Building Brands, Partnerships, and Expanding Internationally – VistaTalks Ep 92


Building Brands, Partnerships, and Expanding Internationally - Episode 92

In this episode, guest Valerie Brown joins VistaTalks host Simon Hodgkins. Valerie is a global business, brand, and partnership strategist in entertainment, hospitality, lifestyle, and non-profit. She is the CEO of the Val Brown Group, where they work with CEOs, CMOs, entrepreneurs, and business owners to drive company growth through brand strategy. She has helped brands like Hard Rock Cafe, City Winery, Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame, MTV, and more.

Valerie shares how she got involved working in global brand strategy. From working in marketing and as an Events Director at an upmarket venue and nightclub in New York where the Brazilian owner didn’t speak English. Valerie had become the General Manager and then walked into the Hard Rock Cafe very late one night because it was still open. The founder of the Hard Rock Cafe was looking for a new Marketing Manager, it was a very publicity driven brand, and they wanted to open in Paris as their next location. Valerie even worked for a record label while in college!

The Hard Rock Cafe brand and physical locations continued to grow, and Valerie shares how a partnership with MTV was formed and became helpful. (The MTV offices were down the street from the Hard Rock Cafe on 57th street in Manhattan.) At around the five-year mark, the organization went international, opening up more locations outside of the United States. Valerie discusses how marketing is a little different in every country and how this differs from some of the marketing in the US due to it being more of a local (and huge) market. The approach to media became much more national and international depending on the locations in Europe.

Valrie shares how she was working with Robert Earl from Planet Hollywood, who wanted to develop a music concept and asked her to work with MTV on developing that concept. It was originally slated to be in MTV’s building located at the old Paramount theater, where Frank Sinatra had lines of screaming fans down the street.

We discuss Valerie’s interest in brand extensions and brand partnerships as a way for growth. Examples include working with the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, a super iconic venue. Valerie shares how the most prominent radio market for country music is in Los Angeles.

We touch on the strategy for another company which is purpose-driven. It is an entertainment space and a live music venue. This work included grassroots brand work, going back and looking at the fact that they have a great brand, but developing the brand platform and looking closely at their mission.

Valerie can wear the corporate and consumer hats to help with global business and brand strategy. She comments that “the more I put on my consumer hat, the more I understand the needs of the consumer.” Valerie is interested in brands with a purpose, a mission, and a focus on sustainability, and shares insights into Unilever, IKEA, Galeries Lafayette, and others.

Having a brand purpose and focusing on sustainability-driven is a real consumer driver. Brands have to be careful of really walking their talk and not simply greenwashing because consumers will rightly call them out on it. As Valerie says, “it’s the right thing to do; it’s not just that it looks good… it’s an economic driver.”

Valerie comments how she has been lucky to work in and around for most of her career, and one project that was particularly fun for her with her love of music was working with the world-famous Cavern Club. A self-confessed Beatles fan, she shares some more comprehensive insights about all of the other people that have played and launched their careers there.