The Luxury Letter Blog

Publisher Spotlight: Spire
September 3, 2008, 1:35 pm
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Each month we will be featuring luxury consumer websites, ad agencies, marketing firms and the people behind their success. This month we interviewed Janet Kraus and Suzanne Aaronson, Co-founders of Spire.
By Hibben Silvo, Editor

Trust is the most crucial part of any relationship, and Spire is built on just that.  Whether you’re renovating your bathroom, planning a safari or simply want to purchase an elegant wedding gift you can rest assured that the tips and suggestions on Spire will lead you to nothing short of the best.  The site’s ‘about us’ section describes them as “the leading social resource for affluent people.”  With a long history of good taste and an insistence for quality, the co-founders, Janet Kraus and Suzanne Aaronson, search the world for high-end goods and services for their members to reference.
Janet and Suzanne took some time away from their quest for the best to answer some questions about their site and how they perceive luxury. Check out the interview below:


Janet Kraus (left): As CEO, Janet drives Spire’s vision and culture. She came to Spire by way of Circles (the leading provider of concierge services), the company she co-founded with Kathy Sherbrooke and recently sold to Sodexho Alliance. While at Circles, Janet oversaw the company’s growth strategy, including the creation and ultimate spin-off of Spire as a stand-alone company and simultaneous purchase of Suzanne’s Files.

Suzanne Aaronson (right): As Curator, Suzanne leads Spire’s editorial team and countless unpaid international contributors in skimming the world for quality lifestyle finds. Suzanne’s passion for “finding the best and leaving the rest” began in her early twenties. Over the years, tips from savvy friends and notes from international hotspots grew into a prolific, in-demand knowledge base and eventually evolved into Suzanne’s Files, a successful business with an impressive international following.

Adcision: Why did you launch and what need has it fulfilled?

Suzanne: We felt that the highly affluent who are time starved and deeply value in-the-know insight were not being well served in the lifestyle arena.  Although there are some one-way static print resources, before we started there were not any on-line resources that combined highly vetted and culled recommendations with the social elements that make the web so powerful – people tapping into people.  There was no resource like this that could be tapped anytime/ anywhere.

Janet: Also, it was clear that while many premium and luxury brands were beginning to realize that their customers were on-line; very few had really made the big leap into the world of online marketing beyond search.  We felt that we could create an online media property where premium and luxury brands could really feel safe testing and learning with real customer engagement.  Although there has been a lot of talk about this, we believe the techniques for doing this are in the infancy and there is so much more room to help brands really connect with their customers – current and future.

Adcision: Which three brands are you the most proud to have run on your site?

Janet: We are really very new – our new site has been live since June – and frankly we are very excited by the breadth, quality and variation in size of the partners we have engaged with – from Ritz Carlton Club, Amex and Forbes, to the Adventure Collection and Luggage Forward, to Mutual Art, Black Tomato and Vivre, we are excited by all of them because part of our value proposition is that we can help drive engagement for premium, upscale companies of any size.

Adcision: Give me an example of something your readers discovered on your site that they probably wouldn’t have known about otherwise.

Suzanne: Every day consumers will discover something new on Spire to resonates with their passions or answer a burning question.

From a perfect day in Mallorca, a perennial summer hot spot and the largest of Spain’s Balearic Islands … to the world’s best Hot Air Ballooning outfitters and experience.  From the world-leading kids’ museums- wonderlands for art, innovation, adventure and imagination to choice custom home wine cellar designers for the connoisseur wine collector.  And from eco-intelligent appliances for home and garden to a 5-Star hotel with an innovative holistic wellness center for those with chronic back pain in Aspen.

Adcision: Please describe a typical visitor to your site — what he/she is like, what motivates them to visit, what engages them while they are there.

Suzanne: subscribers & members have one thing in common across their ages, sexes and nationalities:  They care about what is high quality and unique.

Whether a 32 year old professional on the rise, a 38 year old stay-at-home mother with two children, or a 52 year old hedge fund manager – every one of our customers seeks “the best” and has his or her own definition of “best.”  Every loyal customer of Spire is seeking a shortcut to quality information.  Everyone wants the inside scoop.  Everyone wants the information that a friend — who went there, did that or researched that — has to offer.  The Spire customer most values opinion and recommendations from those s/he can relate to.  People like them.  The Spire customer DOES NOT want to spend endless hours figuring it out him- or herself.

Our customer is uniquely engaged on with both the in-the-know InsightTM provided from other members AND the vetted, authoritative pithy files that we curate.

Adcision: Does your site have any unique features that you’re proud of?

We are proud of the way that we blend vetted lifestyle content (our Files) with members’ perspectives. This “blended approach” is simple and authentic in its concept as it   mimics the everyday behavior that the “Cultivated Consumer”  – someone who both “researches” for third parties AND relies on the insights of people they trust.

Adcision: What do you wish more people knew about

Suzanne: The more active target audience members, the more useful becomes!  If a member invites his/ her friends and they do the same, and those friends do the same and so on and so on … you trigger the “network effect” and tap your 6 degrees of separation.  Once this starts to happen, you truly are able to “get to’ any piece of info that will help you to live life well.

Suzanne’s Files are highly differentiated from any other lifestyle content available in the published world.  They are 15+ years of collecting tid bits and discerning people’s insights to present this basket of only the great stuff – leaving out the rest, that is the noise . . . and even telling you the little things – good and bad that help you to make the final decision.

Adcision: Can you namedrop… any well-known persons engaged with your site?

Suzanne: We value the privacy of our members but feel comfortable saying that there are several business “celebs” who are members of – real leaders in their sectors, be it Finance, Fashion, Arts, Design.  They value that they can be anonymous and yet tap “people like them”.

Adcision: How do you get your content?

Suzanne: I tap my own personal experience, trusted worldly friends and increasingly our growing “International Collective” of professional experts and insiders (all unpaid “passionistas”) who provide personal feedback/insights as well commentary and ideas for future Suzanne’s Files. Our contributors live & travel in various small and large markets keep us abreast on their finds, opinions and feedback of companies, products & services we cover for SFiles

Adcision: Please share some demographic information about your audience (i.e. average home value, average HHI, male/female ratio, etc.)

•    Age:  early 40s
•    Income: of 60% $200k+, 27% over $400k
•    Assets of $1 million+
•    Degree Educated
•    55%/45% — Female/Male Ratio

Adcision: What is your definition of luxury?

Suzanne: Luxury is an over-used, over-hyped, all-over-the-map word — what is Luxury anymore and to whom? Logically the word means different things to different people, at various life stages.
Personally, I find it a silly word now – but it used to mean so much, and sound so good. So, it begs the question: What is Luxury to you? I can tell you what it means to me — and many YAWNS* out there, (Young & Wealthy But Normal) (source: Robert Frank, WSJ Wealth Reporter/ Richistan Author) “Luxury” is truly high quality, craftmanship and/or artisanal, simple beauty, those things that I don’t get or have daily…it is an experience I remember with color, a way my body felt or reacted to a physical challenge or a new depth of relaxation; it’s the freshest of air, and the most perfect summer peach or bright winter sun in a snowy place. A child falling asleep on you is a Luxury, to me. YAWNs are down-to-earth, have integrity; they are less interested in the what and more in the how and why. Read the rest of this entry


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