Lorre White has been an international luxury marketing, luxury media and luxury business development specialist for nearly 30 years. She is the owner of White Light Consulting. White Light Consulting was developed to expand her business and grow it to unparalleled levels.
White is known as “The Guru of Luxury”, which is an apt title for her as she consults, trains, advises, and creates strategic marketing for luxury brands that need to reach the world’s wealthiest demographics.
Through her work, White has developed an identity and presence in the media and is a sought-after keynote speaker, blogger, and personality in the luxury industry. Not only does White work with top-notch luxury brands, but she is a highly recognized figure in the elite ultra-wealthy world.
As a luxury marketing consultant, White has been able to work with a number of well-known companies. Thanks to her reputation, more members of the ultra-wealthy community have discovered just who she is. Unfortunately for many luxury brands, she is so exclusive that not everyone can obtain her services.
Lorre, can you start off by telling all of us about yourself and your brand?
I’m the owner of White Light Consulting. I am also known as “The Luxury Guru” by the media. They gave me that title because I have spoken on so many diverse topics all under the luxury umbrella. I have studied and now teach, train, advise and write about the ultra-high net worth individual (UHNWI) sector.
Can you tell us about White Light Consulting? How would you describe it?
I have had four roles in the luxury sector globally: a luxury media personality, luxury marketing consultant to businesses that need to reach the ultra-wealthy, a luxury industry keynote speaker, and owner of a luxury blog that in 2015 ranked by NetBase as the No. 3 luxury blog globally and the No. 1 that reached the UHNWI. Due to a lack of time, my luxury blog has been put on hold. I am an internationally recognized luxury marketing expert. I own White Light Consulting. I work with luxury brands that need to reach the world’s wealthiest because of the price point of their product or service, companies like yachts, jets, racehorses, elite properties, jewelry, watches, five-star hotels, luxury media and private banks.
I have written articles for luxury consumer magazines globally. I had a column in Portugal’s No. 1 rated luxury magazine DNLife with over 1.2 million subscribers. Also, I have frequently written articles for luxury industry professionals. I was a columnist for Luxury Daily, the No. 1 luxury industry news media outlet. Luxury Marketing is very different than mass marketing taught at most universities. The use of mass marketing is the number one cause of failure in luxury businesses. There is even a separate luxury MBA (MLBA) offered at a few universities. There are very few real luxury marketers. I get letters all the time from people thanking me for these articles and how my luxury industry articles helped them change their way of thinking and greatly improved their business. It gives potential new consulting clients the chance to see the type of work I have done. The UHNWI like to read about themselves and they enjoy it, not to mention many UHNWI are investors in luxury businesses and they are looking for information both as an investor, as well as a consumer.
I also am an international keynote speaker for luxury industry events, and the only internationally recognized luxury media personality with a following of the world’s wealthiest consumers. I have a recognized name in the industry, with both luxury industry professionals, and outside the industry to the end user. As one journalist wrote, “If you don’t know of Lorre White, you’re probably not UHNWI.” I am also the only internationally recognized luxury media personality and a keynote speaker for the luxury industry. I write about my personal experience with hotels, jets, international events, yacht shows, and more, because I have built trust with the UHNWI. It is more important who says it, as what is said in reporting to this group because they know that their standards exceed what is the reality for most individuals. Unless someone has been trained, they are probably bring their more middle-class perspectives into play. In the luxury sector there are two divisions: the low price point luxuries like fashion, cosmetics, foods, spirits, and spas that rely on the middle-classes for 80% of their sales. And the high price point luxuries like superyachts, private jets, private banks, and wealth management that has an exclusively UHNWI clientele. I specialize in the latter. Even though an $900 dollar pair of Chanel sunglasses and a $200 million dollar superyacht both require luxury marketing, they require very different strategies.
White’s experiences in university and internship during her college days led her to the luxury sector. It wasn’t yachts and vintage wines that influenced her to work with wealthy individuals, rather it was race horses that pushed her toward her current career.
What led you into this line of business?
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 SEC – 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 still bought racehorses. I did surveys with the investors, which had a large participation, 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 for to get my series 7 (required federal SEC financial license) credential while still in school. I only got a degree in Finance because all the jobs I wanted were in New York City and I did not think I could make it there on a marketing and advertising newbies’ pay.
How do you define success?
Having the time, resources and influence to do only what I want, when I want, how I want and with whom I want. Freedom.
Do you ever work with luxury startup companies and how is that different then mass market startups?
I am very entrepreneurial by nature and startups can be a lot of fun and creative to work on. I will work with startups, but only after they have raised their capital. I have seen too many great ideas that were only two weeks away from funding for five years, only to become shop worn and never funded. The luxury sector is much more difficult to break into than the mass market. You cannot launch and then try to work your way into the luxury sector once you have capital. In luxury, the marketing budget is anywhere from three to seven times depending on the price point that of a mass market company. This larger amount of capital up front, is one of the barriers of entry to the luxury sector. Underfunding because they did not appropriately budget, and did not practicing luxury marketing, are the most common causes of failure in the luxury startups sector. Everything in the luxury sector is more expensive from the limited media sources that reach the UHNWI, the limited people specifically trained in luxury business, the cost of participation in events that this group gravitates to, and the expense of impressing a hard to impress “been there-done that” group.
Luxury business is so different than mass marketing taught at 99.8% of the universities, that it actually has its own luxury industry MBA, an MLBA. Many marketing companies present themselves as marketing to the luxury sector and then list clients that are all premium brands, which is the best of the mass market. This is a common way that startups get taken advantage of and wind up losing their business. In luxury, you are never higher than where you launch. Your new brand’s image is determined up front, and if you don’t get it right, it is not like the mass market where you can repackage and claim new and improved. This is a very unforgiving group. In luxury the intangible brand value is the reason that clients are willing to pay the premium. Because of this, marketing is the most crucial component to a luxury company’s success. The luxury sector is very small globally, both the top level professionals in the industry, and the UHNWI, all are familiar with each other. Getting the right players, that have the contacts, and trust, is paramount in new companies being accepted by a demanding group. I have seen great products fail due to marketing, and mediocre products succeed due to marketing. It is all about the marketing in the luxury business.
White finds herself incredibly in demand. Many of her clients come from social media and seek her out specifically to work together. White has written a number of articles and blogs for clients to use as tools for answering common questions. Clients typically book White’s services in advance as she is so busy working with members of the UHNWI sector.
How do you find new clients? For people that want to work with you, what do you recommend?
They usually find me from other clients or general reputation internationally in a small niche. I have sometimes been recruited off social media. I work virtually, so I can be based anywhere. I have a complete LinkedIn profile, I have articles about luxury marketing by me and magazine articles about me. I have a mini bio article called “The Allure of White”, and I have an self-explanatory article titled “How To Work With Lorre White” https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-you-can-work-lorre-white-luxury-guru-lorre-white/ which answers the most common questions asked before engaging. Because I work alone, except staff, I am very limited as to how many clients that I can take on due to my limited time, so savvy companies book in advance. This is also why I streamline the hiring process with articles. I turn down more jobs than I can accept.
Why do you choose to work virtually?
I work virtually because I love my independence. I love the freedom to travel and to live in different properties at different times of the year. It also allows me to better handle family needs when they occur. Because the elite end, or high price point end, of the luxury sector is very small globally, my clients are international. There is no one location where they would all be present. When I am in the US, my early mornings are spent on the phone, and in virtual meetings with my European clients. I have sometimes temporarily relocated, at the client’s expense, when they feel they need me for an extended period of time at a certain location. The longest one so far was 18 months. This flexibility also serves my client’s needs. The UHNWI are global in lifestyle and events they attend, not regional, and so virtual is best for me.
What is the most common conception about your work?
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.
Which social media networks are best for your line of work?
I do use social media. I am a member of many private social media groups, but of the general open media, I use them differently. My posts on LinkedIn are about work topics, my Twitter is mostly for media and my Facebook pages are more social in nature. With the different roles that I have in the luxury sector, different media is appropriate for different business purposes.
What luxury do your friends most associate you with?
That is easy – Champagne! I am not sure that they would recognize me without a glass in my hand. That is my go-to beverage.
White explains just what is most important to the UHNWI sector and what luxury item is most valued. It may not be the luxury item most people expect but it is till highly sought after.
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,
Can you give an example of how marketing in a luxury company differs from marketing in a mass market company?
Besides the example I gave in another question here, on the value of time, mass marketing companies are sales driven and usually sales is over marketing as it serves only to facilitate sales. In luxury companies, 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.
Were you ever influenced by other entrepreneurs?
I love entrepreneurs. They have an ability to create out of nothing. They have to have such diverse talents. They must see the big picture where others see nothing, but also are able to break it down to the smallest detail. I love success stories and I find that many of my personal friends are entrepreneurs. In watching the sometimes crazy obstacles that they clear, I find inspiration. Most UHNWI are self-made and accomplished this through their entrepreneurial spirit.
White sees one of the biggest challenges of her job being those people that don’t truly understand her work. She regularly finds herself having to educate others about her work.
What is the most challenging part of your work?
Working with people that do not understand the luxury sector and how vastly different it is from the mass market business that most people know. 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. Most 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.
Both NetJets and Marquis Jets, who are now both owned by billionaire Warren Buffet and have been clients of yours. Can you tell us a story about working for him?
I remember that NetJets was hosting a private lunch at Warren’s country club, where he was to give a speech. Their top clients were invited, most of whom worked in finance. These were big names, people you saw quoted on the front page of the WSJ. We flew them in and since I was the global head of marketing for what was then the BBJ program (Boeing Business Jet) I was on the flight. This was a plane that commercially could hold about 200 people and ours was configured for just 18 with 2 bedrooms, marble bathrooms with showers, etc. The BBJ clients were among the most affluent of the clients. Anyway, I was on the jet with a small select group, and there were tornadoes on the ground in the area at the time of our arrival. We had to stay airborne and I was told that when the pilot got clearance to land, that I should call to let Mr. Buffett know. When I called I was expecting to get an assistant, but he answered his own phone. At the club he did not valet park, but parked in the lot and walked to the door. There was no entourage. He was pleasant and friendly to everyone from staff on up. At the lunch there was a question and answer period, and it was fascinating to see the people that are usually the center of a room, all so in awe of Warren that they trembled when they asked their questions. I think trying to impress him, they asked very stilted questions and he answered each one completely, in a way so simple that a high school student could have understood. He was given a video roast after lunch that he genuinely laughed through it and asked for a copy of before he left. He posed for photos with all of them and was good natured about holding up his wallet or other silly things to be humorous. Known as the “Oracle of Omaha,” Warren Buffett is one of the most successful investors of all time and was for a long time the richest man in the world. His down to earth, good natured, accessibility, no ego, and midwest sensibilities made him exceed the expectations that these people had of their hero and financial wizard.
White’s success has led her to think about the future. She is considering taking a step back from the consulting jobs that dominate her career. Of course, when you are as good at your job as White is, it is difficult to step away.
What do you have your sights set on next?
I think I may take more board seats and cut back on my consulting hours to spend more time enjoying the luxuries that I have been marketing. Of course, I have been saying that for a while. I love what I do and there always seems to be one more fun project.
What is a day in your life like?
No two days are alike that is part of what is great about it. I love autonomy and working virtually gives me great freedom. I have so many different aspects to what I do, and no two clients have the exact same needs. Sometimes I am on air talent and other times writing articles about luxury business, for several companies I am a Chief Luxury Marketing Officer responsible for the creation and execution of the corporate strategic marketing plan, for other clients I create new business development concepts. The luxury sector globally is very small and for those that play in the international arena, we all mostly know or are at least familiar with each other.
Can you share two of your favorite quotes with us?
I like so many that it is hard to narrow it down. Some of my favorite quotes are:
“People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.”
“The future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious.” – John Scully
Quotes that I am known for are:
“A million people that cannot afford your product are of less business value than one that can.” and “Dogs give us a way to snuggle God.”
Do you have any hobbies?
I love the beach, cooking, wine, travel, yoga, beautiful surroundings, and being on the water yachting. Really all the luxuries of life.
What makes you smile?
I adore the French Riviera and southern coastline of Italy. I love the Med, sunshine, warm weather, and big dogs. I love all dogs, especially big dogs, and most especially weimaraners. I love to cook, go to wineries, architecture and design, travel and lots of laughing with friends.
What are you never without?
Lipstick, credit card and keys – the only thing a girl really ever needs!
Which historical figure do you most admire?
I like strong women and am drawn to powerful female historical figures when reading books or watching period pieces. Cleopatra, Queen Victoria, and Elizabeth I are all remarkable. What is sad is that so many remarkable women were not recorded in history and their achievements credited to men. Women have not kept up with men in entering the ranks of the UHNW, but this is beginning to change with women joining at a faster rate recently.
What scares you?
It is said that everyone has some irrational fear. For some it is heights, rats, spiders, or lightning, but for me it is snakes. If you mean what scares me most in a non-literal context, it would be mediocrity.
What’s your favorite vacation spot?
Monaco, south of France, Italy and parts of Greece. I love being near the crystal clear water, sunny skies, good food and wine and a sophisticated but kicked back way of life.
How do you define luxury?
Most people don’t know how luxury is professionally defined in business. Luxury industry products and services are not mass produced, not mass distributed and they are not price sensitive and they usually are not trendy.
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. 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.
“The Guru of Luxury” continues to be at the top of her game and it doesn’t look to be ending any time soon. As a luxury marketing consultant, White has her finger on the pulse of the luxury industry. Her work is invaluable to her clients and something those that seek her out cannot live without.
White may be interested in doing fewer consulting jobs, but those that can still work with her will benefit from her expert knowledge. Wherever White goes, luxury will follow.
LinkedIn Profile Page: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lorrewhite/
FaceBook Page: https://www.facebook.com/lorre.white
FaceBook Public Figure Page: https://www.facebook.com/Lorre-White-The-Luxury-Guru-31099171656/
FaceBook Luxury Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/55453075827/