Alec Van Noten has a wide range experience in online brand building, and currently holds the position of digital & online strategy manager at the Brandhome group where he has managed a broad range of national and international online branding projects. Alec is particularly focused on social media and their effect on brand building. He has combined this understanding with his entrepreneurial mentality, to create a series of unique social media campaigns. He also holds the Belgian record for building the largest Facebook community in less than three days! He joins us from Antwerp, Belgium to discuss the role of the digital strategist in Belgium. You can hear our conversation in iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud or below now.
In a multi-lingual country of 11 Million people, characterized by enormous diversity in a relatively small area and an enormous number of brands vying for consumer mindshare and wallets, where budgets don’t always align with expectations, you would expect it to be a particularly challenging environment for the strategist to succeed.
However, the pressure caused by this environment has meant that digital practitioners have little choice but to become full-stack multi-disciplinary marketers. To that end, a key to the success of Brandhome is this multifunctional entrepreneurial spirit that is instilled in all team members. As Alec describes, “creatives should produce new business leads, manage their own projects, maintain client relationships, know about the financial side…it’s about being an entrepreneur”.
This entrepreneurial approach, combined with the need to deliver performance with limited resources has led to interesting approaches to digital strategy. Alec describes one such example as the 2014 electoral campaign of the Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie (NVA) which focused on delivering highly targeted authentic online video stories that showed diverse voices across the country, all locally targeted to the people of those communities. This campaign, launched well in advance of the election date took a guerrilla marketing approach that drove huge earned media performance.
This focus on performance is seen throughout the industry in locally, and Alec identifies Coolblue (a Dutch brand) as one that has found the key ingredients for the perfect customer experience that leads to acquisition AND retention. They heavily invest in loyalty/experience across borders in Belgium & the Netherlands. While they’re not the cheapest, they provide such peace of mind that the additional charge is totally worth it. And this focus has really paid off. It all started with MP3shop.nl that has grown to what Coolblue is today: half a billion in revenue with great growth potential and this all done fully online in addition to 4 or 5 brick and mortar locations.
It is also this focus on optimization that drove Alec’s career from one that started in programming and development and became more multi-disciplinary and strategic as he chased the need for performance to all the various elements that impact it. This approach is driven by his ethos that “everything is constantly moving so you have no choice but to constantly adapt, evolve, learn and be quicker than the competition”.
His advice to those looking to become digital strategists in Belgium is “don’t study for it. There is no school or degree that can prepare you for this. You have to be up for a challenge. You have to be up for a constantly evolving world. You have to be able to constantly re-invent yourself. And you have to be happy to do that”.
Next week on octopus, we will continue to explore the role of the digital strategist. Please be sure to comment below. I’d love to hear from you. Please subscribe for alerts about new episodes and content. Thank you for listening to octopus. I’m Nasser Sahlool.