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Former Airbnb Head of Brand Strategy Teaches Bukit Vista about Branding

Written by: Dibba Nugroho - Content & Digital Marketer, Bukit Vista

Reading time: 4 minutes

· Branding,Airbnb,Hospitality,Website Rebranding,Professional Network

Over the past few months, Bukit Vista has set sail to pursue an elevated mission of hospitality. We committed to providing our services to a global market. This also comes with a numerous challenge, and the biggest elephant in the room will be, “How can we re-brand ourself to attract global market?”

Vivek Wagle - Former Airbnb Head of Branding Strategy. Now Head of Brand & Communication at Digital Ocean.

Vivek Wagle - Former Airbnb Head of Branding Strategy. Now Head of Brand & Communication at Digital Ocean.

Since we first built our company in 2012, we’ve been focusing on our primary travel market; Bali. After the pandemic, we’ve done some reflection and momentarily decided that we should step up our game to pursue a bigger market, a Global Market. We dreamt big of acquiring property on the shores of Lake Cuomo, an industrial themed SoHo in New York, a petit apartment in Paris. We then forgot that our beach houses in Bali are actually ALSO a global market niche (declared as 2017 World's no.1 Tourism Destination by Trip Advisor).

Bali Beach House in Bingin Cliff Managed by Bukit Vista

This revelation too is not something that we found in the middle of bright daylight. We’ve done multiple kinds of research and pivots. In addition to expand our market globally, we also do the same for our networking. We’ve been interviewing and do some class sharing with lots of industry experts. And that’s how we stumble upon Vivek Wagle.

Vivek is now a Head of Brand & Communication at Digital Ocean. Our CEO, Jing, is a fellow Airbnb employee like Vivek was back in circa 2011. We invited Vivek to educate us more about branding, especially the biggest chicken and egg question about it that we faced upon this re-branding situation. “Should we create our brand personality first before targeting the market, or should we determine our market first before we come up with a brand personality?”

Vivek starts off by giving a case example of Uber and Lyft. These are two companies that offer the exact same services, but with a totally different brand persona. Uber got this exclusivity whilst Lfyt's brand is all about being friendly. On the other hand, Uber might attract people that didn’t want to have a conversation with a stranger on their trip. Whilst Lyft offers you the warmth of getting to know a new person during your trip. So the chicken and egg question starts popping in our head, does the CEO of Uber created that persona before or after knowing their market?

Bali Beach House in Bingin Cliff Managed by Bukit Vista

“Write down and stay true to your core value. Your current strongest community already relates to that……”

This question also sticks through my head during the session. My current challenge right now is to re-brand our website. And I don’t know whether I should let go of the Bali market to target the global audience or not. Then Vivek said something that might be a solution that I can actually try to work on. “Write down and stay true to your core value. Your current strongest community already relates to that. If it’s an honest brand value, there must be a band of people out there that relates to that too”. Immediately I was thinking, “That’s true!”. We often find connections with people outside of our usual circle if we had something that I often call, Frame of References, and Field of Experiences. By simpler means, you connect easily with people that have the same “taste” as you. This goes align with Company Values as well. Like what Vivek said “It’s easy to build a brand that sounds and feels like yourself. But it’s hard to do it if that doesn’t even reflect you or not something that you actually believe.”

The idea of an overlapped characteristic and value across countries or a group of people strikes me. For example, there’s a lot of things that the European can argue about, but they have a similar tender loving around football topics. This inspires me to explore a lot of things that our companies and others have in common in this world. But Vivek also teaches us one other valuable lesson. A lesson to be careful not to be distracted by "shiny new toys".

Exploring new things is good, exciting, and all. But the danger is within getting trapped in it while forgetting our true mission. For example, launching an ad is easy. Getting a lot of engagement by putting a graphic of a girl in a bikini is totally doable and might get a lot of responses. But the real question that we should ask ourselves is; Is that really reflect your brand? That single source of profitable ad might destroy our long-term game plan of Branding.

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