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RedBalloon parent’s newest brand targets purpose-driven consumers

Naomi Simson’s Big Red Group has partnered with US experience retailer IfOnly to launch the brand of the same name in Australia.

Like RedBalloon, Big Red Group’s flagship website, IfOnly offers a range of experiences that customers can buy online, from cooking classes to archery lessons to chopper tours of the Yarra Valley.

The difference is that every listing on IfOnly benefits a cause, with up to 80 per cent of the proceeds going to an associated charity.

The decision to launch IfOnly in Australia reflects consumers’ rising interest in supporting businesses that do good, according to Big Red Group co-founder Naomi Simson.

“People in Australia are choosing [based on] what an organisation stands for, not just what it sells. They want to believe that they’re using their consumer dollar for good,” Simson told Internet Retailing.

This trend, sometimes referred to as conscious consumption, is part of the experience economy, which is defined by consumers’ interest in having experiences over buying things.

“We know there’s a trend of access over ownership, there’s a trend of sustainability…There’s a slight melding, an overlap, between this and the experience economy, but they’re not yet one and the same thing,” Simson said.

IfOnly taps into several of these trends by combining unique experiences with charitable causes. The site offers a range of experiences with local and world-class experts, celebrities and other noteworthy personalities, from ultra-luxury, bucket list-type offerings to more accessible special outings, with a portion of the proceeds from every experience going to a charity of the luminary’s choosing.

Some of the listings include a 5-day stay and rhino conservation experience with Kevin Pietersen at the Umganu Lodge in South Africa, which costs $190,000 for eight people and benefits Care for Wild Africa, a meet-and-greet with popstar Ariana Grande and VIP tickets to her Sweetener tour, which costs $5,223 and benefits the GoodCoin Foundation, a $150 donut decorating class with Morgan Hipworth, which benefits the Australian Red Cross, and a $250 private archery lesson from Australian Olympian Alec Potts, which benefits the Movember Foundation.

“Yes, there are celebrities and thought leaders, but really it’s a groundswell of incredible artisans that are using their skills for good,” Simson said.

“The experiences don’t all have to be expensive…it’s not about being elitist, or unattainable,” she said.

More than 20 local charities are set to benefit from the purchase of experiences on IfOnly, including Cancer Council, R U OK?, Starlight Children’s Foundation, OzHarvest and The Sony Foundation.

Simson herself is offering a $1975 private whisky lesson on a vintage cruiser in Sydney Harbour to support the Cerebral Palsy Alliance, which she is a governor of.

“My role is to be an ambassador and to raise funds, but there are limited ways to do that. [IfOnly] provides a way for luminaries to support chosen charities,” she said.

According to IfOnly CEO John Boris, the website has raised millions of dollars for charities in the US and is looking forward to doing the same in Australia through its partnership with the Big Red Group.

“By combining the Australian experiences market leader with the leader of premium experiences in the US, we are able to bring our unique offering to new audiences and support more causes,” Boris said in a statement about the launch.

Big Red Group plans to build awareness about the new brand by unlocking access for Australian residents to enter a global sweepstakes to win an experience with The Who and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder at Wembley Stadium in London this July.

Simson said the company does not plan to promote IfOnly to RedBalloon’s customer database.

“Just because one person buys something on RedBalloon doesn’t mean they will be an IfOnly customer. We can’t presume they want to hear about it,” she said.

“Nobody wants to be bombarded with something they didn’t ask for. It’s about respect.”

The launch of IfOnly follows Big Red Group’s acquisition of the adventure-focused experience marketplace, Adrenaline, in November 2018.

The company’s brand portfolio now includes RedBalloon, Adrenaline, IfOnly, Marketics, the exclusive distributor of ‘Albert’ AI in Australia, and Redii, a platform to reward employees.

As a $100 million company, Big Red Group is the largest online aggregator of experiences in Australia and the third largest globally, according to HitWise’s 2018 research.

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