A view from Lionel Benbassat

There's no such thing as a strong brand story without a strong team

Lionel Benbassat, head of marketing and brand at Eurostar, searches for diversity of experience and personalities to build his dream team.

Be passionate about the product and the brand. After a year spent in consultancy, I was drawn back to Eurostar after such a positive experience while interning. Twelve years on, I’m still here because I love the brand and believe in the product. Being passionate about what you do is vital.

I love advertising. There’s (too) much to say about it – so I’ll share just a few things I’ve learnt that have guided my principles for commissioning and judging creative work.

  • Good insight leads to good ideas. No insight leads to wasting a lot of time.
  • Advertising is about seduction – give more than you ask for and be patient.
  • If everybody likes it, it’s probably bland.
  • When signing off a good ad, you should feel (really) excited and a bit nervous.
  • Respect your audience; they’re at least as smart as you.

Dream team. There’s no such thing as a strong brand story without a strong team. It’s essential to surround yourself with the best people in order to be successful. Make your team accountable, empower them to do what is right. My advice is to hire talented individuals who are complementary to you in terms of personality and skills, and don’t go down the mini-me route.

People who are curious, open-minded, who question the status quo and are ready to learn (not leave) and grow. Search for diversity of experience and personalities because that’s where you’ll find richness. You need a bit of friction to create a spark and, once the fire is on, it becomes a collective responsibility to keep it going.

Carry a compass. Leading a team is a journey – you know where to start but not where you’ll end up or what you’ll find along the way. One thing you’re bound to discover is how you act as a manager.

Authenticity is talked about as a key quality for leadership, but I value integrity just as much. It steers you like a personal compass, helping you make judgments to keep in line with what you believe is right.

Don’t ask, listen… We work in a time when social media is at the forefront and allows us to directly interact with customers. It provides a platform for us as marketers to listen to what our customers are saying – how they see the brand and what they expect from it.

Digital interactions are a blessing – we’ve never had as much unprompted customer feedback at hand and as much clarity on what our travellers really want.

…and focus on the problem. Customer feedback is crucial to the brand’s success as it enables us to identify areas that need to be improved. We have two ears and one mouth, so we can listen twice as much as we speak, and I think this statement is also valid for brands.

Enjoy the fall. I love skiing and I’m trying to pass on my passion to my eldest daughter. After her lessons, I ask her: did you fall? Because getting better at what you do, getting more responsibility in your job, is about pushing your limits, taking a few risks and eventually ending up face down in the snow.

I think it’s all right not to know exactly what the outcome of your endeavour will be as long as you’re clear on why you’re doing it and convinced it can work.

There is no such thing as a failure if you learn from your mistakes. My advice is to take your own approach and think outside the box. You’ll either make a success out of it or gain valuable insights into how to improve next time. It’s important for organisations to allow people to make mistakes and I push my team to experiment and try new methods.

Link up. As the landscape changes at such a rapid pace and grows increasingly complex, it’s important to keep a broad view and try to stay in a position where you won’t be hooked to one given solution.

It’s times like this that push me to build relationships with experts within my business and the industry in order to make the most of new opportunities. I’ve always seen marketing as a gobetween discipline, creating links between customer issues and solutions.

The constant introduction of new technology forces us to break silos, think laterally and link up people to improve the customer experience.

Lionel Benbassat is head of marketing and brand at Eurostar. He has worked for the company for more than a decade and overseen major campaigns including Eurostar's activations for the 2012 Olympic Games.