Every business owner faces a series of challenges. We wear many hats and make a lot of different decisions each day, as you know.
Depending on where you are in your business lifecycle – the start-up phase, a mature business or a relaunch – we might share similar goals, too.
Some businesses get stuck on hiring the right people, increasing sales, making payroll, filing taxes, implementing technology and/or providing great customer service.
For us, our challenge was a business relaunch, 15 years in the making. AdobeStar Properties was stuck in status-quo mode with its two small bed and breakfasts (B&Bs), which then morphed into a rag-tag collection of 10 vacation rentals. We grew with little to no branding and no real marketing strategy.
New Investors, High Expectations
In 2016, AdobeStar Properties relaunched as a vacation-rental company with a new set of owners and investors, who came in with high expectations. We’d added a new flagship property, a five-story, luxury building in the heart of downtown Santa Fe, NM. (In Santa Fe, you can call five stories a high-rise.) We purchased other properties, as well, and set in place a five-year growth plan.
As a side note, I was a co-founder of AdobeStar Properties back in 2006. But I’d left the company and was asked to come back as a general manager to help take the business to the next level and into the future.
I faced a lot of operational, staff, management, technology and process issues. But I knew in my heart that our success would come down to how we presented ourselves to a new target market of high-end luxury vacationers who were looking for something bigger and better than a Santa Fe hotel room.
Brenits Creative Enters the Picture
Even with my industry experience, I knew I was in over my head. So what should you do in a situation like this? You call someone who knows more than you do.
I’d been following the graphic design career of my old college-friend, Andy Brenits, over the years and knew he and his company, Brenits Creative, would be perfect to help with this daunting task.
As soon as I told Andy about the project, I could sense his enthusiasm and excitement. “This is right up my alley, and I can help you achieve what you want,” he said.
Then he said, “Be advised, Dave, that I will need to come out and do an audit of your current status and take in everything about the properties – the staff and the look/feel/touch/smell.”
I remember thinking, What? Why? I just need some logos and fancy letterhead and some marketing material designed.
Andy assured me there was more to be done and that I needed to stop thinking about what I’m selling as a commodity – and that I need to tell (or in my case) re-tell everyone about the experience they’ll have during their stay at an AdobeStar property.
Andy added that we needed to think about the experience from beginning to end – first, with how prospective customers find our vacation rentals, their initial interaction with us, what happens when they arrive at a property and spend time with us, what happens when they check out, what’s their lasting impression into the future.
I remember feeling overwhelmed, but Andy suggested we get started right away on the work we needed to do, which pushed my concerns aside.
Questions, He’s Got (So Many!) Questions
Soon, we were off to the races. Andy arrived in Santa Fe, and I could tell – right from picking him up at the airport – that he was making mental notes of everything he saw and experienced.
Andy’s questions during our time together over the next few days were pointed and sometimes difficult to answer:
- Who is AdobeStar Properties?
- What are you trying to say to your customers?
- Who is your customer now, and who do you want them to be?
- Where are they, what do they do, how do they think, and what do they want?
- You have a logo, which is the beginnings of your brand – but does it represent luxury, style, high-end, high-price and/or a great experience?
I remember thinking, Damn you, man! I’m a hotel general manager, not a graphic designer.
That’s how our time went during Andy’s Santa Fe stay: a series of thoughtful and often lively conversations.
Reinventing and Rebuilding a Brand
We spent the next three months focusing exclusively on the AdobeStar Properties brand, our story and the vacation experience for guests and prospective guests.
With our new ownership and investors, we had a lot of cooks in the kitchen. Some had strong opinions on what they thought was best, which made for a lot of back and forth and some revisions. But the Brenits Creative team hung tight with us.
Our new logo, colors, the “feel and texture” of our properties and our new tagline, AdobeStar Properties. Downtown Luxury, Santa Fe Style, were the start of our newly branded journey.
A Compelling, Consistent Brand
Over the course of the next year, we spent time working with Brenits Creative on a monthly retainer basis, where we were able to tackle several key initiatives. We collaborated on the metrics of placement, how to protect the brand and where to place the brand. Andy and his team created great marketing and PR collateral for us that helped define the AdobeStar Properties experience.
Today at our company, I’m working with new and rather inexperienced staff (but they’re sharp). I take comfort in knowing that Brenits Creative was there with us at the beginning, to not only help us relaunch but to re-educate me. I now better understand the meaning of marketing and brand management and, most of all, why it’s so important to be relentlessly consistent with our guest experience.
My new staffers weren’t around when all this hard work was done and that’s too bad, because that’s when our business felt young and alive and, really, when it was the most fun I’d ever had in business.
I learned a lot from Andy, including this one great lesson: If you don’t protect your brand, you’ll end up confusing your customer. He said there’s a funny thing about confusion, in that it can create apathy – and that confused people will do nothing. Andy said that, without a consistent true-to-the-brand experience, people could leave AdobeStar Properties and find a vacation-rental property that does offer consistency and clarity.
Winning Accolades and Attention
Three years after our brand work began, AdobeStar Properties took home second-place in the Santa Fe Reporter’s “Best of Lodging” category, beating out powerhouse luxury hotels like the Eldorado, St. Francis, La Posada, Hotel Santa Fe and others.
Though a clever, new marketing campaign grabbed the media’s attention, none of our success would have been possible without the solid foundation we built in collaboration with Andy and Brenits Creative.