“With an activation programme you can trigger real emotions. This motivates people. It gives you the opportunity to change people’s perspective.”

Annemarie Joosen
Director of Marketing Marktplaats

What role does data play in the brand development of Marktplaats? What is the best way to anticipate the future, and what role is left for people when everything seems to depend on logarithms, calculation models, and artificial intelligence?

We discussed these issues with Annemarie Joosen, Director of Marketing at Marktplaats in a new section entitled Words of Wisdom, in which we give the floor to prominent marketers and communication professionals about the media landscape and the role of brand activation.

What brought you to Marktplaats?
It was a coincidence, really. Marktplaats was recruiting for people who understand data and branding, which is exactly the area on which I have based my career. Ranging from purely data-driven marketing at Tesco, through CRM data at Bol.com, all the way up to Staatsloterij and Madurodam, where I used every angle to market brands in an authentic manner.

Is Marktplaats a data-driven business?
Yes, it is. Marktplaats already had a fairly good system in place for the use of data for advertisers. Then again, Marktplaats itself is an advertiser as well. Over the past few years, we have professionalized the way in which we use data in our marketing communication.

What does Marktplaats dream of achieving in the future?
We refer to this as our BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal). It reads as follows: Bought and Sold within 5 minutes, with a smile. In other words, we provide a platform where buyers and sellers can meet, and we facilitate the transaction process to the best of our abilities – with a smile.

This new technology, including data technology, enables us to work ever more proactively. We inspire people and surprise them with relevant content.

The supply has moved up from just pre-owned products. How do you find the right balance in offering products?
We have actually asked ourselves the same question. We researched the matter extensively, and found that visitors are not after ‘second-hand’ products; they are looking to get a ‘smart deal’. And if you know how to negotiate, you can influence how smart the deal will be. Most of the traffic runs through the app. On this app, each user has a personal feed with a collection of products based on their preferences and interests. This feed presents a combination of new and pre-owned products. What is relevant is what you get, so users do not care whether the product is new or second-hand.

What role does the Marktplaats brand play in the lives of people?
As a marketer, one obviously wants to believe that brands play a major role in the lives of people, but brand loyalty is often overrated. Consumer habit and behaviour are more important than whether or not you are one of the ‘most loved brands’. Marktplaats is no exception. For many people, checking Marktplaats has become part of their daily routine. The experience should, therefore, be convenient and enjoyable, each and every time.

You were responsible for the development and implementation of the new brand identity and communication strategy. Can you tell us a little bit about this?
As a brand, our goal is to ‘facilitate more succesful contacts between buyers and sellers’. We pursue this goal using four values: personal, simple, connecting, and joy. Things should be easy, for everyone. Contacts should be personal; a unique experience for over eight million people.

What is your communication strategy?
Well, people already know the brand, so we do not need to focus on that. So instead, we wanted to make things easier in marketing communication, so that more people can use Marktplaats in more situations. This has everything to do with ‘flow’; the extent to which it comes natural to use the app in your daily life, and the extent to which everything works easy in the app – that feeling of ‘click, click, done’.

The ‘Marktplaats Moments’ campaign was developed for the purpose of delivering creative, smart work all year round. The idea is that it should be ‘always-on’ and covering a wide theme, with lots of different moments, without an overload of messages. The campaign has been running for a year now, and the results are promising. People demonstrably use more categories (Moments), they return more often, and we have attracted more new users.

How do you know which ‘Moments’ should be communicated and when?
This comes down to data analysis. The data enables us to pinpoint when the time is ripe for a certain category, or to know exactly when a category needs a boost. At product level, we know when demand will rise. If that is a promising prospect, we will link it to a theme and develop a campaign.

How do you know whether the campaign works?
To find out whether the communication message is effective enough, we measure the concept by performing qualitative and quantitative research. We use an econometric model to forecast and look back. This is done in a process that is linked to our data, so that we can verify whether we have achieved what we wanted to achieve.

Besides ‘always-on’, we have theme moments, where we study per moment how effective the message was and how well the campaign has done. Adding all this up, we can predict accurately the results the campaign will produce.

What does a theme campaign look like? Which resources do you use?
This will vary for each theme, but generally, these are 360 campaigns, including television, radio, print, online, and outdoor media, and an activation programme. The econometric model will determine the types of media we will use and how we will use them. Over the past four years, we have been building and expanding on this system. Even though, admittedly, the model does not ‘know’ everything, it does work like a charm.

What is the role of an activation programme in these campaigns?

The activation programmes are part of the strategy. We no longer work ad hoc. Themes are provided with an activation programme to trigger real emotions. This motivates people. It gives you the opportunity to change people’s perspective. Activation programmes should have a permanent place in your media plan. Just telling a story is useless. I have noticed that if we free up more budget in an activation programme for the production of content, the impact will be greater.

The activation content needs to target a specific audience. Subsequently, you need to use PR to expand it and disseminate it digitally. After all, the experience should be right here, right now, but the impact should be much bigger.

“With an activation programme you can trigger real emotions. This motivates people. It gives you the opportunity to change people’s perspective.”

What is the future of communication for Marktplaats?
I believe in the combination of data and creation. Marktplaats is a data-driven business, and adding creation will result in a beautiful product.

In the future, the use of data will become more and more intelligent – think of artificial intelligence, for instance. That is all fine and dandy, but we will keep emphasizing the human aspect, and search for the emotional core. This is where the activation programmes come in, as they touch upon the human emotions behind the data.

To an ever increasing extent, we are using predictive intelligence, which is even more personal and relevant, and brings us even closer to consumer needs. Consumers love it when they did not know that they needed something, but once they see it, they know instantly that this is just what they were looking for!

Looking back on your work at Marktplaats to date, what is the achievement you are most proud of?
That would be the framework that features ‘Marktplaats Moments’. I recall with delight the campaigns that we were able to build and the positive energy they brought us. This has truly simplified the entire process. Moreover, it is widely supported, as everyone understands that campaigns need a broader basis than just one subject. Our agencies have more clarity as to where they stand, and our internal teams have a greater understanding of everyone’s role. The employee satisfaction score has gone up. So yes, if I have to choose one achievement that I am most proud of, that would be it.

Brands who make an effort to substantiate their promise are more successful than brands who merely send out a promise. Finally, may we ask you for a word of advice for our readers?

What would be the best advice you can give people who are planning to activate their brand?
‘The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.’ (From: Way of the Peaceful Warrior, a book by Dan Millman.)

Interview by Thijs van Schothorst (BrandBase)