The real estate market in New York City is not for the faint of heart. Whether you're a renter, agent, landlord or - as we'll discuss shortly - a property marketer, your resolve must be tougher than steel girding, and your determination of sky-high proportions. So when Kate Chinn received the Rising Star honor at last year's CMO Awards, it wasn't just a coy attempt to "punnify" her work.
Chinn, who oversees the marketing of several prominent Tishman Speyer properties in Manhattan - including "Top of the Rock" Observation Deck, Rockefeller Center and the event venue 620 Loft & Garden - rose to the challenge of successfully re-launching the famous Rainbow Room and shares her experiences with me below. Hopefully you'll take away some insights for your own next business launch, or, at the very least, find some appreciation for the dizzyingly high tower of responsibilities that face today's marketing leads like Chinn.
The new Rainbow Room, which opened in October 2014, had a re-launch two years in the making. Imagine having two years to prepare for anything today. But with a name like the Rainbow Room, Chinn had to ensure that every last detail was perfect. "With this re-launch in particular, there were very high expectations, especially since the Rainbow Room is such a famous, historic and iconic venue." Chinn and her marketing team worked closely with the property's management to position each segment of the Rainbow Room properly. Segments, plural? "The new Rainbow Room is one of many faces," says Chinn. There's an event venue, Sunday brunch location, cocktail lounge (a separate space under the name SixtyFive) and destination for Monday night dinner and entertainment.
The prep time was absolutely necessary. "You can't effectively market something until you have a solid idea of what it's going to be, how you want it to be perceived, and what the business goals are," Chinn says. Convincing Tishman Speyer, a more traditional property owner and developer, that her team's efforts would be worth the cost was an additional step in the process. "Because we work for a real estate company, we have to take the time to explain the necessity of marketing these non-core businesses," says Chinn. "As long as we're very, very clear and confident on what we need and why, they tend to trust our marketing expertise, especially given the success of similar businesses such as Top of the Rock and the event venue 620 Loft & Garden."
Chinn and her team had to formulate a unique strategy and marketing mix for each of the Rainbow Room's identities. For the events side of the business, Chinn knew that the industry would demand a longer lead time for bookings, so she and her team began advertising a year before the opening, and in larger publications than for the other segments. For the brunch angle, Chinn decided to wait a little longer to advertise, until a professional photography team could really nail the stunning setup of the space and accurately capture the food on the menu. Marketing Monday night entertainment, on the other hand, was still in flux at the time of our interview, though Chinn says that Tishman managed to release an effective full-page ad in the New York Times before The Roots swept through the venue for its first performance.
Chinn, of course, also turned to digital to support the launch, which mostly consisted of building websites, integrating with OpenTable and optimizing for Google AdWords. In a market like New York, it takes a lot to rise to the top of any search results. Making sure the Rainbow Room was on that shortlist was of the utmost importance, and Chinn says her company didn't scrimp. Chinn was also working on a visitor-driven social plan when we spoke, and she says PR has been a great asset in spreading the word for Tishman Speyer's new property as well.
However, nothing can compare to the power of good ol' word of mouth. "We've found that, with Top of the Rock, word of mouth is so important, and keeps people coming back," Chinn says. "In fact, according to some audience research we conducted, over 50% claim that 'word of mouth' was their main reason for visiting." While Chinn admitted that SixtyFive (the Rainbow Room's cocktail lounge) is her first bar venture, she foresees personal recommendations being just as important in bringing in new and return customers. "I think it's a continual effort, and really relies on a great guest experience, much moreso than anything paid," she says.
It should be of little surprise that Chinn's work launching the Rainbow Room didn't come to a hard stop at marketing. In fact, she believes that it's the job of the marketing department to touch as many areas of a launch as possible - a kernel of wisdom that all CMOs should retain. "My team was involved in everything from logo design to uniform selection to actually naming the bar 'SixtyFive Bar & Cocktail Lounge,'" Chinn says. "With new businesses, you find yourself doing anything and everything that needs to happen in order to get that business open, regardless of whether or not it is actually 'marketing.'"
In partnership with The CMO Club, The CMO of the Week series profiles CMOs who are shaping, changing and challenging the world of modern marketing. For Drew Neisser's complete interview with CMO Award Winner Kate Chinn, click here.