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‘Successful Branding Needs Creativity’ – Interview with Michael Antoniou, obqo

The founders of obqo Branding Agency: (from right): Christoforos Mavromatis and Michalis Antoniou.

The founders of obqo Branding Agency: (from right) Christoforos Mavromatis and Michael Antoniou.

By Nikos Krinis

Just how important is a well-designed corporate image for a travel enterprise? According to Michael Antoniou, it is “more crucial than ever”.

Michael is the co-founder and creative director at obqo, a branding agency made to promote every company’s values and unique selling proposition, through concept creation, creative design and web development that aims to boost the presence of the brand.

Launched only a year and a half ago, obqo has already added well-known brands to its portfolio, including names like Web Hotelier and Porto Carras Grand Resort.

Michalis Antoniou

Michael Antoniou

“Our aspiration is to make obqo the definition for creativity and quality services; and we’re definitely on the way to do so,” Michael tells GTP Headlines.

A highly creative designer, with over 16 years of experience, Michael is responsible for the company’s next steps and leading its talented team, while aiming to fulfill obqo’s purpose every day.

“obqo is our daily crave for creativity and visual support for our clients… Our philosophy is driven by creativity, respect to brand identity elements and, along with our clients’ guidance, we form an integrated presence, offline and online,” he says.

Michael began his career in 2001 as a designer in companies such as Art in Design and Mediterranean Business Network and Senior Web Designer in United Online S.A. Internet Consultants and Purple Travel, a travel agency in the UK. From 2008 until 2016 he was the creative art director of Nelios, a market leader in hotel digital marketing. In 2016 he co-founded obqo with Christoforos Mavromatis, an expert in B2C travel distribution.

His specialties include creative direction, art direction, digital branding, consulting, web design, User Experience Design (UX) and User Interface Design (UI).

GTP Headlines had the chance to talk with Michael and get informed on the challenging task of developing well-designed brand identities for tourism and travel businesses and also find out the latest travel-related projects obqo has launched.

  • GTP: obqo redefines and modernizes the branding of a business. In regards to tourism enterprises, just how important is a well-designed corporate image for a tourism enterprise?

Michael Antoniou: Thanks to the digital tools that travelers have today in their hands, brand identity consistency is more crucial than ever. Businesses, as well as individuals, have an online visual presence available, accessible and comparable, at any time. In the travel industry, creating a brand identity that enhances the values and USPs of a hotel, for example, can lead to a better, more original positioning on the market and to the desired traveler target group.

  • GTP: Would you say that redefining the brand of a business is a difficult task? Is the branding of a tourism enterprise handled in a different way than it is handled for other businesses? What is essential to be focused on?

Michael Antoniou: Every process that demands consistency and coherence for an integrated result, like the development of a well-designed brand identity, is of course a challenging task. Especially on the travel market, where experience is wide, you must be able to guarantee that branding appears correctly on multiple applications, from a business card and a Google banner, to the hotel towel, coaster or pillow that guests will come across during their stay. It is mandatory to focus on two aspects about branding. The first one is about how we’re going to take advantage of design and brand messages to communicate with the right audience. The second strictly concerns the consistency of the visual presence and its correct development on every possible offline and online application.

  • GTP: What role does technology play in the branding of a business or destination?

Michael Antoniou: Technology has created numerous solutions but also many questions at the same time and we have to answer them. As far as branding is concerned, it is crucial to consider all the possible visual identity applications, in each one of the hundreds of digital tools, available today. One thing we always mention to our clients here in obqo, is that, the way to win the online competition is not limited to online presence; you have to attract the users’ attention in seconds too.

  • GTP: Can a well-designed corporate image encourage consumers/travelers to spend more money on the services and products of a tourism business?

Michael Antoniou: Certainly! In fact, a recent study in which the participants had to rate and compare the visual identity of 5-star hotels, showed that there is a tendency to prefer those that had invested in their branding and visual identity.

  • Obqo's office in Athens.

    Obqo’s office in Athens.

    GTP: Just how keen are Greek businesses in modernizing their brands?

Michalis Antoniou: The level of the executives entering the travel industry in Greece is constantly arising. Consequently, the essence of branding is now quite comprehensive, not only to the extend of the required tasks, but also to that of the benefits that can be acquired.

  • GTP: What partnerships are included in obqo’s portfolio and what are obqo’s most recent travel related projects?

Michael Antoniou: Although our company has been around for only a year and a half, we are honored and delighted to work with great brands. Web Hotelier, Electra Hotels & Resorts, Porto Carras Grand Resort and The Media Image in London are only some of them. The most recent travel-related projects that we launched, were for two Real Estate & Property Management agencies, Divine Property and Prime Greek Villas.

  • GTP: What are some of the challenges that a brand design agency may come to face? What is required from a branding agency in order for it to remain competitive?

Michael Antoniou: Challenges are many and they’re not only about the creative stuff. Competition demands to be able to show our work, as well as to boost our services in the right way, giving value to our clients. Furthermore, we always have to be ahead and easily adjust to the changes happening every day in the online promotion tools, having also a consulting role for our clients, at the same time. These two factors are crucial for an agency’s competitiveness today.

  • GTP: Millennials have become the most influential group of consumers. It is a group that grew up surrounded by technology. What do Millennials want in a hotel brand and a travel experience?

Michael Antoniou: Millennials seek original services and products that will make them feel unique and distinguished. They also want to be able to share their experiences and influence others’ choices. For a hotel, branding is used as a visual language to communicate with this generation, something that could bring multiple benefits for the exposure of one brand.

  • Obqo's office in Athens.

    Obqo’s office in Athens.

    GTP: What should we expect from obqo in the future?

Michael Antoniou: We really had a kick-start so far, setting a strong foundation. We have an amazing team of capable and talented people, while we work for some exquisite and prestigious brands. Our aspiration is to make obqo the definition for creativity and quality services; and we’re definitely on the way to do so.

  • GTP: Although obqo specializes in the branding of businesses, we’d like your professional opinion on destination branding, a necessary marketing concept for the tourism industry. What does it really take to brand a destination to a point where it can become universally recognizable?

Michael Antoniou: Branding is the connection of the elements that form the identity of a brand or, in this case, a destination. The perfect combination of those elements is the concept that will enable us to communicate the identity of the destination through the design and the content we’ll create for it. So, in the first place, we have to consider what exactly Greece means. Things like history, culture, gastronomy, agricultural production, architecture etc. can inspire us to create the unique image that we want the world to see.

obqo’s head offices are in London, United Kingdom. In Greece, obqo has offices in Athens and in Heraklion, Crete.


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