In Mallorca, a gentle farm animal has become a global social networking sensation. Frank Leavers meets the couple behind a cutting-edge communications business. Inspired by a donkey!
Parc Bit, on the Valldemossa road just a few kilometres north of Palma, is sometimes archly described as Mallorca’s ‘Silicone Valley’. Right next door to the University, it’s made up of modern buildings with angular lines and a clear minimalist concept – populated by bright young people who are obviously both talented and achingly cool. The place is a breeding ground for small and medium-sized communications companies that are at the very cutting edge of the new technologies and the way that we communicate with each other now and – to be one step ahead of the competition – in the near future. However, I am here to talk to a couple that has based their successful home-grown communications business on the utterings of a Mallorcan donkey called Pepper. I think the word that I am groping for is . . . surreal!
I am met by Englishman Roger Swain, who is a partner in Rebuzzna Communications – a marketing company that specializes in social media; Roger is a man on a mission. As with many entrepreneurs, Roger has a very quick mind; so quick, that I have to get him to slow down as he gallops – barely drawing breath – through a potted history of Rebuzzna Communications. Feeling like the dimmest boy in my class, I sit Roger down over a cup of coffee and plead with him to start at the beginning.
Roger Swain and his partner Marta Bonet used to own a small rural boutique hotel in Mallorca and, like other similar businesses, they were looking at ways to promote Sant Blai to potential clients. Roger claims that their ‘eureka’ moment occurred when Marta heard their donkey Pepper braying in the field next to the hotel. Rebuznar is Spanish for the verb ‘to bray’, so Marta added the extra ‘z’ and a social networking phenomenon was born. Using Pepper as public relations “spokesdonkey” for Sant Blai, via Twitter and Facebook, the couple was amazed to find that their hotel bookings were thriving and Pepper had become a social media superstar. Such is Pepper’s fame, she has had over 30,000 followers on Twitter, and The Daily Telegraph – Britain’s largest selling ‘quality’ newspaper – listed Pepper Santblai in their top ten worldwide Twitter users. As I sit with my mouth wide-open at this revelation, Swain explains that fans of Pepper are often to be found feeding him and his friends with carrots.
As with all ‘overnight’ successes, Roger and Marta served a long apprenticeship in business before the creation of Rebuzzna Communications; both worked in real estate in their own company here in Mallorca and cut their teeth in hotel management and other projects. Roger Swain has a background in training and development, and is excited by the potential of social media networks in terms of business opportunities. In fact Rebuzzna Communications is designed to help other small businesses grow their presence, with all the new marketing tools of the rapidly growing social media technologies. Their small team – based at Parc Bit – is already leading the way in seeking and developing new methods of business communications, in the context of a fast-moving industry that is shedding all the usual manuals and handbooks that have sustained it for more than a generation. Indeed, although the story of Pepper the donkey and his Tweets and Facebook profile is heart-warming and charming, the fact is that the world of corporate communications is changing forever, and the old tried and tested marketing methods of message delivery are fast becoming an irrelevance. When was the last time you read a leaflet or studied a brochure? Although the story of Pepper the donkey, and his legion of Twitter followers, is irresistible – and prompted the writing of this article – the real story is about Marta Bonet and Roger Swain. Their drive, ambition and imagination are remarkable: the creation of Rebuzzna Communications from a small hotel in Mallorca is testament to an entrepreneurial spirit with an instinctive understanding of skills such as marketing, communications, and the possibilities of the social media network. How appropriate is it then that as a communications, marketing and training company, they hold training seminars and workshops at Finca Sant Blai, where it all started? More importantly, they know how to make us smile: they knew that we would love a donkey. They were absolutely right.
Rebuznar is Spanish for the verb ´to bray´