‘Find a diamond in the ocean’: How XOJet crunches data to find the super rich

At Levi’s, Shari Jones was accustomed to marketing to every male aged between 18 and 34 in the United States. In her new job, she has a potential pool of just 200,000 customers.

That requires a serious amount of targeting.

Jones is chief marketing officer at XOJet, an aviation company that rents out private airplanes for flights, on-demand. Since it charges about $60,000 to fly from New York to Los Angeles round-trip, Jones estimates that there are about 200,000 people in the domestic United States who can afford to fly private. These are not the millionaires next door.

It was an “interesting shift” for Jones, who prior to this gig, headed marketing at Levi’s — selling jeans to a consumer that was much easier to find. “That’s the biggest challenge for luxury brands,” she told Digiday. “Our data segmenting is like trying to find a diamond in the ocean. But what a diamond it is.”

XOJet is one of the three major private jet companies in the U.S. The others are NetJets and Flexjet, which offer fractional ownership (essentially, timeshares) of jets as well as short-term rentals. XOJet is more like Uber, with one crucial difference: It owns its fleet of 42 jets. Jones said that safety is so important in aviation that knowing that they own the fleet offers that peace of mind. The company also does dynamic pricing: peak days are around the holidays, she said.

According to Bain’s Luxury Goods Worldwide Market Study, private jets accounted for $23.7 billion of the $1 trillion that was spent in the luxury market in 2014.

The company focuses mostly on digital advertising and, as with most of the luxury market, marketing budgets are low. It targets individuals based on life events: someone’s company just went public, or a kid started college. “That’s the right time to reach out and have a conversation with them,” said Jones. “Luxury is a high-touch category.” Each potential customer has an “advisor” assigned to them who can follow up when any sort of action is taken — like a banner is clicked on.

Digital advertising is focused on Facebook and LinkedIn, where most of the company’s customers are active. The company also does geofencing: About three-quarters of its potential base is in New York, so ads are served based on addresses in Midtown where they work or in airports. Programmatic and automation are also important. Banner ads featuring headlines like “Power to the Passenger” were part of a recent campaign run across “premium sites” like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, as well as on Facebook. The brand, working with digital agency Grain Group, uses first- and third-party data to qualify targets based on income, purchases and other demographic data.

Each ad lets you experience what it’s actually like to be a passenger — rare in private aviation, which tends to focus on tactical things like how easy it might be to book a flight, for example. Such appeals are especially important since Jones and her competitors are all fighting over a pretty small pool of potential fliers. And it’s kept classy: Private aviation often has a “bling” reputation thanks to music videos or films, but the reality is, its customers are “serious business people with families.”

Pre-roll buys feature short clips that tell users they essentially own the jet for the time they rent it. That works alongside outdoor ads and billboards — important, said Jones, to lend credibility and let people know it’s a brand to trust.

“We have to market to the individual first,” said Jones. The challenge for XOJet, as for many other digital-advertising-focused brands, is figuring out insights. “I’m not going to maybe send Mark Zuckerberg a branded email. I’m going to send something personal. But it has to get there at the right time.” The other big thing is attribution: Even though the company has relatively fewer touchpoints, Jones said she wants to be able to correlate actual leads — bookings and prospects — with click-through rates on her banners.

And because there are only 200,000 customers, and the idea is to know each one personally, her media buys need to actually connect back to the relationship with the customer. “It’s sad, but most luxury advertising has to look the same; we can’t be provocative or too risky,” she said. “But we can be warm and inviting. We have to make it feel that way through targeting.”


More in Marketing

The lead image shows a football player taking a selfie.

How partnerships between athletes and brands are beginning to resemble influencer deals

Relationships between brands and athletes are getting shorter, as the line between influencer and athlete blurs.

Amazon Prime Day recap: Shoppers buy household items over pricey splurges on first day

Market research firm Numerator said the average order size on Prime Day so far is $59.78, according to data culled from nearly 7,500 Amazon orders by more than 4,000 households.

Advertisers don’t seem too tempted by Meta putting ads on Threads

Sure, there’s interest, but it’s tempered by the fact that advertisers still don’t really know why they should be on the app in the first place.