Reaching the wealthiest audiences in the world: billionaires, UHNWIs & VHNWIs

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It’s a common mistake by mass marketing agencies to view the world’s richest as one audience with the same attributes. However, the world’s richest can be grouped into distinct audience profiles depending on their wealth; billionaires, ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs) and very-high-net-worth individuals (VHNWIs). Niki McMorrough, commercial director at Relevance, takes a look at how marketers can get in front of these audiences.

According to the 2021 World Wealth Report, there are 3,204 billionaires on the planet, and they collectively own $10tn. But even in this tiny sample of the world’s billionaires, there’s a vast disparity in wealth. Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, has an estimated wealth of $177bn, according to Forbes’s 2021 billionaire list. Conversely, at the bottom of Forbes’ 2021 billionaire list is Zhou Wei, chairman of the Winning Health Technology Group, with an estimated wealth of $1bn.

According to the 2021 Wealth-X Billionaire Census, the cities where you’re most likely to bump into the world’s billionaires are New York, Hong Kong and San Francisco. Roughly 30% of the world’s billionaires live in North America, 27.9% in Europe and 27.6% in Asia. American billionaires are, on average, a third more wealthy than their European counterparts, and the number of Asian billionaires is growing faster than anywhere else in the world.

The census also states that 88% of the world’s billionaires are men. However, the proportion of women is growing. According to the 2021 Forbes billionaire list, all 10 of the wealthiest billionaires are male. The world’s richest woman is Alice Walton, the only daughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton. She is listed at number 17 on Forbes’s 2021 world billionaire list, with an estimated wealth of $61.8bn.

So, what are the top interests of the world’s billionaires? They support causes close to their hearts. According to the 2020 Wealth-X report, more than 10% of billionaires pledged their support in the fight against Covid-19, and nearly every billionaire owns a charitable foundation. The top causes are education, social services, healthcare, arts and culture.

After philanthropy, their next favorite pastimes are sport and aviation, followed by politics, real estate and education.

With established publications such as Forbes and Fortune publishing in-depth information on each of the world’s billionaires, why is it so hard to reach them with marketing campaigns? The answer is that the world’s billionaires pay people to protect them from inevitable intrusion and to simplify their business of living. From financial advisors to executive assistants, family offices, interior designers, personal shoppers and security guards, a billionaire’s entourage is daunting, but not impenetrable. Click here for more tips on how to market to the ultra-wealthy.

The world’s UHNWIs

There are 100 times as many UHNWIs as there are billionaires, according to the Wealth-X 2021 Ultra-Wealth Handbook. A UHNWI has more than $30m in net worth, and while the cities most likely to contain them are Hong Kong, New York City and Tokyo, you are more likely to bump into one in smaller cities such as San Jose, Basel, Geneva or Zurich where the UHNW density is highest.

Like the world’s billionaires, philanthropy tops the list of UHNWIs’ interests, with Americans leading the way on giving by some 25% compared to other nationalities.

Philanthropy is closely followed by sport and real estate. The great outdoors is next on the list, with American UHNWIs more than twice as enamored with this pursuit than other wealthy audiences. This group of UHNWIs are not as famous as the billionaire audience but still want to be heard, making public speaking a popular pastime. In addition, the environment is an increasing interest for UHNWIs, especially UHNWIs from Latin America and the Caribbean.

The world’s VHNWIs

On the rung below UHNWIs is VHNWIs, with assets of more than $5m. According to the Wealth-X 2021 Very-High-Net-Worth Handbook, there are 295,450 VHNWIs in the world – around 10 times as many UHNWIs. This audience is growing in the US and Asia, but declining on every other continent.

New York, Tokyo and Los Angeles are the cities with the most VHNWIs, but there are more of them per 1,000 residents in Basel, San Francisco and Geneva.

Indicating that this group is more self-interested than their wealthier counterparts, sport is their top interest. It is closely followed by philanthropy, public speaking, technology, travel, education and real estate. However, this group also has writing and languages in their top 10, which indicates a desire to connect with others.

There is no question that developing marketing campaigns for these small and elite audiences is both an art and a science. Contact Relevance’s ultra-luxury marketing consultants for advice on marketing to the world’s billionaires, UHNWIs and VHNWIs.