CMO Q&A: Patrick Farrell, Enterprise Holdings

Enterprise Holdings' Patrick Farrell speaks with Aarti Shah about its new corporate branding and the online challenges for the travel industry

Enterprise Holdings' Patrick Farrell speaks with Aarti Shah about its new corporate branding and the online challenges for the travel industry.

PRWeek: Enterprise recently launched a new corporate identity, Enterprise Holdings, as the parent company for Alamo, Enterprise, and National car rentals. As part of this, Enterprise Holdings plans to preserve the independence of the three brands while also having a unified voice for Enterprise Holding. How are you doing this from a PR and marketing perspective?

Farrell: The key for any organization dealing with multiple brands that operate in the same category is brand distinction and brand separation. And it's not as difficult as you might think because our three brands are distinct. There wasn't a tremendous amount of overlap so there wasn't a lot of brand delineation we needed to do when talking to the consumer.

PRWeek: But with more consumers using the Web for price comparing and convenience, do you think those brand distinctions are becoming less relevant?

Farrell: The online world has been with us for a while and exists for everyone who is involved in some aspect of the travel industry. But there is still a strong need for brand equity and understanding for consumers. People do shop the category, but they also shop the category within the confines of what feels right for them. So the personality of the brand and what the brand offers still has to be effectively conveyed, whether it's through paid advertising or earned media work on the PR side.

PRWeek: Because so many of your consumers are using the Web, has this impacted your social media strategy?

Farrell: We are engaging those customers online where they are talking about our brand. Often in this case, you need to bring in…PR because that discipline is comfortable having a two-way dialogue and it's not a paid and controlled environment. In time, this will lead to a much more sophisticated approach as companies – like ours - develop a much more sophisticated program about speaking to those folks. Today it's not quite as usefully developed as it should be, but we are moving in that direction. We are using social media to help us look at what the consumers want from our brands.

PRWeek: Has Enterprise Holdings responded to Enterprise Fail, an online community critical of Enterprise Rent-A-Car?

Farrell: It's a forum that has existed for a number of years and it's relatively static, stagnant, and not compelling at all. It's not really a customer site, it's a site that seems to be frequented by a few disgruntled customers. We are obviously aware of them, but this isn't exactly a relevant and ongoing discussion.

PRWeek: How would you describe the unified voice that you want to come out of Enterprise Holdings?

Farrell: One of the things we wanted to do is, not lose hold of what Enterprise meant prior to going to the multi-brand format. The six components of the unified voice are, the company's heritage and how it was founded by Jack Taylor. There's also leadership, which speaks to the fact that this is a privately held company and the leading company in our category. The next is financial stability and how the company takes a long-term view of the business, has strong balance sheets, and reinvests much of its earnings back into the business. Also that Enterprise Holdings is an exceptionally strong employer and an engaged corporate citizen.

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