HEBS Digital’s Brand Marketing Manager, Garrick Lee, chatted with the President of Panzano+Partners, Bill Rubino, to discuss his career and how he creates memorable branding for companies all over the world.
Describe your career, and what led you into the world of advertising, marketing, and branding.
Bill: My career has taken a fairly circuitous route on its way to the branding world. I started my professional career in radio, of the non-digital kind, which eventually led me to be an Olympic correspondent in Lake Placid in 1980. I’d say that that experience was my introduction to marketing and advertising.
My radio job provided me with a number of great networking contacts, one of which was a man who ran operations for a large northeastern shopping mall developer. In mid-1980 I took a field marketing position with this Syracuse-based developer. I spent the lion’s share of the 80s working for this company, in a variety of positions including marketing, leasing, operations, and, finally, as the company’s Director of Corporate Marketing.
As luck would have it, yet again, this position introduced me to my current business partner at Panzano+Partners. I joined Panzano+Partners in May of 1989 and have been here ever since. Needless to say, the world of branding, marketing, and advertising has evolved a great deal since my early days in the agency business.
What would you say are the components of a brand that helps to foster consumer loyalty?
Bill: In my opinion, great brands are consistent in all aspects of what they do. In order to exceed a customer’s expectation, you must first meet it. An exceptional product must be matched with strong customer service. In the absence of one or the other, loyalty wanes and brands struggle or fail.
What are some of the biggest missed opportunities that you see for brands?
Bill: We live in a world that revolves around ‘big data’. You now have more information about your customer than ever before. That said, many brands have used technology as the primary touch point to connect with their guests. They have turned their marketing efforts into a strict numbers game. When a brand becomes so focused on the 1’s and 0’s, they can often neglect the human element. Real live customer engagement is still a primary key in fostering ongoing loyalty.
If a hospitality brand is looking to rebrand themselves or create a new brand, what are three pieces of advice you would share with them?
Bill: First, they need to answer the question, why? If you’re rebranding, why? What are the shortcomings of my current brand? Will rebranding purge my company of all of its existing brand equity and is that good or bad? Will repositioning my brand make it more competitive? Remember, your brand isn’t just your look or your logo, it’s the sum total of all experiences your guests will have.
Hopefully, if you’re creating a new brand you’ve done your homework. You’ve identified a real gap in the market and you feel that it’s prime space for what you’re creating. My advice here is don’t launch until you are certain your brand is ready to premiere. Remember it’s a long, slow climb upward, but plummeting happens instantaneously.
My second piece of advice is to be thoughtful. Put yourself in the place of your guest. Don’t waste time or money on silly things that at the end of the day have limited loyalty-building potential. Also, remember not every guest wants to be given something toward a future stay. Nothing beats instant gratification. Find ways for your new brand to deliver something special today.
Over the years, I’ve told our hotel clients to remember one thing. For most travelers, the hotel is the first spot in their day where they have any expectation of a pleasant experience. Getting to an airport, parking, security, delayed flights, cab lines, etc., none of which offers anything but stress. In the hospitality business, you have the chance to save the day. But, it’s short-lived. Rooms that aren’t ready when promised, the wrong room type, disagreeable desk staff, can make your brand part of the overall din of a terrible day. Make the first touchpoint with your guest the number one priority for your brand.
Finally, don’t follow your competition. Sounds obvious but, we’ve all seen copycat brand marketing. Hotel A has a points program so we need one too. They have an app, where’s ours? Digital keys, free WIFI, the list goes on. Innovate. Do something remarkable. Find a way to be first to market. At the end of the day, you need to figure out why a guest will choose your brand over a competitor.
What are the consumers of the future looking for when it comes to a brand?
Bill: Future customers aren’t so different from the customers of the past. Future consumers are here today. They are sitting in your lobby or standing in the queue at check-in. They want things easy, they want things right, and they want good value. The biggest difference with today’s guest is that your first interaction with the modern customer is probably on a smartphone. Too many times brands forget that and try and fit their entire experience into a 5” screen. Create a hierarchy of messaging that makes sense. Don’t start by asking them to immediately join your loyalty program, when they may know nothing about you.
I believe your future customer is the person who checks out at noon today.
About HEBS Digital:
Founded in 2001, the firm is headquartered in New York City and has global offices in Las Vegas, Tallinn, Munich, and Asia-Pacific. Through its Smart Guest Acquisition Suite, including the smartCMS®, Smart Personalization Engine, Smart Data Marketing, and full-service digital consulting and marketing solutions, HEBS Digital helps hoteliers drastically boost direct bookings, lower distribution costs, and increase the lifetime value of guests. Its diverse client portfolio consists of top-tier luxury and boutique hotel chains, independent hotels, resorts and casinos, franchised properties and hotel management companies, convention centers, spas, restaurants, DMO and tourist offices.
Part of NextGuest Technologies, HEBS Digital and Serenata CRM, the most comprehensive Hotel CRM Suite today, are the creators of the hospitality industry’s first Fully-Integrated Guest Engagement & Acquisition Platform.
Contact HEBS Digital’s consultants at 1 (800) 649-5076 (North America), +64 (0) 9 889 8489 (Asia Pacific) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marketing Manager, HEBS Digital
Phone: (212) 752-9425