How I Made It In Marketing podcast episodes are transcribed by our own Jane Rainer.
Unfortunately, Jane came down with Covid recently. But she still got the transcript done. “I’m just trying to keep my Gumby attitude,” she told me.
It was incredibly fulfilling to hear, because that is a lesson today’s guest shared – with a story about launching Virgin Hotels Las Vegas during the early days of this pandemic. So, the episode did for Jane what I hope it does for you – provide the inspiration and information to help you improve whatever you are working on right at this moment.
Without further ado, here is Episode #20. Listen now to hear funny, dramatic and insightful stories from the career of Chad Brown, Chief Marketing Officer, JC Hospitality (owner and property manager of Virgin Hotels Las Vegas).
This article was published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.
“Beware of going wide with your marketing before going deep with your thinking,” Flint McGlauglin taught in What is the most important question to ask before creating a high-converting landing page?
Today’s podcast guest told me a story about launching an ecommerce store that was the perfect illustration of this Flint’s teaching. He put it this way – “Get scalable fulfillment in place before you generate demand.” In other words, go deep before you go wide.
That is just one of the lesson-filled stories you’ll hear in this episode from Chad Brown, Chief Marketing Officer, JC Hospitality – the owner and property manager of Virgin Hotels Las Vegas.
The hotel is part of the Curio Collection by Hilton and has a Mohegan Sun Casino. JC Hospitality is a joint venture between Bosworth Hospitality Partners LLC and Juniper Capital Partners. And Brown manages a marketing budget of about seven million dollars, with 10 direct reports and five agencies.
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Some lessons from Brown that emerged in our discussion:
Understand the “why” behind any current program, process, or structure before you make significant changes.
When Brown started as Director of Marketing at Bellagio, he came in and made a lot of changes without getting an understanding of the current structure.
Get scalable fulfillment in place before you generate demand.
Brown launched an ecommerce store for Mandalay Bay, but fulfillment was handled by in-store employees that couldn’t keep up with demand.
When launching Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, the team had to make sure “fulfillment” was in place on a much larger scale. The team purchased the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, and renovated and rebranded it to Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. When Peter Morton originally launched Hard Rock Hotel, he said it was the hotel for a new generation. Now it’s 25 years later (a generation), and when Brown and his team launched Virgin Hotels Las Vegas they were cognizant that it had to fulfill the promise of being the hotel for another new generation.
Allow for customization while maintaining brand standards and services.
When MGM partnered with a rideshare company, Brown tried to roll out the same program to all the company’s properties, but soon realized important differences at each property required customization.
Have a Gumby attitude during launch
Brown launched Virgin Hotels Las Vegas during the Coronavirus pandemic, and with so many new restrictions and demands, flexibility was key to success. For example, Douglas Carrillo, Chief Marketing Officer, Virgin Hotels, had an idea to shoot a TV commercial during the hotel’s launch party. This was a good idea, but it required a ton of flexibility to pull off two major projects at the same time – a launch party and commercial shoot – while respecting Covid restrictions.
Brown also shared lessons he learned from the people he collaborated with:
H. Fletch Brunelle, Sr. Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Bellagio: Marketing decisions have a ripple effect on the entire organization Brown was rolling out a special marketing program for the Bellagio Luxury Sales department that included a rich package of upgrades and credits to high-value consumers. For example, this program provided a packet of complimentary items at the time of the guest check-in. What Brown did not take into consideration, and Brunelle helped him analyze and understand, was the impact that providing these amenities at check-in would have on the time it took to check a guest in. By increasing the average check-in time by 30 seconds he was increasing daily check-in time by up to 600 minutes because Bellagio had an average of 1,200 check-ins per day (multiplied by 30 additional seconds at each check-in).
Renee West, President and COO, Luxor and Excalibur Hotel & Casino: Be self-aware of how others perceive you, or more importantly, your delivery of information. Working with a coach West provided helped Brown understand the communication gaps he had with the CFO, and how to improve that communication.
Lillian Tomovich, Chief Marketing Officer, MGM Resorts International: A positive attitude can be viral in any setting. After a mass shooting in Las Vegas, Brown spent intense weeks with a leadership and communication team trying to figure out the right thing to regarding this tragedy. Tomovich would come in every day and looked after everybody in the room – both as a group, and on a one-on-one basis.
Related content mentioned in this episode
Customer-First Marketing: A conversation with Wharton, MarketingSherpa, and MECLABS Institute
Scaling to a $15 million company in 18 months by transparently serving an ideal customer (and saying “no” to other business)
What is the most important question to ask before creating a high-converting landing page?
World-Class Consumer & Retail Brands: What right do we have as a brand to be in that business?
Not Enough Lobster In The Ocean: Trusting their gut leads to 90,000% revenue growth at Mint Mobile (Podcast Episode #11)
This podcast is not about marketing – it is about the marketer. It draws its inspiration from the Flint McGlaughlin quote, “The key to transformative marketing is a transformed marketer” from the Become a Marketer-Philosopher: Create and optimize high-converting webpages free digital marketing course.
Not ready for a listen just yet? Interested in searching the content? No problem. Below is a rough transcript of our conversation.
Daniel Burstein: I've made this mistake myself coming into a new organization and just showering the place with all of my brilliant marketing wisdom. And when I did, I'm thankful a colleague pulled me aside and said, Hey, you know, before you say how bad all of our content and marketing is, now, just keep in mind we worked really hard just to get it up to this level of bad.
So when I saw the podcast guest application from our next guest, I knew he was someone you had to hear from, especially in this era of hyper job switching. He humbly shared the story of how he learned this lesson when starting a new job as the director of marketing at Bellagio. Understand the why behind any current program, process or structure before you make significant changes. This is just one of the stories you'll hear today from Chad Brown, the chief marketing officer at JC Hospitality and Virgin Hotels, Las Vegas. Thanks for joining us, Chad.
Chad Brown: Thanks, Daniel. It's a pleasure to be here today, and I appreciate you having me on.
Daniel Burstein: That's great. So let's talk about your background a little bit. So we see what people can learn from you. So you've been a marketing leader at Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, Luxor, MGM, all up and down Las Vegas. And now you're the Chief Marketing Officer of JC Hospitality. So JC Hospitality is the owner and property manager of Virgin Hotels, Las Vegas. The hotel is part of the curio collection by Hilton and has Mohegan Sun Casino. And JC Hospitality is a joint venture between Bosworth Hospitality Partners, LLC, and Juniper Capital Partners. And Chad, I'm going to ask what he does in just a moment, but he manages about a $7 million marketing budget, ten direct reports and five agencies. So Chad, give us an idea, what does it mean to be the CMO of JC Hospitality? What do you do?
Chad Brown: Well, JC Hospitality is a management investment and development company. So our role is to go out and find products and services that we think we can enhance, come in and take them over, whether that requires a remodel or not and a rebrand. And then we launch them out in the market and then, you know, over a period of time, as they gain value, we look to turn those and look at other projects.
So we had the opportunity at JC hospitality to acquire Hard Rock hotels in Las Vegas. And at JC Hospitality. We manage the operators that are on property that you just mentioned. So that's really our role as an ownership group.
Daniel Burstein: Okay, great. So we're going to dive into that background and find out what stories and lessons we can learn from your experience. And the first one, like I mentioned, I love this one. Because I've made this mistake myself. Understand the why behind any current program, process or structure before you make significant changes. So take us back to when you were starting as a Director of Marketing at Bellagio.
Chad Brown: Yeah, I was the Hotel Marketing Manager at Treasure Island and had made several significant changes while I was there together with the marketing team, had a great marketing team there. And so I got a phone call from Bellagio. They had a director position open, and I went over there and interviewed and they had a website that had been stagnant for, you know, many years.
They had a sales program through signed packages that hadn't been touched in many years. And I was really excited to go over there. I had all this energy. I wanted to change the world. Bellagio being a marquee brand in the hospitality industry. I couldn't have been more excited. I wanted to go in and I wanted to add value immediately. And as a young director, I went in. And of course, with all that energy, I started making some significant changes. What I failed to do was to develop the relationships with the folks that created those programs before I got there. There was an absolute reason, whether you agree with it or not, there was a very strong reason why a program is set up the way it is before you approach that program.
And you talked about that at the beginning of the show here for just a moment. When I went in, what I didn't realize is a lot of these programs had individuals with rich backgrounds and experience. They may not have had the technology available to them that we were trying to bring in. They were passionate about what they did. And so instead of coming in and I started to make some of these changes and I realized I was getting a lot of pushback. I was getting a lot of folks that didn't want to move in the same direction. I was moving in.
And I had an individual pull me aside similar to you and said, hey, listen, if I could give you some advice as you as you move up in the hospitality industry, when you get a new role, take about on average about six months to understand exactly who's who, what's what. Who's really in charge? Who’s the worker bee? You know, all of those types of things develop a little bit of relationships. That does not mean don't get the work done, right. You want to get work done as soon as you get there. But when you're talking about massive change and cultural change or technology change, it's really good to understand who the key players are.
Start explaining the why behind what I want to see different. What difference in impact is that going to make on the organization? How is it going to make their lives easier? I found that to be a very effective tool when I'm working with other stakeholders, when I want to make a major change to something they were involved with, I always try to figure out and explain to them How am I going to make their life easier?
What's going to be better for them? How are they going to be able to either make more profit to the bottom line, save time take some stress off of them, and then after that period of time developing that and showing them why and what you're working on and the difference it’s going to make to the organization. I found that I was getting a lot more buy in. I was getting a lot of folks that wanted to work alongside me. They wanted to help me instead of fight me on the change. And that was a significant learning opportunity for me because as you know, that didn't stop at Bellagio. There were many other hotels and resorts that I went to even in my role today, where I want to make massive changes for the better. But I've incorporated those learnings and it seems that I sleep better at night.
Daniel Burstein: I think that's a great point. You know, as marketers I've noticed sometimes we do a poor job of that internal marketing. You know, we're focused on the customer now. Here's the things we want to change and do and we forget about that internal marketing. What I hear you saying is, you know, as marketers we're focused on a value proposition to the customer.
We're focused on learning about our ideal customer, but also learn about what are your audiences or customers internally and what is the value proposition to them. So, I think that that's a great lesson, Chad. The other thing I wanted to ask you about is you know, one thing I've really noticed, I've been fortunate to join different organizations and like different industries. And I know is there's always like a different language internally. And it reminds me of I was interviewed by Wharton's Kathryn Hayes on Sirius XM a few years ago, and she said something that still sticks to me. She said, we're in violent agreement that changing mindsets and changing the way that people think has a lot to do with the terminology that we use in marketing.
That's one of the things I mentioned before as consumer, where we think of them is only a unit that consumes a product or service instead of thinking about them as individuals. So I was wondering, you know, the consumer is one example, leads is one example. Use marketers where they lead their targets or, you know, these sorts of things. Email blasts, I always hate that term or blasting people with email. So I wonder, it's very interesting when you look at your career you've focused on hospitality marketing and, you know, a specific market. So has there been very different use of language and in ways the customer and marketing has talked about in these different organizations or is it pretty similar? Do all the kind of organizations think the same?
Chad Brown: Well, the simple answer is yes and no. So what I mean by that is in Las Vegas, we have a pretty typical language that we use in the hospitality world. I mean, you're talking about mega resorts up and down the Strip with a couple of really key players in Las Vegas. And like you mentioned, people move around quite a bit. This is a big city in a small town. That's what I always say. And so there are folks there's probably very few people as long as I've been in hospitality that I haven't crossed paths with at one point or another that are in the hospitality industry in Las Vegas. We use very consistent vernacular when we're speaking not only about the customer, but about the business. You know, I will say that it's changed a little bit over time as we look at things differently.
An example of that would be we used to really pay attention to something called Rev par, revenue per occupied room. And that mindset is shifting dramatically in town to shift to a term called Trev Par, and that's total revenue per occupied room night. When you take a look at revenue per occupied room night, you're looking at the room. What did the customer spend in the room? What do they put on their folio if they if they chose to charge back to their room? When you look at TRevPAR, you're looking at the total value of a guest when they arrive to the property. Where did they eat? Did they buy a show ticket? Do they stick around a little while at the bar after the show, All the things that we're at least able to track.
And so in Las Vegas. Yes. We use similar vernacular. We use a lot of the same terminology. There are some small little shifts from property to property based on the size of the property and who the target customer is. But what I will tell you is, no, there is not a consistent language used when we start talking about organizations we work with outside of Las Vegas.
So, for instance, when we start working with Hilton Corporate as a Curio brand, Hilton Corporate has a slightly different vernacular than we do in Las Vegas. And we kind of help each other understand. And it takes a little time and a learning curve to understand what we're talking about. Virgin was a big learning curve, that's a brand new hospitality company outside of Las Vegas. Very new. I think we were their third or fourth property to open. And so I think there was a tremendous learning curve because they operate airlines and they operate cruise industries and they operate space companies and they operate train companies. But they hadn't been in the hospitality industry in terms of a hotel. So that was a big learning curve. But in Las Vegas, we're very consistent here with the language we use.
Daniel Burstein: Yeah, it's got to be one thing. You know, you mentioned going into an organization asking the why. I mean, one thing I've always known is, is also there's a certain fluency, right, that you have to have in that industry or in that group when you're you know, that, hey, yes. I speak the language. I know what you're talking about.
Is there anything that you've kind of brought from one hotel to another where you're like, hey, I've got to change the language. I've got to change how we talk about these things, because that ultimately changes how we affect the customer. Have you had to bring that to any of your partners?
Chad Brown: I would say yes. And so it really is based around the consumer promise we're making. And it's not as much about the vernacular. As it is about making sure our partners understand that we're out making a brand promise and when the guest arrives, we have to execute on that promise right away. If we don't, they read right through it and we lose loyalty.
And so there's a big internal component to this with internal training, guest service training, guest service standards and verbiage by the way. We use a lot of whimsical and fun verbiage in Virgin Hotels, Las Vegas, as opposed to the other resorts. So, for instance, the restrooms, we don't call them men's and women's. We call them sirs and hers.
There's a lot of that kind of fun a little bit cheeky language we use. And so there's a big training component that we need to bring on to work with our partners to explain what does this mean to the consumer when they arrive on property? What are we doing to make sure that when I'm out there promising them is delivered upon when they arrive? And if we miss that mark, it's not a good story.
Daniel Burstein: Yes, I love that. I love that. And I think that's where also like a clearly defined value proposition comes in because we as marketers, we're on the line, man. We're out there. We're making those promises. So you can't just make those promises. Hey, it's great marketing. I'm walking away. You got to be in that organization. You got to be passionate. You got to be an advocate for the customer and for the audience and make sure all those promises you put out there with that great creative that the organization and your partners are actually following up on. So I love that Chad. That's great.
Let's talk about your next lesson here. You said get scalable fulfillment in place before you generate demand. And so I think this is a great example where something worked well in one organization. But then you went into Mandalay Bay and it was just a whole different, even though, again, it's same industry, same city, even just a whole different situation. So what can you tell us about that?
Chad Brown: Yeah, absolutely. One of the cool ideas myself and my team had when I was at Bellagio was to launch an e-commerce site called BellagiosshopatHome.com. And this website really allowed guests who enjoyed the Bellagio brand to be able to go home and purchase the hairdryer if they really liked it, the trash can, if they love the design, they could buy the drapes, they could get the bed. It was a really successful site we launched in. You know, there was another site we launched on top of that called Jean-PhilippeChocolates.com from one of our famous chocolatiers that was on property at the time. And they were working fabulously now, interestingly enough, to the consumer, they didn't really know the difference. But when we would conduct a transaction on this website, what really would happen is behind the scenes our gift shop would get an email. They had a giant warehouse and there would be an order there. They would fulfill that order from the retail store on property and ship that out. With the exception of the mattresses. That was a drop ship and we were able to maintain volumes. You know, it's a it's a higher end product, a little bit more expensive. And it was all Bellagio branded product, but it went really well.
And it was a good success story for the resort. So when I moved over to Mandalay Bay to be the Executive Director of Marketing there, I thought, wouldn't it be cool to create a Mandalay Bay brand of product, you know, a product line? There wasn't a lot in the rooms. There was. But it wasn’t the same brand? Right. So it was a more cool hip resort style brand. And so I tried the same thing. You know, we went out and we created products. We created a luggage with Tumi, we created golf bags. We had a swim line up and down the west coast of Mandalay Bay swimwear. Where I missed the mark is I didn't realize when we started to fulfill those orders, I was inundating retail. They could not handle the number of orders that were coming in. And so we were shipping late. It was a bad consumer experience. We didn't have products, you know, that were readily available for the consumer. And I had to take a step back, turn it off, shut it down for a period of time and go out and find a good licensing partner that could help me through all of those logistics. Because I thought for sure, all that work there, it's going to work here.
And it was a whole different ballgame. And I didn't take into consideration, I didn't do the market analysis that I should have done, to be honest with you, I'll be the first to raise my hand. Great learning opportunity. But really, we should have stepped back and thought about the scale of what we were launching and the impact, again, that that was going to have on retail because it worked somewhere else, does not always mean a little work exactly the same where you're at now. And that was a big learning opportunity for me there.
Daniel Burstein: You know, I want to ask you to so you know, when we're talking about Las Vegas. People listening we're simply thinking my B2C customer. But there's many B2B customers in Las Vegas, too, right? So Marketing Sherpa. For many years, we had a summit in Las Vegas and many different hotels in Las Vegas. And so I want to ask you also to I mean, could be B2C, could be B2B, but when we talk about that scalability, because a lot of what we were talking about, there was probably a difficulty to scale. So if it sold, honestly, if you were less successful, it probably wouldn't have had a problem if you didn't sell as much.
So we talk about that scalability. I wonder what's the importance of finding the ideal customer for that product? Right. Because when you're trying to oversell it, that's when you have scalability issues. And I think back and I want to hear what you have to say. But I think back to the very first guest in our podcasts. It was a company called Snap ADU, they were a construction company and a construction company. You know, you could build anything, you know, business buildings you know, retail buildings or home buildings. And they focus specifically on what's called an accessory dwelling unit. And so they became so focused on this niche, they did so well that they were able to scale in 18 months I think was $15 million because of focusing on that ideal customer.
So we talk about scalability in hospitality, you'll find an ideal customer. We're just selling the experience, right? That's what we're selling a lot is that experience. And you know, you mentioned e-commerce as an example. So you know, where have you found like the importance of finding that ideal customer, either B2B for conferences or whatever or B2C. So you can serve them well and you can scale up and meet their needs.
Chad Brown: Yeah, that's actually a really good question and it comes up in a different form every now and then. But in Las Vegas, the size of our resorts, the number of rooms we have, the number of restaurants we need to support, the entertainment venues, the conference space is gigantic here. Right? And so each property is slightly different. The way we manage the ideal customer, if you will, is more through market mix. So we manage let's bucket some together. It's roughly four markets. That market mix that we managed for a successful resort. We look at convention, very important. That is the foundation of the room blocks. That's what helps us yield our revenue to the property. We have casino customers. Every hotel that has a casino has a casino database. And yes, the casino customer can crossover with the non-gaming customer in hospitality but traditionally they have different needs, they have different desires and different wants. So we do market to them slightly different.
We have the wholesale customer, we package quite a few different components into this but that would be your Expedia as your online tour operators, your overseas operators. And then we have the transient customer, that's the individual travel customer. You and me, who want to book a vacation with our family. And we go to the website, we do the research and we book the room.
And so for us, each one of those customers bring a different value to the organization. In terms of margins, the minimum spends, the room rate. And so for us, the challenge is how do you maximize that mix and make sure you're getting the right customers in that mix? And one is 40% of the business one month and it's 25% of the business the next month. You've got to adjust those other levers to make sure you're bringing in consumers that, one are brand advocates. You don't just want to be everything to everybody. I, I don't think that's the right solution. But, you want to manage those mix.
So when I dive into transient, which ultimately is the core of where I'm out marketing in the, in the consumer market through television commercials and billboards and online advertising. When we look at a target customer, what we're trying to do is go out and make a brand promise of what they can expect when they arrive. Our customers are much broader in terms of demographics than most of the other places I've been. So, for instance, we target a 25 to 54 customer. That's a pretty broad range. But to us, the resort, you know, when Peter Morton bought Hardrock, I want to step back for one second here. He had said Hardrock was going to be a resort for a new generation. Well, Hardrock was open for 25 years before we closed it, which is a roughly a generation. So when we wrote Reopened Virgin Hotels, Las Vegas, we wanted to reopen as a new resort for a new generation. Well, a generation to us is not an age. It's a lifestyle, it's characteristics, it's buying behavior, it's what you're interested in. Are you into fashion or are you into design? Are you a foodie? And so it's a broad range.
You could be a 26 year old entrepreneur that's doing really well, that's into fashion. Or you could be a 54 year old individual who's made and your advanced in your career, and you're looking for that upper upscale getaway, and they can converge together in the resort and get that experience that we're promising. Whether I think you see some of the resorts in, by the way, when reopened as Virgin. A lot of previous hard rock customers came back. And there were a few, admittedly so, that came in and said, Wow, this is not the hard rock anymore. This is not for me. That's okay. We didn't create a property that was something for everybody. We created a property that was going after target customers. Right. And so that was okay.
There's other properties for them to enjoy. We didn't shut them out. They're always welcome. But to your point, we're very particular in how we target customers. It's very important to make sure that you're targeting customers who want the product that you're offering. If you bring a customer in that ultimately doesn't want that product, it doesn't matter how great you do. It's not what they want. They're not going to be happy, right? So we strive to be flexible on the floor, develop customer service standards that we believe are top notch in the city, as an upper upscale resort, and also be able to deliver upon what the guest needs are and try to anticipate those needs. Even if we didn't hit the nail on the head in terms of the customers coming in, we could still try to provide the best experience possible.
Daniel Burstein: Yeah, that's great what you said. I don't want anyone to overlook it listening because that's kind of the hardest thing we do as marketers is say, you know what, this group of customers, we can't serve them best and they're not our ideal customer set and we shouldn't try. So to remind you that the famous story from Southwest Airlines or the founder of Southwest of you know, they were very big on customer service. And, you know, there was one customer that was writing in all the time, this was back in the days of letters and just complaining about everything that had to do with the airline. And, you know, the letter just kept going up and up the chain of command at Southwest Airlines and nobody could really fulfill what she was looking for.
And finally, it got to the CEO of Southwest Airlines and he said, I forgot her name. You know, Melinda will miss you. And it was that idea, I think was a great lesson for his whole company and really for all marketers is like you. If you're really going to serve someone well or a group well or even like that group of, you know, four you talked about, well you're not going to serve everyone. And you got to be okay with that. And you got to, you know, admit that you're not going to try to try to go after them.
But that market mix you talk about I think it's a great tie into our next lesson. In four different groups, we say allow for customization while maintaining brand standards and services. I'm sure you have to do that in that marketing mix. And you also have a great example of how you did that back at MGM, how you learned that lesson.
Chad Brown: Yeah so at MGM, I was very fortunate to be a part of a group that launched a partnership with the rideshare company early on in the right share process. What a lot of people don't understand is. Many of the hotels in Las Vegas were built years ago, and they were really built for taxi service, and that's okay. Taxis are very important component of the business here in Las Vegas. Rideshare is a completely different beast.
And so we were getting into that game. We noticed that more and more of our consumers were using rideshare. We wanted to provide a service to them that was above and beyond their expectations. So we partnered with the rideshare company, and part of that partnership was to develop pick up and drop off locations to develop those out with seating, to brand them with our partner branding, to get in front of our rideshare partners and make sure that their maps were correct and we were getting notifications out if there were road closures or any of those kinds of things. And there was some wayfinding signage we needed to add to the property so people knew where to go to get their car.
And so what I found was when I was at the corporate level with MGM Resorts International as the Vice President of Marketing Operations, I would roll out marketing programs across the portfolio in a very consistent fashion. So mobile check in that's consistent across all of the MGM resorts, right? There's some programs where there's that consistency that's a portfolio level and not an individual property experience level. Well, I tried to do the same thing launching this rideshare program. What I found is there was such a vast difference in the way the properties were built. Where was the ride share located? How large was the space they had available? What was the signal service within that resort? If you've traveled to Las Vegas, you know, and it's gotten tremendously better over the last few years. But previously we're talking about, you know, 2014-15, you didn't necessarily have the cell phone and the Wi-Fi signals within the resorts, these big concrete resorts that when you went to get your ride, you knew exactly where to go. So wayfinding was a very important component to that.
What I found was as I went to implement these packages at each one of the properties, they didn't fit. It didn't work right. It didn't come across right to the consumer. Some instances it didn't create the optimal customer experience. I was trying to force branding in and force a design in that didn't fit right was maybe over what the budget was because we were trying to force it in.
And so what I did is I worked with the stakeholders from each of the properties that would be their Property Vice President of Marketing and their Property President. And what I did is I invited a group in, I invited the ride share partner in, I invited the stakeholders into each property and I held a meeting at every single property and we went through the process together of ordering a ride share in one group. And we said, Okay, I'm in the casino I need a car. What’s my experience?
We went to order. And when everybody saw what that experience was as we walked there, you know, the rideshare company would say, Hey, you know, we found tremendous success when we implemented this type of wayfinding or this type of signage. The stakeholder at the property level would say, You know, we have an opportunity. We're going to be moving this and creating this new sign package or moving this store. We have a new walkway that we're developing right now that cuts around the backside. Let's use that because that seems like it's a lot easier and we'll create breadcrumb signage for them going that direction. We in some instances completely moved the location based on the experience that the stakeholders and the rideshare partners had as we walked to that location, said we just crossed three lanes of traffic to get to this rideshare pick up, we need to rethink this, right?
So what I found is getting the right folks and stakeholders involved early on in the conversation, much like I was talking about before, getting buy in when you're making change to something. But having them experience what you're trying to do opens up their minds to new ideas. And when you bring these diverse groups in, whether you have the vendor and the partner and you have the stakeholder at the property, and you have the marketeer whomever's leading the project. For everybody to experience it together and be open to each other's feedback and ideas. It actually created a program where we were able to maintain brand standards but we were able to provide a little bit of flexibility and customization by property. And yes, there's opportunities to get better always, but for what we launched and the scale of what we launched, it went really well and it didn't when we first started launching this.
And you want to talk about a big difference. When I got to the regional properties outside of Las Vegas, it was a completely different ballgame with them, right? They don't have the level of drivers we have. The people aren't as familiar with the larger part of the properties that they are here. It was a completely different beast out there, but we incorporated the same methodology and we're able to come to a great consensus on the best experience for the customer, which is really what we wanted.
Daniel Burstein: Well, I mean, that is just such a great example of trying to live the customer experience to understand it. I mean, we should do that on our websites with our landing pages, trying to, you know, understand the user experience. But even great physically going to experience it with the people that that had to deliver on it. So I mean, obviously a great hospitality example, but if you franchises, if you have different local locations, if you're in B2B and have different geos, I mean, that's a great example of working with partners and really trying to understand the customer experience so you serve the customer.
But I was curious, too. I wonder how you vet out ideas on the front end, because when I was hearing the story when I was reading the story, I was thinking of, you know, we have a free online marketing course. And in the very first session Flint McGlaughlin teaches Beware of going wide with your marketing before going deep with your thinking.
And I think that was a great example of, you know, kind of going deep with your thinking before you threw it all out there. So I wonder, do you have any general methodology of how you get out ideas before you're even getting to the point? You got to there of like, Okay, we're doing this ride share partnership, now let's make it the best possible that we can make it. Like, what do you do on the front end to vet out those? I’m sure you’ve got a ton of partnership possibilities at Virgin and many of these other hotels.
Chad Brown: Yeah, we really do. You know, it's a good problem to have, but you're right, we can't do all of them. We don't want to do all of them, and so we do need to vet them out. I'll tell you, my first step is really to always understand what's the proposal, what is what is the partner really looking for?
What I found, Daniel, is I've had all different types of partnerships come our way, whether it's sound partners, whether it's beverage partners, whether it's ride share partners, you name it. Right. It could be eyewear partners. And when they come in, what I find is there's this big ask about we want signage everywhere or we want sponsorship everywhere. But I start asking the right questions to them and I say, What are you trying to accomplish out of this? What is your goal in partnering with us? Is it more signups to your streaming service? Is it more sunglass sales? Is it you want people to understand that you have this new line of headphones or audio equipment? What are you trying to accomplish?
And what I'll do is I'll work together with them to try to let them understand the elements I can provide at the hospitality level, at least within my control that actually deliver upon those. And move away from the things that they're not relevant to what the guest is and where the guest is and their buying behavior. If I can create an experience for the partner that is in line with where the guest is and their buying behavior, it's a great experience for my guest, and it usually, more often than not yields the right results for the customer or for the partner.
So when I meet with these partners, typically we'll get the big proposal upfront. It'll have, it'll ask for everything, all the bells and whistles. And through working together with them and bringing in the proper stakeholders again, I guess I'm stressing the importance of this. The experts in my area, in each one of those fields within hospitality bringing them in to be a part of that conversation. If it's headphones, I'm bringing in retailing. If it's a beverage partner, I'm bringing the food and beverage vice president in on these conversations. Right. And really develop together, bringing them in with their expertise, helping develop a proposal that actually makes sense for the property. Now, they all don't make sense. What I try to always think about is putting myself in the customer's shoes and my forcing a partnership in here that when the consumer arrives to the property, that experience doesn't enhance their stay with us. I shouldn't be doing it.
If in some way whatsoever it enhances their stay and aligns with the brand practices that we have in our core brand pillars. 99% of the time I’m in. As long as I don't have an exclusive or a non-compete or something like that. Right. So again, to recap, it's about bringing the stakeholders in on my side that are experts in that particular area. It's about working with the partner who really, what I find Daniel is a lot of people don't understand the Vegas market until they get here and they're on the floor. It's just an incredible machine it really is. So helping them learn more about how I can deliver upon their expectations and their goals, what I have available at my disposure that will really help them achieve those key performance indicators that their boss is holding them accountable for. That's key, and that's how we take a look at the right partnerships.
Daniel Burstein: And I like what you're saying, too, because it sounds like you're really emphasizing the long-term value in the long term relationship with the customer, because a lot of those things, it's something you could probably squeeze a little bit more revenue out of the customer in the short term and do a little better this quarter if you did some of those. But again, you're losing the big picture of sustainable results. So I love that.
Chad Brown: Daniels, I was going to say, that’s not to say that in Las Vegas you don't see some of that. There are some short term. Yeah. You know, adding revenue to the bottom line straight to the bottom line. There is a little bit of that. But, you know, we're willing to take a look at the long-term value of a program, the long term value of a partnership over exactly dollars that come through the door, and that's called the art of the relationship. That's what I that's my term. There's no scientific science behind that. It's I call it the art of the relationship, because in Las Vegas, when we at least in my experience, I'm developing these programs with sports partners, you name it, whoever, whomever it is, being a little bit flexible with them to make sure they're achieving their goals means that they're going to reciprocate.
So when I need if I have a date that works really well for an event and it's a partnership with a company, and I say, guys, man, that date, we're a year out, that date is going to be so difficult for me. We've got some challenges. They're more likely to say, well, let's let's take a look at another date. But if I'm in it for that quick dollar, that short term thinking, in my opinion. And you're not developing a relationship, it's a transaction and it's a quick transaction. And I look at that with the consumer as well. When the consumer comes in, I'm not looking for just a single stay. I love when they stay, but I'm looking for a consumer that's going to enjoy the experience. They're going to be an advocate for the brand. They're going to dine in our restaurants and go, Wow, what else do they have here? I got to check out this other restaurant. They're going to talk about the concert venues we have. And when we have the right lineups in there and we have a diversity of music in there, they're going to come back and they're going to tell their friends, I want that long term relationship both with my B2B customers and with my B2C customers.
Daniel Burstein: I like the keywords I heard you say there, the difference between a transaction and a relationship. So we have to realize that transaction versus the relationship is very nice. So I think, right, everything you've faced in your career to this point leads us to our next story, where this was the hardest thing any of us had to face. But especially I know hospitality was hit hard. Las Vegas was hit hard. And I love this, too. Chad had so many good stories with lessons in his application. He just kind of put this as a throw away, kind of like I kind of learned some stuff through COVID also. So here's the biggest lesson I got for him from talking to Chad earlier and I really want to hear his story on this. You know, launching in the middle of COVID have a Gumby attitude to any launch. So how did you have to have a Gumby attitude during COVID? And what did you go through.
Chad Brown: Boy, it's a, I've launched I've been blessed to be a part of a lot of different launches of marketing campaigns and programs. And you know, when I moved over to Hardrock, I joined the company two weeks before Hard Rock Hotel closed for renovation. Luckily, we were closing at a time when we really didn't know what was going on with COVID. We closed February 3rd, the day after Super Bowl. 2020. COVID was starting to come up on the radar, but we really didn't understand what the long term impact was going to be, and we thought we were set up for success. We had provided a bonus to all employees who stayed until the last day. They were able to pool their vacation with unlimited vacation and get paid out on that vacation on the last day. We invited them to come back to Virgin when it reopened without an application and with their seniority so they didn't have to reapply for their jobs. And I'm proud to say 90% of the individuals that worked at Hardrock stayed until the very last day. And of those individuals, 80% came back to work on day one. Really incredible story there.
What we didn't anticipate was COVID. So we close in February, we start going through the remodel process. We're out creating, you know, brand platforms for Virgin Hotels, Las Vegas. We're working with Virgin Corporate, we're working with Hilton, we're developing out with our agency. What is this campaign going to look like? What's our brand promise? What are our brand pillars? And it's time now to start telling the public about Virgin Hotels, Las Vegas.
Well, number one, everything's closed. So we had we couldn't get a hold of any actors we couldn't get a hold of any television crews. We couldn't get a hold of any directors. I mean, it was incredible. We're thinking we're going to open in less than a year. We've got to start getting the word out there about the property. And so we were very fortunate. We had hired a wonderful agency. OH Partners is our creative agency and Matter Films is the production arm of OH Partners out of Phenix. They were able to help us. I mean, we had to go out and source talent from a lot of different areas. We didn't have a property to shoot. The property was completely under construction. So I'm going to go out and tell people about this new property and I can't show it to them yet.
So we decided on this theme of going out in the middle of the dry lakebed between California and Nevada. And we're going to shoot this anticipation content where folks were coming into Las Vegas for this party, but they weren't quite here yet. And we needed to develop the brand in the feel of what they were going to experience when they finally arrived to Virgin Hotels, Las Vegas. Well, one we had to postpone the shoot. We were planning to shoot in July. We could not we could not get the talent we needed or the logistics together due to COVID. We could we just couldn't do it. It didn't exist. Nobody was doing anything so we postponed October. That's okay. We still had a timeline we could work with having that Gumby attitude again and saying, Okay, let's readjust. What does that mean to getting into market? What does that mean to our media plan? Right. What ripple effect did that have moving that? What ripple effect did that have on all the other components of marketing and advertising and PR and everything in between?
So we reevaluated all that, made adjustments, it was okay. And we went out and we had a very successful shoot. The shoot was very interesting. We couldn't have more than 50 people in a single location so we had two camps. We had to bus four people at a time to the set. I actually couldn't be on set. I had to watch from a motorhome from a television screen with a walkie talkie in my hand. And talk to the director back and forth about, you know, what did I see there? What did I like to see different. We had we had to have packaged meals. We had to have a COVID specialist medical unit on site. And so another flexible Gumby attitude we had to have was on budget. We had to understand that if we were going to get this done and I'm very thankful I worked for a leadership group that understood this as well. We had to be flexible a little bit on the budget because there were circumstances in play that were beyond our control that were going to cause additional costs to the overall campaign work.
And so these things came in. We reevaluated. Then we figured out, okay, what do we what should we really do? Let's be responsible what is really needed and what is a nice to have. And we worked through all of that, and we really turned out a really wonderful campaign. We got that campaign in the market. We were running that commercial all over the West Coast. It was syndication all the way over to the East Coast. And on March 25th we decided to hold an official opening of the resort. Now the resort wasn't 100% complete, the resort pool wasn't complete. We had some rooms out of order, but we felt it was so important to get the locals back to work again. Everything had been closed for so long. There were some major economic hardships in Las Vegas. I mean, I respect the fact that the whole country got hit hard, the whole world got hit. Vegas, that depends on tourism, and travel was destroyed. I mean, it was demolished. It was in my 45 years. I would have bet you 50 paychecks that nobody would ever shut down the strip. It was a ghost town and it was scary. It's very scary.
So we needed to reopen. We need to get folks back to work that we promised would come back to work. And reopen the resort with 50% occupancy into the hotel, that's what we were allowed to have per COVID regulations, masking six foot distancing plastic shields between every machine. We had to pull bar stools, couldn't sit at the bar because you didn't want congregation. And so what we decided to do a great learning opportunity here. I was talking with the owner and the president and CEO, and I said, you know, let's hold off on a grand opening celebration. It doesn't feel like it's the right responsible thing to do. Let's do an official opening. Let's get the property open. And by the way, let's focus on the local market. These are the people that supported us the most when we were Hardrock. They're the biggest megaphone for Las Vegas. Everybody calls their Vegas expert before they come here. Where should I go? What should I do? The locals are that Vegas expert.
We want to get them back to work. We want to get local media in here. We'll keep it small and we are very, very happy to say that it turned out it went very well. It was a, we got much more reception than we expected, so we had to manage that from a crowd control perspective. And we and we were very responsible about that. And then we held a grand opening in June, and we called it Unstoppable Weekend. Our television commercial and our whole brand campaign is based around us Unstoppable. And it's really the invitation to folks that the red velvet ropes are gone. Everybody's a VIP. Come in. We're going to treat you with respect. We're going to treat you with dignity and all are welcome.
And so following along those guidelines, we held a party called Unstoppable Weekend. Instead of grand opening, we had the large party. It was safe to do so at the time, and it was an incredible experience between the March date and the June date. And we saw a lot of those restrictions fade as we got to June as things got a little bit better. So and the number of learnings we had. Oh, and one more thing, I think it would be fun to add. The CMO for Virgin Hotels is a good friend of mine, Doug Carrillo. We were talking about a stunt for the official opening. Right. And we thought, wouldn't it be cool we have this if you haven't seen our commercials, we have a British double decker bus that's wrapped with Virgin Hotels, Las Vegas, and we use this bus quite a bit in a lot of our advertising. It's a beautiful bus. It was actually in circulation in Piccadilly Circus in London, 1960s bus, and we've refurbished it. It's beautiful,
What we thought we would do is wouldn't it be cool if when we unlock the doors to the front, this bus came in and it had the actors from our commercial and they were actually arriving to the property? That'll be our stunt, right? And Doug said, Hey, why don't we just film the commercial at the same time? Because we needed a Phase two commercial. We got to show people the property. And I said, That's a great idea, Doug. It's so we shot a television commercial while we were opening a mega resort in Las Vegas, and my learning opportunity there was, don't ever do that. It turned out amazing, but I don't think I slept for about two weeks. The crew was amazing, but there were a lot of logistics that we needed to manage with the distancing, the number of people that could be in the same gathering, the shooting of the film, the closing of different parts of the resort so that, you know, I'm glad we did it. It was fun. It was exciting. But in hindsight, I probably would schedule that a little bit further out. To focus on the official opening of the property.
Daniel Burstein; Makes sense, well hopefully there are a few unique lessons we never have to use again because we never lived through this again. But I do think that overall lesson, like having that Gumby attitude because as we were talking about before, in marketing especially, I've noticed that things have gotten more digital and sped up manage. You always have to have a Gumby attitude, things are always changing. You always have to keep up with that. So that's a great lesson. So in the first half of the podcast, we talk about lessons from the things you made, and the other thing we do as marketers. We make things, we make them with people. So let's talk about some of the lessons from some of the people you collaborated with.
The first person is H. Fletch Brunelle Senior, who's a Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Bellagio. And you learned that marketing decisions have a ripple effect on the entire organization. How did you learn that from Fletch?
Chad Brown: So Fletch to this very day is a mentor of mine. He works in a different area now. He's not with MGM Resorts anymore, but I still stay in touch with him. He's been a mentor of mine for years. He provided me some very valuable lessons throughout my career, and especially my years at Bellagio. This particular example, I was at Bellagio for, you know, a year or two had starting to get settled down, and we were working on some luxury programs for the property. We were working on programs like American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts, Leading hotels of the world, All Tour Hotel Collection some of these upscale travel luxury sales companies that we were partnering with. As we were negotiating some of these agreements, we wanted to provide some services that went above and beyond to these high value consumers that were coming in.
So I got really aggressive and I put together this great package of amenities that the guests would get when they arrived. They would be greeted at their limo they would be walked into VIP for check in. And we had to VIPs at the time, we had a gaming casino VIP Check-In area, and we had a non-gaming hotel, VIP check in area. So I was going to allow them access into that area. We were going to provide a packet of coupons to them or vouchers, if you will, at the time, because we weren't as digital as we are today. Where they would get some spa credits and food and beverage credits, they would get these amenities. There would be an amenity in their room when they arrived, a welcome amenity waiting for them.
And so we started evaluating what the volume of this program would look like for the resort. And as we started to look at the volume, Fletch kind of nudged me and said, Hey, do you understand the impact you're going to have on the rest of the operations of this property when you launch this program? And I said, Yeah, I'm going to make a lot more money for the resort. And he said, No, that's not what I mean, right? He said, think through this a little bit. You now have to have a manager on duty, a hotel manager or an assistant hotel manager greet every guest that arrives each day. And if you plan on having 25 arrivals per day, that person is going to be out at the port a cashier 25 times per day, greeting, standing out there, waiting. What are you taking them away from that their responsibility is?
As they walk in. We know what the volumes of our non-gaming VIP check in services are. You're going to add a group that day now that are going to come in and utilize those services that are in there. We're going to have to think about the agents that are available in there to check them in so that we don't want them waiting at all. They come in, they check in, they go, What about the vouchers Chad? Who's going to stuff the envelopes? And one thing I thought was very interesting, they didn't have to go into VIP check in. They could if somebody didn't greet them or they got into the resort, they could go to the main check in line. Well at Bellagio. We could have up to 1200 check ins in a day. And the average Check-In time being, let's call it a minute and a half by explaining the program that I was launching to the customer when it was flagged in the system, the customer would arrive. I'm Chad Brown. I'm here to check in. Oh, Mr. Brown, you're part of this program. Let me tell you a little bit about it. Here's your vouchers. Here's where you can use them. I was adding an average of 30 seconds minimum to every check in that was coming in through that program.
Now, when you take a look at onsies twosies it's no big deal. But when you start thinking about 1200 check ins and the volumes growing with this program, you could ideally increase check in by 600 hours in a day. If not all 1200, we're going to be part of this program. But there were multiple programs I was launching. So odds are a majority of the folks are going to be a part of these programs. You can’t increase check in by that much the lines would be incredible. You know, other things like the in-room amenity, those have to be delivered by somebody. There's a cost associated with that in certain resorts. Where it's a hard cost, you're required to pay out of the marketing budget, a hard cost to have those items delivered. Well, now I have all these items delivered and the bellman are delivering them. I'm taking them away from bringing people's luggage up to the room because they're delivering in-room amenities.
It just opened my eyes. I thought, holy cow, I had this what I thought was this spectacular marketing idea where we were going to create this program that was going to be such a benefit to the consumer. And I didn't realize these small changes in different operating areas could create a huge ripple effect across the resort. And so that was I mean, a light bulb went on in all these programs, every program I launched since then, I think through not only what's the consumer experience, that's extremely important, but I think, you know, we've kind of talked about this quite a bit today. What is the impact to the organization and how do I make sure I get the stakeholders involved to say, Hey, guys, here's what I'm thinking. Does this work? Do you have a different idea or are there obstacles that I'm not aware of that you can you can tell me about. That we can overcome those obstacles by shifting slightly or having that Gumby attitude and changing it a little bit. Not being so dead-set on this is the way I set it up. This is the way it has to be. We were able to change that program, make modifications by bringing the stakeholders in and launching a very successful luxury sales program for Bellagio at the time.
But I can't imagine if Fletch didn't have that insight to slow me down a little bit and say, Hey, let's think about this, what are you doing here? What's going to happen over here? And I just kind of put my hands in the air and said, I don't know. That's not my area. As a marketer, and especially as you continue to grow and obtain additional responsibility, these are things you have to think through. You have to because marketing impacts every square inch of the organization. We touch everything from H.R. to security to front desk to housekeeping to entertainment, to food and beverage. You name it, we work with them in some form or fashion. And so you really need to be careful in what you're doing and bringing the right folks in to make sure you're not creating a negative experience for your internal clients, which are your team members.
Daniel Burstein: Yeah, that's a great point. You know, we've had Derek Detenber the CMMO of Batteries Plus on the podcast, he talked about when he was with Wendy's. He had some very creative ideas for Wendy's, but he didn't realize the impact it would have on the franchisees and how they'd have to totally change their operation. We had our Aaron North, the CMO of Mint Mobile, and he talked about when he was at Taco Bell, he was just interviewing there. He had the idea of like, Oh it would be great if you guys had a lobster taco and they told him there is not enough lobster in the ocean, you don't understand the scale of Taco Bell. You don’t understand the operations of it. And so I think what I hear you saying, which I love, is that marketing cannot exist in a silo, right? You have to get involved with the entire organization.
And your next story is, I think, a great example on a personal level. On a very personal level, because, yes, we're organizations and all these things. We need to understand the operations and interact, but we're also human beings need to understand the different human beings we work with. So you learned from Renee West, the president and COO of Luxor and Excalibur Hotel and Casinos to be self-aware of how others perceive you or more importantly, your delivery of information. And this really came down to a relationship with another human being. Even if we give them a title, it's another human being. So tell us about this. How do you learn this?
Chad Brown: Yeah. Renee West again is such a great mentor of mine. She was such an amazing woman to work for. She taught me so much about the people side of the business. You know, I always credit Fletch with teaching me about the analytic side of the business. You know, we dug in the numbers, we dug into contracts and I love that. When I was promoted to Vice President of Marketing and Advertising for Luxor and Excalibur Hotel, Renee took me under her wing and she started to teach me so much about the people side of the business. She had an H.R. background. And it's funny because in Las Vegas specifically, a lot of the leaders in Las Vegas come from a casino background or an HR background or a sales background or a marketing background. And you can see some of that in their leadership styles.
Well, Renee, coming from the H.R. background, she was so kind enough. It was my first executive role first time being promoted to Vice President. She actually was kind enough to get me an executive coach, and it was really cool. I spent six months with this executive coach teaching me more things about the human side of the business than I could ever imagine was possible. And by the way, the learnings didn't just apply to the business. I was able to apply these things at home and with my friendships. I mean, these were all things that enhanced relationships and they worked. They truly worked.
And so I was creating a strategic plan for the resort. Part of my responsibility being on the executive committee and especially in marketing, typically in Las Vegas, the marketing head, the finance head, the CFO and a few other individuals will lead the charge for creating the strategic plan for the resort. So we're creating a strategic plan and I'm working with the CFO and we were looking at the areas we wanted to focus on for the next year. And this was really my first real sit down, spend time with the CFO conversation that I had. And I was talking about these numbers and I said, Well, hey, we should focus here on these numbers because the surveys have shown that we've lagged as a resort, as a property in these areas. And he said, Well, how do you know that? I said, Well, when I was at Mandalay Bay, this was actually a huge focus for us. So I got the company statistics that I could see where everybody was in these, and I saw that there was a great opportunity for development for these properties when I came over.
And so I went and I got I actually pulled the statistics and I pulled all the information. I thought, you know, this is going to be great. It's a CFO I'm going to bring in all this back up and I'm going to bring in these numbers and everything else. And I think what happened was I came across in a way where it wasn't delivered in a way that was that he wanted it delivered or that he was willing or hearing things. I was delivering it in a way unintentionally that wasn't being accepted. So, of course, part of Renee's leadership style is always development, people development. And she brought a group in for the executive committee to spend a couple of weeks with this group, to analyze our personalities, to analyze you know, how do we come across to people, how do people come across to us? What buckets do we fit in in terms of the psychographics, all these different things to help us be more self-aware, to become a better leader.
And I had a big aha moment, as we've been saying today, when the instructor put up on the screen a graph chart and it was each one of us our names weren't on it, it was just a color. And it went across all these questions about our personalities and where we scored on these on these assessments. And I see right around number eight it was about self-confidence. And there was one that kind of went along and it spiked it self-confidence. There was another color that went along and it went to the bottom of the chart on self-confidence and back up. And a kind of a light bulb went off. And I realized, man, I think what's happening is, is I'm trying to be so prepared that I'm turning off the conversation because that individual feels like I'm coming at them, like they don't know what they're talking about.
And so by adjusting my communication style, by adjusting the way I approach things in these meetings, I would come in and instead of saying, Hey, guys, I did all the research, I have all the facts and figures, I had the numbers, I had the backup, I did the customer research, I would come in and present my content and say Hey, do you see anything in here I might have missed? Do you agree with this, or is there something in me that doesn't seem right? What would you do differently? Is there something you'd like you would add in here? By being more inclusive in my communication style rather than factual, I was able to mend that relationship to get a better working relationship together. And really, as I honed in on those skills together with both my executive coach and through this training program, becoming more self-aware in group settings, whether that's my team whether that's counterparts, whether that's if I'm in a room full of other individuals and we're speaking, I've really honed in on reading cues from people, whether it's facial expressions, body language, what are they saying, how are they communicating back to me?
And I've learned some pretty small steps but are significant steps in slightly adjusting my communication style when I pick up on these red flags, right? I don't want to turn anybody off. I don't want to come across as very arrogant. And for somebody who's self-confident, you can come across as arrogant and especially to folks that aren't as self-confident. Maybe that's an area they're not for as high end, but they score really high in other areas. People that are self-confident can come across as very arrogant to people who are not self-confident. And so if you can recognize those things and you can start to adjust the way your speaking and don't be fake, I don't mean to be a fake individual just adjust have that Gumby attitude, be willing to maybe ask a few more questions than telling, right? Be willing to listen a little bit more. If somebody is being very quiet, ask them, Hey, I'd love to hear your thoughts on that. What do you think? You know, I'm not always right. There's probably something here I missed. Did you see anything in here? You know, invite them in, invite them into the conversation. And so that was a big learning opportunity for me. It actually patched up a relationship that was a little rocky, and we were able to work very well together after that.
Daniel Burstein: You mentioned like some like visual and audio cues that you notice now to kind of look out for. So share an example or two with us like what are some of the biggest things you look out for now when you're talking to someone that you’ve learned that?
Chad Brown: Sure, there's a lot of different things and some are extreme and some aren't. I would say, you know, I sigh and eye roll if you catch that. Individuals that start being disengaged, maybe they're looking at their phone a little bit more and they weren't earlier in the meeting. Individuals that they were speaking before and they shut down and they're not saying anything. It could be that, you know, there's some subtle cues you could pick up on on how individuals are communicating with each other. If you're coming across the wrong way. And you have to be self-aware, though, Daniel. You've got to be looking and paying attention. A lot of folks, they just want to get through a meeting or they want to get through whatever it is that they're in talking about and presenting on.
But if you take the time to observe, you're going to pick up on these things. You're going to see it. And it's not to be defensive. It's to say, okay, something's not quite right here. Let me try something a little bit different. Let me ask a question or let me open it up to the group or let me soften a little bit of my presentation and so it's not cramming my information, you know, into the meeting. I think there's others those are a little bit extreme. There's other subtle cues that you can pick up on. When they speak back to you, what's the tone in their in their speech? Are they excited? Are they monotone or are they normally monotone? I mean, there's so many little cues that you can pick up on. Are they critiquing everything you say? Are they coming back and you're giving a fact and a well, where did you get that? You know, those type those are types of things that a lot of times people will get defensive, right? Instead of getting defensive, just think about, well, how am I being perceived right now? Because perception is reality. I'm trying to be a nice guy, I'm trying to be a team player, but I might not be coming across that way.
And if the perception is no matter how hard I'm trying to, if the perception is I'm not doing that, I've got to figure out how to change that perception. I'm not going to change it by forcing what I'm doing right now even stronger, right? I'm going to change it by adjusting my communication style, by being inclusive, by trying to figure out what are those things that I'm saying or doing when I notice that there's a reaction, okay, let's either stop doing that or figure out why I'm doing that and figure out how to do it more effectively, right. So there is a little bit of science behind it Daniel. It's something that I spent actually, I had my executive coach for six months. Renee West was kind enough to extend that into a year because I was getting so much out of it and I was so passionate about it. She said very few people actually enjoy these sessions, so if you're enjoying them, I'll give you another six months. And I said, I am learning a ton.
And so there is some science behind it. There is some practice behind it. I had to practice and there's story after story of implementing these things. I don't want to go too long here, but I had another I'll be real quick. I had another team member in a group setting. I used to have a weekly meeting with the entire team, my agency, everybody, and I noticed one person was being very reclusive and she normally wasn't. And I could tell, you know, her skin tone was a little red. I could tell something was really bothering her. I asked her once, Hey, do you have any input? Is everything okay? What do you think of this? And she said, No, I'm good. I asked her a second time, Hey, I'd love to hear from you. And she said, No, I had nothing to add. And so the third time I said, Okay, this isn't the right setting. I waited for everybody to leave the room. And I said, Hey, so and so, would you mind staying back for saying, I'm going to ask you a question about this report or this project we're doing. And after everybody had left in privacy, I sat down. I said, Okay, hey, if you're comfortable with it, I'd love to know what's going on. You don't seem like yourself today. You're usually really engaged and active. And listen, we all have bad days, but it just didn't seem you didn't seem like yourself. Is there anything I can help with or is there anything you want to talk about? And if not, that's perfectly fine. I respect your privacy. And she opened up and I mean it was just a lot coming out.
And the next day I show up to work. This had never happened to me. I had a plant sitting on my desk with a card and I open that card, and she had filled out both sides. And she was talking about the fact that she had never worked for a leader that sat down and took the time to hear her out. I didn't try to solve her problems. What I tried to do was ask her what she thought she could do about them. And encourage her to come up with the solutions to those problems rather than me saying, you should do this, you should do that. Because if it was her idea, she was more likely to buy in. And I asked her how I could support her, right. And it was just, you know, I get goosebumps talking about it because it was an incredible moment. It was a big and it was all through leadership coaching and it was all through picking up on cues, understanding what's happening in the room, in communication. And it's not always about changing your communication style. Sometimes it's about understanding what's going on with somebody else. If in the respectful manner, it's right for them to share. So a lot of learning opportunities there. There really are.
Daniel Burstein: That's well, first of all, that's beautiful. That is just beautiful. That's two humans interacting and that's beautiful. But I think there's a bigger lesson there. But what we've been talking about all this time, too, it's, you know, as you said, it's the perception on the other side that's important. That's true with our individual One-To-One interactions with the people we work with our agencies. But that's what we're doing as marketers, too, with our customers. Like, what you're doing what I love is you're not focusing on yourself so much, whether it's your, you know, Virgin Hotels brand or whether your brand is Chad Brown or who you are, what you're presenting, you're doing your best to try to focus on that other person in the room with you or that customer on the other side of the world and really learn about them. And that is what we should be doing as marketers that is core to the job.
So. Well, let's end with this story, I think this is the perfect story to end with? Because we've talked about a lot of difficult things, right? From getting through COVID to understanding other people to even, you know, getting e-commerce setup up correctly. This is a difficult job. And so I love that we're ending on attitude because we can get through all these difficult things so much better if we have a good attitude. And you mentioned you learned this from Lillian Tomovich Chief Marketing Officer, MGM Resorts International. A positive attitude can be viral in any setting. So how did you learn this from Lillian?
Chad Brown: You know, this is a little bit of a sad story, but at the end of the day, what came out of it was a lot of positivity. Lily, again, is somebody I stay in touch or she's not with MGM Resorts anymore. She's followed a financial career path. And she's such a successful woman. She is so much about her team and inclusivity of her team, knowing that everybody brings value in the team.
And the first day I met her, I was you know, I was a little nervous. I was a new Vice President. She was a new CMO coming in. And I sat in a room of Vice Presidents, and she's talking through she came in and she was just bright. I mean, she brightened up the room. She came in smiling, saying hello to everybody.
And it was genuine. It was really genuine. And she sat down and we start talking and she's talking about the direction we're going to go as an organization. And she stopped and for whatever reason, said Chad, what do you think of that? Maybe she was reading my cues. I don't know. And I thought, you really want to know what I think or are you just, you know, so I, I said some things and she said, You know what, guys? We should think about that a little more. Let's go back and take a look at that reporter, let's go back and ask these questions. Chad's got a good point. And I thought right off the bat, brand new CMO, you know, a brilliant woman, had a CMO background already in the financial industry. Came in and met a brand new Vice President and valued what I had to say right off the bat and didn't just say, oh, that's great, thank you.
She was like, hey, you know that you actually bring up a good point. Have we thought through that? Let's look at that a little deeper. I can't tell you, that right there started off a great relationship with us. And that leads then to an unfortunate situation. October 1st, mass shootings at Route 91 in Las Vegas. As you had heard earlier, I was with Luxor and Excalibur for a period of time, and that festival that was actually my entertainment lot. So I programed that lot. And I was part of a team that actually developed the Route 91 program. The entertainment team did such a phenomenal job of that. On my side, I helped brand and market that and activate that wherever I could add value at the property level.
And so I had just moved over to corporate when I was reporting to Lilly as the Vice President of Marketing Operations for U.S. properties with MGM Resorts when this happened, and it hit home with me and I was added to an emergency communications team, there was about 15 of us. We were woken up at about 10:00 that night. We all went straight into work and we didn't leave for two weeks. We sat in a room, we had televisions on, we had our computer screens up, we were calling in our National Creative Agency. We hired a third party agency to come in and help us understand what is the right thing to do here, what is the right communications to put out?
What can we do to be responsible right now to help people? And we were monitoring social media. We were watching the news, we were responding PR way. You know, it was it was incredible. And I served overseas in the military. I'm a veteran of foreign wars. And I think that two weeks in that room was probably some of the hardest time I've ever gone through. Lilly would come in every day. She would bring donuts in. She would come in with lunch, she would come in with coffee, she would come in and just sit with us. She would bring us out of the room one by one and ask, how are things going? How are they going at home? Is there anything you need? She was always so warm and positive even though we were in such a negative circumstance, it did change the way I wanted to communicate with people.
You can communicate in a positive way and be respectful to a negative situation. It doesn't mean you come in laughing and everything's hunky dory, but it means that you're empathetic. You're thinking through how other people feel and you're communicating with them about that. And I will tell you, as much as I've seen and we've all experienced this individual at work who's miserable, for whatever reason, could be personal, could be work for whatever reason, they're miserable, and so everything you say, I can't believe we have to do that. Oh, that's that came up again. We already did that. Oh, how come we have to go there? I had why they stopped serving this in the lunch room. I mean, it's anything and that becomes viral really quick. And what I found is by learning from Lily and a little bit from other mentors and partners before that, if I come into a room and there's a negative situation, I always think about, well, what are some of the positives that can come out of this?
Right out of the October 1st, the community came together this city became so strong and united behind those by supporting each other, I think we learned some very valuable lessons on crisis management, how to manage communications effectively during a crisis. Any crisis could be natural disasters, you name it, right. Very valuable lessons we learned. So there were some things that came out, although you know, I would never wish that in the world on anybody. There's other scenarios that come up that could be very negative. Hey, guys, we got to do this and we have to do it in a short term. And, you know, everyone's like, oh, man, that's not fun. I don't like doing that. Well, hey, guess this little piece over here, and hey could be worse. We could be doing that. Or I'm glad it turned out this way because we were going down this path. I always try to turn things around, and I've gotten a lot of feedback, especially with J.C. Hospitality from our partners. We're in such a high stress industry to begin with, and you bring four world renowned operators together to run a single property, and they all are experts and can drive down the court with the basketball and score on their own minute.
And we're asking the five of them to use one ball together and go down the court and maximize the score. Having that positive attitude with everybody when things can be really, you know, can be tough to get through, can have some tough conversations, but smiling, always saying hello, going out of your way to walk across the hallway to engage with somebody.I just it's something I work on every day. I'm not perfect at it. I can do so much better. And every day I try a little bit harder but I've gotten a lot of feedback from other executives that say we love when you come in the room, you're always greeting everybody. You're smiling, you're why are you always happy? And I say, Because attitude is a choice. I choose to have a positive attitude. The only thing in my entire life that I have complete control over is my attitude. That's it. I don't have control over anything else. So why not make the best of what I have control over? And I always say that I can train you in any job, I can teach you, I can get you training, I can get you the hardware, I can buy you the tools and software. I can help you get that experience. What I can't teach you is attitude. I can lead by example. But attitude is so important Daniel and it's viral because it's kind of that pay it forward mentality, right? When you're positive and you're greeting somebody, they're more likely to turn around and say hello and smile to somebody else.
And that I see that spread and it's so powerful and it's powerful in every area of your life, your personal life, your professional life, you know, your hobbies, whatever you're doing, that positivity. If you do it and you practice it, and you do it for a period of time. I promise you, in any scenario, you will get feedback from people saying, what's going on? Man, things must be going good right now. Maybe they are, maybe they're not. You're just choosing to have a positive attitude. I want to I'll end on this real quick. I once woke up in the morning my wife was traveling with my daughter. I woke up, I woke up, I had a bad dream. I woke up right out of the dream, in a bad mood. And I get up at home and I'm thinking, man, today's going to suck. I got to do this. I got this going on. And I thought, you know what? No, I'm not going to do that. I went downstairs, I poured a cup of coffee. I came upstairs. I had a really hard work out, and took out some aggression, and I went on LinkedIn and I said, You know what? I'm in a very I have a very bad attitude today, but I'm going to change that right now. And I'm going to make a promise to everybody who reads this. And hold me accountable. Every person I come into contact today is going to feel better after they've left than they did before they ran into me.
I promise I'm going to focus on that today. I'm going to make everybody feel just a little bit better today. And, man, it was incredible. It was an incredible day. And what I found, Daniel, is my bad attitude and my bad mood went away quickly because I was constantly out spewing positivity and not in a fake or generic way. You know, I try to be authentic in everything I was doing, but it changed my bad mood for me, and I felt so good by the middle of the day. And so attitude is everything my friend I truly believe that.
Daniel Burstein: I like that Chad, I'm better today from having interacted with you. That's beautiful, I think. And also just the story you told me and chills down my spine. I think anyone who's going through anything difficult today while you're listening to this, maybe you don't have enough leads. Maybe, you know, your creative idea got shot down. I mean, if Chad and Lilly can go through something so difficult like that and try to bring the best positive attitude to it, we can bring the best positive attitude towards everything.
That's beautiful. So let's end on this. We talked about a lot, Chad. So let's distill this down. If you had to distill the entire career down, if you had to distill what you look for in a hire, in a partner in yourself down, what are the key qualities of an effective marketer, in your opinion?
Chad Brown: Well, we talked about it over and over, and I would say a positive attitude. I look for that right off the bat with anybody I speak to or anybody I try to provide that as well to anybody I'm engaging with. I think something I found to be extremely effective with leaders is inclusivity. What I found is that it doesn't matter your age if you're a brand new coordinator or if you're a seasoned executive, everybody can bring value to a situation if you're willing to ask them for their input.
Everybody has a different background. We have very diverse backgrounds. We were all brought up different. And it doesn't matter to me. Race, color, creed, religion it doesn't matter we all have a different background. And so we have a different perception of things and we have different learnings. And as a marketer, when you're making these decisions about your brand, I think it's super important to always include what everybody has to say on the team when it's when it's, you know, appropriate.
Can't be every setting where everybody has input but any time you have the authority to make that decision to get input from your team, you should be getting the input from every single individual. They all have something to add. They may not be the final decision maker, but I promise you don't have something important to say. Or maybe for that particular thing, they say, Hey, I really don't have an opinion on this one. That's perfectly fine too. But that attitude, inclusivity and diversity and thought. I think also making sure that you are inclusive in terms of your stakeholders. And we've talked a lot about that today. Don't operate in a silo. You cannot. Marketing is so important to every organization. We touch every square inch of it. We've got to be good partners to our internal customer.
If we're not, things will go downhill quick and our jobs won't be as fun and it'll be so much more difficult. So be inclusive with your stakeholders as well. I think that's super important. And have a Gumby attitude, I mean, I'll end with that. That's having a Gumby attitude and not letting things bring you down. Listen, we're in marketing because we enjoy change if you don't enjoy change, I guarantee you don't like marketing and advertising because it changes every day, whether it's technology or the business shifting or the customer shifting or the position of the organization shifting or a recession, you name it, it changes every day and we feed on that. And so have that Gumby attitude. Be flexible, don't be fake, be real be authentic, but be willing to flex. That's really important.
Daniel Burstein: Well, thank you so much, Chad. I learned so much from you in this episode.
Chad Brown: Thank you. It was such a pleasure to spend some time with you this morning. Daniel, really appreciate your time. And thank you for letting me talk about all these cool things I've learned over the years.
Daniel Burstein: I was great. I hope, I guess, that I'm better today because I had this interaction with Chad, and I hope everyone listening is better today because of getting to listen to this podcast. So thank you all for listening.
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