Barbara Bates, Hotwire’s global CEO, talks about the brand’s global vision, the importance of investing in people and her greatest achievements.
Hotwire unveiled a new brand identity in September. Tell us about the new personality. What does it represent?
I think it’s really important to talk about what a brand means. It’s so much more than a new logo or website. It’s our new story. It’s how we make people feel when they interact with us. It’s how we feel about what we do, our work, how we interact with our clients and each other.
The new brand sends a loud message, anchored in both the company’s vision to be the best agency our staff and clients will ever work with, and in our 2020 goal to help CMOs better engage and connect with customers. Our new brand shows off who we are: we love to challenge the status quo, we’re direct and we’re fun.
The new branding also ties in with a fresh global outlook for the agency. What does this mean in practice? And how will this benefit your clients?
The rebrand supports the agency’s agenda to evolve its business model, position itself as more than a PR agency, define one brand experience globally and create preference for Hotwire as a challenger brand.
Hotwire’s new brand challenges us to be limitless – beyond PR, beyond borders and beyond B2B. The hot pink is a constant reminder to our staff of the contrast we need to create when working with clients to stand out.
As part of our Hotwire 2020 initiative, we’ve rolled out a new Go Hotwire! programme to fund global travel among our teams, which we have people taking part in already. We’ve opened up our first pop up office in the US and have plans for more globally. We’ve expanded our skillset in digital and content hires as well as naming sector leads for our consumer and fintech business practices. We’ve just hired our first chief client officer to oversee our top global accounts.
All of these initiatives are designed with today’s ambitious CMOs in mind. They’ve told us they want expertise in a wide variety of marketing disciplines, they want creative ideas from top talent. They want an alternative to the large behemoth holding companies to service their global programmes. These are all areas we are delivering on today.
This refresh comes hot on the heels of your appointment as Hotwire’s global CEO. Are the two related? And what is your vision for the agency?
It’s more related to Hotwire’s position in the market and the opportunity for growth following the Eastwick acquisition and stronger presence in the US. We are ready to step up and take our rightful position as a leading “right-sized” agency that can deliver quality local programmes as well as far-reaching global programmes for leading brands.
Prior to joining Hotwire, you founded Silicon Valley communications firm Eastwick. After more than 25 years running agencies, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned?
Building an employee-first company is the smartest business decision you can make, especially since in our business – our people are our products. I’m really proud of the reputation Eastwick had for creating opportunities for our staff and it’s one of the things that attracted me to Hotwire.
The second biggest lesson is that if you’re not innovating and moving forward, you’re actually falling behind. Change is a necessary part of business strategy in this market.
Of all your experiences and achievements in the comms industry to date, which are you most proud of and why?
There a lot of things I’m proud of but I think the top three are:
- The 25-year stellar reputation of Eastwick in Silicon Valley.
- The power of the Eastwick network. Employees from 20+ years ago are still loyal fans, clients and even employees. Most former employees are still in touch with each other. That says something about the quality of the people and the relationships.
- My role in mentoring agency principals who started their firms long after me and have sought my advice on everything you can imagine. Running and growing an agency is not for the faint of heart so the fact that I can share my experiences to help other entrepreneurs is really fulfilling.
Speaking of “thinking globally” – if you could spend a month living anywhere in the world, where would you choose and why?
Tough question, but I’m going to say Portugal. I’ve never been and I’ve heard so much about the wine and the food. I love to spend time in cities like Lisbon, but I would also love to spend time at the beach.