[Interview] Léonie Koning (Initiative): Successful brands today are agile, have vision and purpose
For 15 years at Initiative Léonie, there must be something you like there
There certainly is. Just like with any relationship in which the foundation is good, you grow with each other. And that also applies here: brands grow at the speed of culture, which applies to us as a company and to us as people. And also to me as a leader and as a person. And because we as a team are super attuned to each other, continue to grow and develop ourselves, it often doesn't feel like work.
If you compare 2020 with those other fourteen years, how special has 2020 been?
Without giving you the clichés, it was a very special year. Intense, it demanded a lot from our team, our customers, and our relations. We certainly feel responsible because many of our campaigns play an important social role because of our work for the National Government. Our team has been exceptionally resilient and agile, and it still is. I have a deep respect for that. And what also stayed with me is that it is precisely in this eventful year that everyone has more than ever counted their blessings and gets lots of energy from the beautiful things that are there.
Maintaining the national government's account was important. On what did Initiative win again?
Together with our colleagues from Reprise and Matterkind, we took a fresh look at how you outline such a collaboration and then for the next six years. The strategic case of the four parts in the tender was very important. Initiative works from Cultural Velocity, where it is about finding the right connection between the consumer and culture. This means that we no longer focus solely on demographic groups, but on communities, which we get moving in a different way. In the feedback it was stated that we had gained in-depth insights into the culture of the target group, that connecting through culture has added value, that it brings focus and that the approach was not standard. We have helped make the difference. Besides strategy, quality was also an important part; viewability, brand safety and the correct use of technology. The purchasing method proposed by us, and the use of the technology, matched perfectly with this requirement from the government.
It seems to me a nice confirmation if RECMA regularly lets you know that you are doing well as a media agency...
Actually, we no longer compare ourselves to media agencies, because we have broadened our field of work in recent years to include marketing consultancy. But RECMA's overviews are certainly leading in the industry and it is therefore a huge boost that we are considered dominant by an independent party such as RECMA. I am especially proud of our long-term customer relationships such as with A.S. Watson, the constant growth in new business (partly due to the profit of MG EMEA last year) and the extent to which we embrace change as a team. That is the real added value that our clients also feel.
How has customer demands changed in 2020?
We all know how communication benefits from (cultural) velocity, especially if you look at a year like 2020. What we do more often is look for a solution together, with parties from different corners of the business, at the table with a client. Preferably live, of course, but at this time also very successful through virtual workshops guided by our business consultants. No more waiting for each other but working on the same challenge from different angles at the same time. This really adds value and has yielded great cases, for example a Silver Effie for The Ministry of Defense, but also a successful positioning strategy and brand narrative for a retailer customer of Initiative.
How do you view 2021?
The glass is usually half full for me and I am therefore happy that 2021 has started. And with me many other Initiativers, I know. Yes, many new challenges will come our way. We are going to adapt again to the changes in culture. And we do that with a lot of energy. I do hope that once the virus is somewhat under control, we can move more freely again - I miss going out for dinner with friends, the prospect of a fun city trip with my husband and going to festivals. Every person benefits from more freedom. We see a major trend that brands must continuously adapt their marketing approach to uncertainty. That will be a theme throughout 2021. This requires agility, but also vision and purpose.