In the Spotlight – Leonard Hamersfeld – Buzz Products

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There’s A Buzz Around Town! Amenities Magazine puts Leonard Hamersfeld, Director and Founder of Buzz Products, In The Spotlight.

When was Buzz established and what brought BUZZ into the onboard amenities industry? 

Buzz was founded 20 years ago and originated as a product design company. 

But a passion for all things travel led us into designing for the airline industry. Onboard products were mostly commodity items and solely focused on function. We wanted to bring our love of design and innovation to reimagine the aesthetics of the onboard experience whilst remaining true to the functionality needed. 

Buzz were one of the first in the industry to develop brand collaborations and work with design houses. Before Buzz, I was an architect and interior designer, and I come from a family of fashion designers, so you could say that design is in my blood! 

What is the most significant change you have seen in the amenities market over the past 10 years? 

I think the cost pressures faced by the airlines has created a need for them to set themselves apart from their competition. This has driven innovation and brand collaborations as airlines seek to extend their value propositions offered to passengers. 

There has been increased focus on brand analysis to ensure synergies between airline and potential brand partners. Also key, is brands extending touch-points beyond the flight, creating marketing activations that deliver deeper, richer brand experiences. 

Social media sharing has driven the opportunity to really add value for brand partners. Some of our successful activations such as Qantas Curates, Acqua Di Parma for Etihad and Alessi for Delta have truly extended their story across a variety of media channels driving awareness and key campaign metrics. 

For me, with all the change that is happening in the airline industry, I see our role is to add something unexpected to the travel experience, the luxury touch of a thoughtful product shaped by narrative. 

What do you think the future of amenities should be? 

With longer and longer flights comes the challenge of making sure passenger comfort is always met. Let’s face it, 14+ hours in the air is all about survival! 

It would be incredible if the logistics allowed for a truly bespoke amenity experience. Providing passengers with choices and wellness options with a custom-built offer will help smooth the journey. 

Technology and connectivity also provide endless opportunities for future amenities. Buzz were the first to bring RFID technology to passengers with the Qantas Q Bags Tags and, there are many more applications for technology onboard to enhance the passenger experience. 

What are you most proud of? 

I am incredibly proud of the pioneering design work that we have created in the airline amenity market. We’ve been at the forefront of introducing brand collaborations, that – together with the story-telling and marketing initiatives that accompany them – drive incredible value for the entire partnership. 

I am also proud of our design studio who are influential in the design and inflight world. We have one of the largest design studios in the airline industry and incredible in-house design talent. 

Buzz often works with exciting, young brands – how do you ensure you stay at the forefront of the market? 

The Buzz team are global citizens by nature. We scour the globe for trends far before they become mainstream. You will find our team travelling for work or play to all corners of the globe. 

We attend the world’s best design and innovation shows, we look to fashion, hospitality and design industries for inspiration. 

We are constantly refreshing ideas and seeking out the best trend forecasts to give our clients an informed competitive edge and bring them the most exciting brands.

Are airlines changing their needs and requests to you, the supplier? 

Increasingly, sustainability has become a core focus for airlines. Airlines are looking to us as their partners to look at the entire product lifestyle and ensure it is a circular and sustainable one. 

We’ve been at the forefront of sustainable design, starting with our award winning ecoTHREAD™ blankets made from 100% recycled plastic bottles. 

It’s just the tip of the iceberg (that will hopefully still be there, if we do our job right!) 

Passenger needs seem to evolve very quickly – do you think airlines are doing enough to keep up? 

I actually think that passenger needs haven’t changed that much. Passengers all want to be looked after and have their comfort needs met along the journey. In premium cabins, they expect a luxury experience that differentiates them from the norm and airlines are looking to continually refresh the experience to make it relevant, aspirational and a moment of excitement in the journey. 

What are your thoughts on some airlines now allowing Economy Class passengers to ‘purchase’ First or Business Class amenity kits during their journey? 

I truly believe that good design should be accessible to all, regardless of cabin class. With longer flights, having the option of purchasing inflight amenities will become more desirable. 

Premium customers value having a money-can’t buy experience, so it is imperative that airlines ensure that any ‘buy onboard’ opportunities don’t impact the premium offering. 

THE PERSONAL TOUCH 

What is your favourite city? 

Milan – because they are at the heart of design. Milan was the birthplace of collaborations and design houses with the likes of Memphis and Alessi. One of the key reasons why we set up an office in Milan is because it’s such a design hub – an industrial and manufacturing city that still has at its core all the romance, architecture and amazing food. And by the way, the lobster pasta served in foil at La Pescatore is ridiculous! 

What is your favourite holiday destination? 

I’ve always loved visiting Thailand for holidays with my family. I can’t think of anywhere as beautiful where you can live and eat right on the most amazing beaches. I feel especially connected to Thailand after being caught up in the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004. Experiencing the devastation at that time, it’s now so special to be able to visit with my young family and see the rejuvenation in the communities and the incredible resilience of the friendly locals. 

Favourite onboard tipple? 

Do they serve alcohol on flights? I never knew! 

But if I happen to be on American Airlines it’s a Tito’s on the rocks. On Delta, they mix an awesome cocktail. If I’m on Singapore Airlines, it’s a nice full-bodied glass of red.