think that might actually be the biggest reason for Princess Yachts being the success story it is today – although the 16,570 boats we have made since 1965 might also have something to do with it.
By Kiran Jay Haslam, Marketing Director, Princess Yachts