How to develop a Corporate Strategy that is future-proof

“At the table with…” is a segment in which a New Sales Company employee talks about a subject within his or her specialty. This can be an interesting case they were involved in, a vision on certain developments within online marketing or sales, or trend watching for the future.

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Today we’re in our restaurant with Dirk de Koning. Dirk has been involved with New Sales Company since 2017 and is an expert in developing corporate strategies. This means that he can determine, often through researching different stakeholders, the current positioning and proposition to eventually define and execute the desired strategy.

In this interview you’ll read about the process of repositioning, an interesting case about KPN and Het Noordbrabants Museum, and Dirk will take a look at the current way of positioning and communicating by museums.

How did you start your career?
“I started when advertising agencies were making an unprecedented rise and were part of a certain culture or target audience. At that time advertising was very progressive and visible. Particularly TV and cinema advertising were very dominant.
I came in as an account manager and through different jobs I eventually became Client Services Director. I was responsible for all contact with clients. At the time our agency had 45 national and international clients we developed propositions and produced campaigns for.

We started developing distinctive propositions in a creative way. After that, we were able to ‘build the brand’. A lot of focus was put on brand propositions, where focus now is more on content to generate online traffic and conversion.”

Can you name an example of a national client you serviced?
“A good client example is KPN. KPN was a telecom provider of fixed and mobile phone lines. We worked on the brand KPN Mobile, that wanted to service a young target audience. Young people saw KPN Mobile as a business-like, somewhat boring and static brand, instead of young, hip and attractive.

We then developed the brand ‘Hi’. A completely different and new brand, aimed at servicing a young target audience, with the security of the KPN network. This was seen as the best network in The Netherlands. The development of ‘Hi’ is an example of a successful way to develop an additional proposition next to the main brand, that is specifically aimed at a segment of the target audience. This way, one brand doesn’t cross the other brand.

“Predictable communication, not aimed at innovation and renewal. Even though, in my opinion, you can tie entirely new target audiences to your brand through innovation and renewal.”

New Sales Company has a lot of clients in the museum sector. Which similarities do you see for this sector?
“If you look at the Rijksmuseum for example, one of the most well-known museums in The Netherlands, you can see that they have an autonomic attraction on a large audience. Just like KPN used to have. I would find it a healthy discussion to look at what the attraction is (or will be) on the target audiences of the future. How do young people view the brand Rijksmuseum? And how will the Rijksmuseum behave towards these new target audiences in the future?”

This is the trajectory Rijksmuseum Muiderslot is on right now?
“That’s right, we executed a positioning trajectory for Rijksmuseum Muiderslot. They found themselves in a situation where the existing target audience (day tourism) knew how to find the museum, but they wanted to approach a new target audience. The question is which proposition to develop to achieve this goal.”

How do you start a process like that?
“A process like that starts with the client’s briefing. They indicate that the current target audiences are being fully serviced by the current proposition and that renewal, rejuvenation and innovation is wanted for the future.

After this briefing we map the current positioning. We call this the ‘brand audit’. This brand audit is not an extensive book but a simple model that is easy to understand for everyone. It gives answers to questions like: Where are we now? What is the proposition? What are the current target audiences? How do different stakeholders (customers, employees, relations) view the brand?

When all this is mapped out, a ‘brand mission’ is formulated with the managing board. This mission should answer the question: “If we conduct research again in a year (or 3 years), what do we want people to say, think or feel about our brand?”

Is that the moment a new concept will be worked out?
“Yes, that’s when you talk to creatives about the way the brand should behave and which proposition it will have. When it comes to communication with the new target audience, you often have to choose different content and media channels than the ones the traditional brand is used to.

What do you think about the way museums communicate in general?
“Museums mainly communicate about expositions or exhibitions that are happening. These are leading because exhibitions have to be visible, generate traffic and because tickets have to be sold. Rightly so, because when these exhibitions are booked, the museum will have achieved a certain positioning.

I often see communication happening in a traditional way, through traditional media, to traditional target audiences. This makes communication very predictable and not aimed at innovation and renewal. Even though, in my opinion, you can tie entirely new target audiences to your brand through innovation and renewal.

I don’t see many museums that are actively working on their corporate branding.”

“A great example was the exhibition Jheronimus Bosch in The Noordbrabants Museum in 2016. The entire city of Den Bosch promoted this exhibition, functioning as a huge billboard.”

How can they communicate differently, in your opinion?
“To give a very simple example, you could do this by changing opening hours. Maybe new target audiences would like to visit the museum at different times. I think Museumnacht (Museum Night) is a good example. People come to the museum despite the unpredictable hour.

I can see that in the museum world a habit of looking at the traditional commercial agenda has arisen. Their reasoning is that people want to know which exhibition is coming at which time, but that is mainly interesting to existing target audiences. Not to new target audiences. The trick is to go off the beaten track.”

New Sales Company also helps municipalities with their city marketing. How do you see a collaboration between the municipality and a museum?
“The interests of municipalities and museums are very complementary, in my opinion. For example, when they propagate cultural heritage or a certain exhibition, they can work together by making a region or area attractive to visit. So they shouldn’t work independently, but look for common ground.

Why don’t municipalities organise all kinds of activities surrounding a big exhibition, that can serve as an extension? This will create a bigger incentive to visit the area and exhibition, which benefits both parties.

A great example was the exhibition Jheronimus Bosch in The Noordbrabants Museum in 2016. The entire city of Den Bosch promoted this exhibition, functioning as a huge billboard. This lengthens the visitor’s experience outside of the museum, which means that not only the museum serves as a destination, but also the surrounding area.

You can extend this collaboration by involving hotels and retailer associations. The more joint hands, the bigger the attraction of the entire area as a destination.”