My onboarding in times of Corona

Even in times of Corona, aka during the quarantine/lockdown, people start with new jobs every day. But how exactly does that work, without an office to go to, without seeing colleagues face-to-face?

Here’s my experience of onboarding, and some essential tips to survive this period.

My first day at NGRANE in the COVID-19 lockdown

Exciting. I started my new job as content creative at NGRANE last month.
The entire interview process was through ZOOM, contract negotiations took place over the phone and the final “you’ve got the job”- conversation happened through ZOOM.

Before even having ‘met’ anyone from the company, I accepted the job.

For my first day, my new colleagues arranged a real life meeting at ZOKU with my two new bosses and their PA. After months of not going to an office, it was strange to get back into that rhythm of getting ready in the morning, having to bike to a place and meeting new people again.

I was welcomed wonderfully with a welcome basket and a hot cup of coffee. David and Stephen (the two NGRANE endbosses) explained a lot about the company, told me what I needed to know and gave a sneak peek into their passions and aspirations. We had cool talks about religion, sexuality, diversity and the future of the internet. It was really nice to see them in real life. However, we still live in COVID-19 times, so after lunch we all went home again to continue our day working remotely.

Although it was a bit silent after suddenly seeing so many people in one room (only three, but hey, it’s Corona, things are wildly out of perspective). Thankfully, I had an afternoon session with Daniëlle, the copywriter. She told me all about the projects, the clients and her ideas for future copy projects.

After this meeting, I found myself staring at an empty screen, not particularly sure what to do. How on earth would I become a master at my new job, without having a tactile experience?

How to excel in COVID times (6 tips how to master remote working)

The good thing about NGRANE, and this is also my first tip: they host daily standups. Everyone shares what they’re planning on doing that day. This is not only valuable for more efficient working, but it’s also a great way to welcome new people and to get involved with the team. So if your company isn’t doing this, propose it!

In this fast-paced world, we sometimes forget to be human. We forget the importance of human connection.

My second tip would be to plan carefully. Nothing is more annoying than sitting in front of your computer, not really knowing where to start. Perhaps a project manager can help you with that, or you can use planning tools such as Asana or Forecast. Make a clear to-do list, and make sure you feel the responsibility to finish your to-dos!

The third tip of the day is expectation management. Although I’m not a great player in this field, it’s wise to set some expectations with your manager. Make sure you’re on the same page to avoid any conflicts.

Tip four is again a trait that NGRANE has that I really appreciate: access to HubSpot. Because NGRANE walks the path of inbound marketing, HubSpot is a tool they use daily. HubSpot also has an academy, where you can learn everything about inbound marketing, but also about your own area of expertise.

My fifth tip: chatting. This might sound like a ‘duhhh’ tip, but in times of communication through screens, it’s not too natural to chat. If your company uses Slack, or any other chatting tool: USE IT. Don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues anything, that’s how it would happen in an office. It might feel strange and a step too far, but it actually really isn’t that strange and it will help you a long way in getting to know your teammates!

Last but not least: make sure you don’t put too much pressure on yourself. As the philosophy of NGRANE states that we work better when we’re feeling good and able:

In this fast-paced world, we sometimes forget to be human. We forget the importance of human connection. No matter what the pace, no matter how big or small the screen, no matter the actual physical distance, we keep things human.

What I learnt from remote working abroad for a week

Remote working abroad… waking up with the beach stretched out in front of you, meeting and mingling with other creatives and blending work with a love for travel. Yep, that’s pretty much the crowning glory of freelance life. Because, what is more flexible thanto pack up your bags and say “Later peeps, I’m working in Bali for a month.

After travelling around Sri Lanka, I spent one week of remote working to test the tropical waters for myself. Here’s my experience and a few tips on how to make it the best experience for yourself.

What is remote working?

First things first, what is remote work? Remote working basically means a “new” type of work that goes beyond the traditional walls of office space. It means working from anywhere and still keeping that hustle going. This way of working is not necessarily reserved for only freelancers or entrepreneurs. Nowadays, employees often get a day to work at home or elsewhere. It can be a day or a month or it can be your entire year but it can also be a workcation, aka. where holiday meets work. 

Vacation Mode vs. Work Mode

It sounds pretty dreamy, working from a topical place or a new city but don’t forget that it’s also a challenge. Staying disciplined and actually getting work done won’t just magically happen without a lot of effort and self-discipline. We’re wired in a way that being in a tropical setting or even just a brand new city means one thing and one thing only: Vacaaaay. So when all of a sudden you realise “wait a sec I was supposed to be doing work,” it just goes against every fibre of your body to start working.

Look, I love the beach. So working behind my laptop with an ocean view feels like the holy grail of office goals. But turns out, the waves calling my name wasn’t great for concentration. Luckily as a freelancer, I go through all the ups and downs of self-discipline. It’s something I know how to overcome. If didn’t have this experience, I probably would have been floating in the sea all day. By challenging yourself abroad you’re also practising for back home. This will be useful to create more discipline in your day-to-day work schedule.

I’d say to give yourself some time to get into the rhythm – don’t go straight into an intense work mode immediately – give it time, get used to the place. After just two days of working I figured out I don’t function at all with the heat around noon, so I worked in the early morning hours, went to yoga, chilled at the beach and worked after lunch time when it cooled down. If you have a short time like me, it’s a little trickier to find out what works best for you, but the important thing is to keep trying different things or different spots to work at even in a co-working space. After 3 days I knew exactly what time I was most productive, where my favourite spot to work was at what time of the day and when.

Digital Nomad Office Goals

An ideal workspace or homespun office really depends on the person. You have the freedom to design your own remote working holiday. Whatever it is you need to stay motivated and inspired, it’s up to you to make that happen. The internet is overflowing with information so it’s easy to do lots of research before you leave. 

If you’re up for a remote working abroad, you don’t have to fly halfway across the world. For the Europeans reading this, there are places like Porto or Barcelona with great co-working/living places to check out. Or if you want to travel a bit further and prefer the hustle of a big city rather than relaxed beach vibes, head out to New York or Medellin. The point is to get out of your comfort zone, discover a new place, find new inspiration and just enjoy the freedom you have to work from anywhere you want. If you can escape the 9 to 5 office routine, why not?

When you’ve chosen the country or countries you’d like to go to, the next choice to make is where you’d like to work and live from. The options for a digital nomad abroad are endless. You can find co-working spaces that are also co-living spaces like Verse or Hubud. At these places, your holiday becomes a home, which becomes an office – and that is an experience in itself. You can also choose to book yourself into an Airbnb, hotel or guest house near a good co-working space. This way, you can enjoy the benefits of a co-working space and take a step back from the hustle somewhere else. 

Co-working spaces take away all the hassle of a remote working trip. Here you’re guaranteed good wifi,  desks or comfy chairs to work from, other digital nomads and good coffee. But these millennial hubs aren’t your only option. A charming Airbnb or hotel room with good wifi, a desk and anything else you’ll need to get work done will also do. Having a place catered to your needs as a remote worker is great and meeting new like-minded people even better. But a little peace and quiet at your own home-away-from-home can do wonders for your work as well.

Remember, it's still a holiday (sort of)

The point is not to drench yourself in guilt every time you relax a little. Don’t forget the vacation part of workcation. Free time is not only beneficial for your work progress, but it’s also necessary. Both your wellbeing and work will be better off. I did heaps of reading, journaling, yoga and just lying on the beach doing absolutely nothing. I’d suggest to really find something else you can do when you’re there. You could learn how to surf, go to cooking classes or just schedule in some time to explore the city and local food.

Moments like having dinner at a local place or just relaxing, often make room for great ideas. As a copywriter, sentences or phrases for clients will come up when the pressure dials down. Just make sure you have notebook handy and go out and chill. We don’t get enough chances to really be by ourselves and relax back home. So grab the chance when you can. 

If you’re a freelancer, entrepreneur or if your employer gives you the opportunity to work elsewhere, I don’t see any reason why not to try out some remote working. Have a little googling around, ask your community and figure out what you need to get lots of work done abroad. Remember, you decide the terms of your remote working trip. That’s the best part.

I’ve added a few of the best co-working and co-living spaces for you to check out yourself:

You can also check out Pieter Levels, an Amsterdam Entrepreneur, has set up a list of the best cities to live and work remotely in. It scores cities on things like internet, safety and fun.

For freelancing pros and cons check out Toptal’s ultimate freelancing guide
Read more: Ultimate Freelancing Guide

We read 'Crucial Conversations' and this is what we learned

We read 'Crucial Conversations' and this is what we learned

Many defining moments in life are shaped by the way we engage in important conversations. Whether it’s personal or work-related, when it comes down to a tough conversation that needs to be had – the kind where emotions run high and opinions greatly vary – listening and speaking up at the right time can be crucial. And much like art, having a proper and meaningful dialogue takes practice.

As a team, we recently read Crucial Conversations – a book that offers insights and tools needed for talking when the stakes are high. It sure stirred up some interesting discussions within the team. Here are five takeaways we want to share.

Safety First

When stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions run strong, it’s important that everyone involved feels safe. If people feel safe, they will open up and talk freely. If they don’t, you know you’re in a crucial situation and will need to change your approach to get out of it. That means learning to look within, since you’re the only one you can control in a dialogue, but also looking for signs of fear with the other. If people start to fight or flight, by forcing their views, staying silent or by changing the topic, you know you need to bring the conversation back to safety.

Change your story

People create their own stories behind an event or experience and because they don’t talk about it, they tend to react based on (their story or) their version of things. It’s always easier to turn others into villains when they say or do something you don’t like. Most of the time it’s not their intent to make you feel bad. When you react and treat your conversational partner like they have done bad by you, you’re most likely to get even further away from your initial goal. Change the story you tell yourself and take charge of your emotions, so your feelings won’t drive your actions during a conversation.

Facts, facts, facts

What really struck with us and helped us a lot is quite simple but often overlooked: to always mention the facts. Facts are the most persuasive argument but often it’s clouded by emotions. Take the time to straighten out the facts and keep the dialogue on track. That way a calm and collected crucial conversation is ensured.

Sarcasm much?

Another interesting insight was use of sarcasm, something we are definitely not unfamiliar with. Though often meant as wit, sarcasm is basically criticism disguised as humor. It made a lot of sense to us once we understood how sarcasm is a type of masking, which is when we understate or selectively show our true opinions. Being more aware of this now we often see how people are not communicating effectively, because they are not in dialogue. So, tone down the sarcasm and focus on creating an environment where everyone feels safe to speak. Creating awareness around the use and effects of sarcasm, among other things, was a great first step for us to take.

Learn to look and stay curious

When talking about the book, its contents and the several examples given, we realized how much crucial conversations are the solid foundation of our lives, work and relationships and even affect our health and how we feel. We encounter crucial interactions every day so effective communication during those moments cannot be overlooked. There’s not one big lesson to take from this book, since your personal style of communication has a lot to do with what you have to work on to communicate efficiently. Nevertheless, it’s safe to say that learning to look at what happens around you and staying curious towards others helps to establish a safe environment for people to talk. Not an easy skill to master, but one that can make a big difference in so many areas in work and life if you ask us.

Three inspiring takeaways from The Next Web

Photo credit: Dan Taylor

Every year, tech-enthusiasts flock to Amsterdam for one of the most popular conferences in the industry: The Next Web. We of course, couldn’t miss this either and quickly got our tickets to join in on the fun. It was three days jam-packed with inspiring talks, heaps of mingling fun and we even got to meet our heroes. Jongky, David and Jeffrey share what inspired them from their favourite talk.

Besides going for our yearly inspirational fix, we had a story to tell ourselves as well. We’ve created ForteFor, a platform for freelancers to find projects they’ll love. Geared up in logo tees, we connected with other freelancers at the conference and pitched our idea to pretty much anyone we could find.

Want to know more about Fortefor? Check out the website.

Jason Silva – Futurist & Filmmaker

(yes, also that guy from Brain Games)

“Forget robots, in the future, we could become technology”

Technology is rapidly changing, opening possibilities of the future. Humans are linear thinkers while technology is exponential, to stretch our imagination of the future we need to align our mindset to technology. We need to become exponential thinkers and technology will help us transcend our biological nature. We are becoming programmable, we are code (DNA) and have authorship over our owns species. As Jason puts it, “the future of us is ours to dream.”

Rich Pierson – Co-founder & CEO Headspace

“Take care of your Mind”

As a day to day struggle, the mind is mostly at the top of our list. Headspace’s goal is to prevent this, with meditation made simple. Increasing (com)passion while decreasing aggression with a free mindfulness app and a few minutes of your day. As long as you’re present in the moment, meditation is a skill to become mindful and the same goes for activities such as running. The presentation was full of insights and tips but we particularly like this one: don’t get rid of the things that you don’t like, get closer and form a different relationship to it.

Susan Lindner – Founder & CEO, Emerging Media

“Inspire employees with a higher purpose”

In our modern world, disengagement is often hard to avoid. Leaders can retain top talents by connecting them to a higher purpose that goes beyond the 9-5 framework. Engaging them with an authentic story that they can get behind and become ambassadors of. Patagonia is a fantastic example, giving employees the opportunity to support environmental work. Cisco gave employees a voice by letting them takeover of the brand’s own snapchat account, within 6 months there was a 400% increase in snapchat followers.

Our favourite WeWork spots

Photo credit: Angela Tellier

We work, we hustle and we make great things happen – but sometimes we simply lose a little bit of our concentration. Thoughts drift off into dinner options (order thai or make your go-to pasta?), we’re talking more to our neighbours than typing that important email or we can’t stop checking the latest Instagram stories. When this happens, there’s only one thing left to do. Switch things up.
Luckily, we’re in the stylish haven of WeWork, which lets us bring new life into our workflow, without even leaving the building. Here are a few of our favourite spots.

Stephen - Fifth Floor Cocoon Chairs

My all-time favourite spot is in the kitchen area on the 5th, by the window in one of the big green chairs. It’s nice and quiet most of the time, the chairs are extremely comfortable and they feel like a cocoon which is perfect for creating a little “private” area. The chair can also turn so you can glide out of the “private” zone to the kitchen area and catch up with colleagues!

Emily - The Wellness Room

“I wanted a dedicated room for meditation for a long time here at WeWork.”

The community manager Janine and I started talking about it about a year ago and I helped out with brainstorming on the concept for the room a bit. To actually see the end result now is just great. Here hard-working professionals get a chance to unwind and recalibrate. Meditation and Yoga help you clear your head and remember where you left your inner peace. The more you remember where you parked that inner peace, which is a direct result of meditating, the more resilient and energetic you become. Guess who’s better equipped to take on their stressful projects now?

One day being able to close your eyes and reconnect with your inner peace will be as accepted as deserving to have a healthy lunch is nowadays. Whenever you are ready, come give it a try!

Wing - First Floor High Desks

I love working on the first floor, by the large windows overlooking the hallway entrance. It checks all the right boxes to get me into concentration, but most importantly the high desks let me work standing – which key to switching things up during the day. It’s usually very quiet and calm over there. And as a bonus; it’s also one of the only places in the building that doesn’t have music playing.

Nikos - Ground Floor Secret Staircase

My favourite spot in WeWork would have to be the staircase area on ground floor. I love this spot as it gives me the opportunity to work standing up to get into a different mode than you’re sitting. It also has an amazing view of the canals and lovely typical Amsterdam buildings, for a nice dose of inspiration!

Is Freelancing for me

Yep, we know, freelancing ain’t always a breeze and perhaps the hardest part is taking the leap. When you ask yourself the question; is this for me? There is only one answer: yes. Just considering all the unique personalities at Ngrane, there is not one perfect mold each of us fit into. Some of us are assertive while others prefer laying low. We’ve got natural Zen masters and all-over-the place types. Some of us are early-bird’s other prefer 9pm beginnings. You get the point.

All that aside, each of us make it work, in our own way. That’s the real magic of freelancing, you define how you get to work so inherently it’s for anyone. Nonetheless there are a few things each of us comes across in our freelance ventures and certain things we all benefit from.

“Yes, I’d like to carve my own path.”

Most career paths are a singular road with one final destination. A freelance path however is one you carve yourself, one that meanders around, crisscrosses and has more than just one finish line. It’s a real head-on way of getting to know your craft. Instead of working for one company and learning from their singular way of doing things, you’re switching companies on a weekly basis and getting to know different approaches. Besides that, creative solutions are mostly up to you and what better way to learn that when you’ve solved something yourself? You’ll be finding your own sources and a network to help you out in no time

Take Jeffrey Goodett, our visual designer, he wanted to extend his graphic design skills into animation, finding a more specific niche within his trade. “I spent my extra time on learning from different online tutorials, found other animators to help explain things to me and just kept practicing and practicing. Slowly I took on animating projects and if I say so myself, i’ve gotten seriously good!”

“Yes, send over those epiphanies.”

Bumping into daily epiphanies, whether grand or small, is not unlikely in a freelancer’s life. When you’re working with and for different people, while doing a myriad of things, you’ll start to figure out your own skill set. Freelancing is the best way to learn what you’re capable of. To surprise yourself. To bring newfound skills to light. Moreover, it’s a brilliant way of finding your own rhythm. For example, you learn how or when you’re most productive or find your own unique ways of managing projects.

Freelancing is more than ‘Do What You Love’, but also about finding out what exactly that is. In each of our trades there’s many different things we can be doing, what is it you want to find your niche in? That is something you actually have the room to explore.

“Yes, I’m all for meeting new people.”

Freelancing is seen as a lonely endeavor. Sitting behind your laptop in the nearest café or typing away in yesterday’s gym clothes. The truth is, that’s just not the case. Working with different clients means meeting new people, much more than when you’re stuck to one job or one department. It also somewhat forces you to network and although it has a selfish un-personal reputation, it can actually be very social. Freelancers get to benefit from all the charms of co-working spaces like WeWork (represent!) and leave it up to a product of millennial culture to be a real hub for friendships – after-work karaoke anyone?

“Yes, freedom & independence is my jam.”

Wake up at 12pm? Go for yoga after lunch? Go to Bali for three weeks and work remotely? Sounds like a dream, right? Nope, that is just the reality of freelance life. Sure, we have clients that expect certain things, scary deadlines or certain days we have at clients’ offices. But in general freelancing means we get to make our own decisions and to create the way of life we personally desire. Wearing your comfy pants at home isn’t so bad either.

Jefferson tell us his experience, “For me it’s the freedom and independence I get as freelancer. I like the ability to work from anywhere in the world. I definitely took advantage of that this year by working briefly in Malaga, Berlin and Curaçao. Believe me, it’s not always a bed of roses, but if you organize your time and projects well it can be pretty satisfying.”

So, still not sure if this is for you? At Ngrane we’re real freelance enthusiasts, but we’re also just very honest. So, don’t be afraid to give us a call or come by and we’d love to chat!

Call Jongky – he’s the most talkative of us.

+31 6 1422 2952

Radio Ngrane - Get it off the ground

Sometimes our creative spark and boundless brain power can use a little fuel. We like to call that fuel music. We bring a monthly series of audio life hacks, tailored to our own individual journeys. So, turn up the volume and let us guide you through our personal soundtracks for success!


You’re all set up: your phone is silent and hidden safely, your workspace tidy and your coffee is in arm’s reach. All you need is that perfect playlist to squeeze all those creative juices and just get the project off the ground. Well, Ngrane’s got you covered. From five of our team, we share you our musical recipes that will help get the ball rolling.

To stay in the music theme: “they may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one” pretty much sums up what kind of music we love to get started on a project with. Each of us agreed that our not-so-humble beginning need some type of escape into our own creative clouds. What that magic safe space is and how we get there however, varies with each of us. Press play and find out…

Cinematic concentration

Who: David van Delden
What I do: Creative Director
Song title to describe my life: In the end (Linkin Park)

For me, soundtracks are the sweet spot when it comes to setting me up for that perfect burst into creativity. I see each new project as a story that unfolds and soundtracks will feed the narratives of my creativity seamlessly. I want to feel like the hero of this project, embarking on my next nail-bitingly exciting adventure. These soundtracks have beautiful build ups, evoke different moods and master emotional input; serving as endless inspiration for my thought process.

The Interstellar soundtrack never fails to inspire me. It is created by my all-time favorite score composer Hans Zimmer, known for his many iconic sounds in the movie industry. It overwhelms in cinematic emotion, balancing ethereal tracks with bold and loud organs and has a certain touch of spirituality; which I love. Tron is another soundtrack gem, it’s futuristic and riveting, sweeping you up in its excitement and pure vigor.

Intergalactic lift off

Who: Jeffrey Goodett
What I do: Graphic/ Motion designer
Song title to describe my life: Electric Relaxation (A Tribe called Quest)

At the start of every project is when I need to be at the peak of my creativity. This is when my imagination fires from my brain straight into something visual. To make way for that magic passage of creativity I need to make sure my mind is cleared up with zero distractions. One way of doing that is with music which creates an isolated aura around me, and lets me kick back and relax.

The sounds I listen to when getting started, usually have a lounging feel with subtle trippy undertone. I want to feel like I’m travelling to outer space; my work is the galaxy I need to get launched into. What really oils my brain and brings forth all its visual glory are mostly instrumental tunes, so no singing just laid-back vibes. When I do listen to songs with vocals I prefer soft, melodic and subtle woman’s voices. Think Sade or Sia (Zero 7), they both have a calming effect instead of distracting.

Starry-eyed superpower

Who: Annabel van Eijk
What I do: Copywriter
Song title to describe my life: I’m not a girl, not yet a woman (Britney Spears)

When I’ve got a blank page in front of me that needs to be decorated with words, I need to ease myself into this whole situation. I can’t start off right away super-efficient upbeat electronic music. I want to roam through my imagination with starry-eyed songs that let me visualize things and words and sentences before I type them out. I need to slowly creep up into creativity, before I start typing like a maniac.

Ok so when I say dreamy, I don’t mean super vague moody songs full of emotions that will either have me feel sleepy or sad. There is such a thing as thinking too much. It needs a certain confidence and exciting energy; like the type of music in a movie scene when a girl breaks up with a guy, packs up her stuff and struts the streets in slow-mo because great new things are coming her way. I want to be that girl. Flipping the page to a new chapter. Instead of a new life it’s a word document, but who cares.

Sicker than your average

Who: Rutger Kinkelaar
What I do: UX-designer/researcher/intern
Song title to describe my life: Sober thoughts (GoldLink)

When starting a project, I want to feel untouchable. I need somewhat of a confidence boost and I need to feel 100% focused and concentrated. And there is only one solution to that: music. In particular I’d go for some evergreens in Hip-hop, balanced out with some talented new school rappers. The songs I have chosen stand for power and art. What could possibly be better to start my projects?

In this stage, I want to be swept up by a certain flow; floating on smooth bars and beats. You could say I idolize Hip-Hop legends on many different fronts (hence the life-size Biggie poster on my wall) but mostly for how well they can create more depth into my thoughts. I like the songs to feel familiar, rapping along won’t do my concentration any harm; although it may hinder that of my neighbour…

Soul replenishment

Who: Rieven Martis
What I do: Back-end and front-end developer
Song title to describe my life: It’s my life (Talk Talk)

It’s all about that deeper connection! To get me started on a project I’ll listen to songs that I can relate to on an emotional level. Besides enthralling tunes, I like getting swept up by lyrics as well, it’s like poetry that is especially intensified when aligned with my past or future. There’s something about falling into different fantasies that really boosts my concentration and creativity.

The type of music I listen to also depends on what kind of mood I’m in. I could be in a lighter, quieter mood which suits more spiritual music, engaging my brain in a subconscious way. But sometimes I need a little fuel for all the energy I have! So, then Rock or Reggae or Latin will be more than perfect. Last but not least, I’m always down for some thumping Hip-hop.

Finding your way through the Millennial maze: Wing Man knows how

It’s no coincidence Wing’s surname is Man. She is like a matchmaker between brands and millennials, the genius behind catchy one-liners and smooth talk that will make millennials tick. But more than that, as part of the Ngrane family, Wing is our coach for all things millennial. After her corporate job created her own burn-out, Wing came across the lost-in-life dilemmas that many of her generation have faced. She tells us “Basically, I have learned the hard way on how to pick yourself up again, how not to live by approval from others and how to be kinder to myself. Also on how to find my purpose and make full use of my talents.”

Not knowing where to go for help has given Wing the first-hand experience that inspired 3310.s, a school to make the lives of fellow millennials easier. And with businesses going mad for the attention of millennials, who wouldn’t want to find out more about how to tap into this eponymous generation? We talk to her about all things millennial: who they are, what interests them and how 3310 is ticking all the right millennial boxes.

“Basically, I have learned the hard way on how to pick yourself up again, how not to live by approval from others and how to be kinder to myself.”

Looking for happiness, finding choice

When I asked Wing to describe who exactly the millennial is, she answered, “There isn’t one archetype millennial. What ties this generation is a much broader sense of transition.” Spanning 15-20 years (there is an ongoing debate about the confines of this age group), across different social classes and cultures, it makes sense there aren’t prototype millennials walking around in trance of exactly the same apps, drinking overpriced Flat Whites and passionate about the same brands. Wing tells us “Even if we just look at Amsterdam, we can’t say that a 25-year-old Snapchat enthusiast and a 34-year-old startup founder should always be marketed to in the same way. But you can say that they have experienced similar if not the same things, coming across the same challenges and searching for the same enlightenment.”

Instead of a unified identity, this generation (much like any other) is defined by a broader social, economic and political unification. “Millennials have all gone through the same transition of growing up without technology and emerging into a digital evolution with the blink of an eye,” says Wing. As guinea pigs of the technological revolution, they became adults in not only one of the worst economic recessions but in a world where choices were in extreme overload. As Wing puts it “Things changed rapidly for us. The route to success was no longer simple. Going to a good school, getting a good job, a family and house were no longer the key success signifiers. We were taught to search for happiness, not money, but in return all this did was overcomplicate things.” Income, the burn-out.

The ‘Always on’ generation

LinkedIn invitations, 5 pm Instagram posts, office happy hours, morning Pilates, catching up on the latest NYT article… the list goes on. “We want, need and have just about anything; creating endless choices and expectations” says Wing. Indeed, we want to feed Thursday night dinner conversation with tales of our buzzing social life and unique jobs. Yet, more importantly, we want an Instagram feed that perfectly captures and literally filters our days into likable content. With a generation that is in the grips of social media, it often feels like there is always someone scrolling through your feed or checking on that spelling mistake you tweeted. Or worse, judging you when you’re slacking off on your millennial duties.

“Being ‘always on’ does not only apply to our digital lives, it counts for every aspect of our day. We’re not spared any breathing room.”

Go on LinkedIn and you won’t find a job description that doesn’t say “not a 9 to 5 mentality” as one of the criteria for an ideal candidate. Work trickles into our evening hours like never before, as Wing puts it: “Being ‘always on’ does not only apply to our digital lives, it counts for every aspect of our day. We’re not spared any breathing room in between. It drains our mental capacity and energy levels: that’s what causes burn-outs.” She goes on to say that “Now when you ask people ‘Hey how are you doing?’ The answer is almost always: Tired or busy. That really got me thinking: there is something fundamentally wrong in the way we are living.”

From burnouts to flaming hot life skills

To help ease these generations problems, such as burn-outs, Wing started the 3310 school: a school for grown-ups you actually want to go to. She says that “You don’t have to teach us how to use a smartphone, but we do want to learn how to keep a healthy work-life balance. With 3310, I aspire to help fellow Millennials with my experience to make our lives easier for ourselves.”

Am I doing what I love? How do I put myself on the map without boasting? How do I deal with unwanted feedback? These are all questions that weren’t answered in our days at school and often not easy to find answers to now. As Wing puts it “Unless you have found the meaning of life, why stop learning?”

Don’t go chasing waterfalls

As there is no millennial prototype but a broader sense unification, getting the attention of millennials is about tapping into the generational challenges. 3310 school may be a literal translation of problem-solving, but if you’re a brand and looking to connect with millennials the same will count for you. We can learn from Wing and her school that as a brand, you need to have a good understanding of what this generation is put up against.

“We can learn from Wing and her school that as a brand, you need to have a good understanding of what this generation is put up against.”

There’s one more thing that has created a bond between millennials: an intoxicating cocktail of nostalgia and pop-culture. And Wing has the perfect recipe for throwback themes and languages in the way her brand communicates. “The name 3310 actually came from the old Nokia 3310 that was the ‘it’ phone for a while. Nostalgia can tie us together, we all loved that phone, we can all relate to Gameboy obsessions and sing along to Craig David.” Wing has cleverly used this to create a connection and engagement between her and her millennial audience.

Turns out brands and ultimately fussed-over generation are equally lost in the ‘millennial maze’. Finding a meeting point somewhere in there is not an easy feat. Try reading up on what they’re going through, talking to millennials or if you’re a Millennial yourself, contemplate on where you and your friends feel lost in. Understanding millennials on a ‘meta-level’ will foster loyalty and build meaningful relationships. To stay in the 90s lane, it’ll make sure you ‘don’t go chasing waterfalls’.

Check out 3310 for more millennial know-how, see you at the next workshop?

OnBrand ‘17: Beyond Branding

At Ngrane, we’ll take any chance to get inspired. So naturally, there was no doubt about going to the OnBrand event last week Thursday. A jam-packed day, full of inspirational talks and hugely relevant branding insights. Our main takeaway? It’s one thing to brand something, it’s a whole other to go beyond branding. Finding your calling rather than acting on that of consumers, embedding yourself into culture and weaving innovation into your values.

Ben & Jerry's: Beyond cause marketing: How businesses can be activists and help change the world

Jay Curley
Senior Global Marketing Manager
Ben & Jerry’s

Turns out the geniuses behind cookie-dough ice cream have a lot more on their plate – or should we say ice cream bowl? – than your favourite dessert. Since their start in the eighties; activism has always been frozen into their DNA. And Jay Curley tells us how it’s been good for business, but not the reason why they’re doing it.

Brands should go beyond cause marketing: a customer led approach to ‘doing good’. Which is all about making decisions on what the consumer wants, how you can connect with them emotionally and how you can align your brand with their cause. Nope, Jay tells us that simply won’t cut it. He explains what Value Led Activism is, how instead of the customer it puts the values of the brand first. So, brands should use what they believe in as a starting point, being the change they want to make and inspiring others to take action. In this way, you’re enlisting fans to join social movements. You should feel like part of the ‘people’ not the business suits on the eleventh floor of some building. You’re there on the streets because you care just as much as the people you sweep up with you. And sweeping people off their feet means a special kind of loyalty between them and your brand and product. No matter how sweet your ice cream, you’re just another brand selling stuff if you can’t connect with others in a meaningful way.

We personally loved the campaign Jay Curley showed that was promoting the Paris Agreement of 2015. An immersive video of melting ice cream, that cleverly links what the brand is known for with something they believe in. Check it out here.

Platform 13 Beyond: Thinking outside the box

Leila Fataar

Put street-level know how, a digital devotion and endless experience together and you’ve got Leila Fataar: a London based branding veteran and founder of Platform13. Fataar has put all her cards in culture. She claimed that brands should go beyond just thinking outside of the box. In order to create activity that matters, brands should know the box first.

Traditionally, advertising is embedded in the idea of pushing. Pushing catchy one-liners, pushing commercials and pushing empty messages. The opposite should be the case, brands should be pulling. Organically feeding consumer advocacy and relevance by creating cultural value. You want to be the influencer, not pay a couple of influencers to push a few messages for you. You want to be part of the conversation, slip into the ‘Dark Social’ by naturally being talked about. Having your product as the topic of conversation, in places like WhatsApp – where you can’t advertise – will mean more than any Facebook Ad could ever be.

Fataar points out brands suffer from a severe case of ‘FOMO’ when it comes to digital trends. Popular influencers or new brand experiences are like party boats brands need to hop on in a hurry or else they’ll miss out. The result? Super-generic ideas and executions. Before leaping towards the newest innovation, you have to create a cultural value. That VR stunt will mean nothing unless people are talking about it.

In her words:


New York Times : Transformation at The New York Times

Sebastian Tomich
Senior Vice President
Advertising and Innovation
The New York Times

How do you embrace change when you’re rooted in 150 years’ worth of tradition? The New York times have turned a new page into their success by thinking less like a print newspaper and more like a creative agency. Sebastian Tomich leads the Advertising and Innovation department, The Times’ T Brand Studio, and they have since taken publishing by storm.

NYT is a perfect example of turning your own age-old legacy into something relevant for our demanding digital age, without deluding what the brand stands for. Traditionally advertising for publishing companies meant selling ad spaces and pages in the newspaper. Now they offer coercive brand experiences, for both the advertisers and for themselves.

NYT is inherently about telling important stories. To translate this to an online platform, Tomich tells us the company had to become a subscription business first, creating content that is worth paying for. This then set them apart from other online sources such as Buzzfeed or Mashable. Moreover, they use innovation to emphasize this identity. For example, they launched a VR app and sent one million Google Cardboard headsets to subscribers, creating an immersive edge to journalism. Or their popular podcasts such as ‘The Daily’; which translates power storytelling into a compact, authentic and well-informed 20 minutes of breaking news.

Ngrane goes to Emerce eDay: what inspired us

With notepads in hand and their finest ‘creative yet professional’ outfits, three of our Ngrane family joined the vanguard of the digital future at Emerce eDay. Together with our friends at Dashmote; Rutger, Jefferson and Jongky had two goals: get inspired and meet like-minded people. Having listened to the future-proof ideas and theories of many different thought leaders, they’re sharing an inside scoop into who and what got them most excited.

Vice: Brand Building in the age of content

Mark Adams

Vice is at the forefront of millennial engagement, and there’s a lot we can learn from how they get it done. According to Vice Media’s President and head of innovation, building your brand in the age of content is all about earning trust. Trust you say? How does one just gain trust? Well, for starters take away the ‘just’ part, gaining trust means defining every inch of your company, including its culture.

Vice has got youth culture down. Vice lives it. Vice breathes it. Every person that works for Vice, believes in what they stand for and everything that happens within Vice is exemplary for the brand identity. As Mark Adams put it, instead of solely believing in the product or service they sell, “A brand should believe in itself”. Furthermore, he notes the importance of tapping into the target group’s mindset. Vice, for example, is Savvy and Sophisticated while creating content that is made both for and by the ‘youth’.

Uber: Innovate in a fast-growing company

Patrick Stal

Ah, Uber, that company who disrupted an entire industry and isn’t just going to stop there. Uber is all about innovation which became clear in Patrick Stal’s talk about what that means in a fast-growing company. What we loved most is that what he said about how innovation starts and ends with people. How it is more than just Moonshots or state of the art technology but is really driven by talent.

Stal explains that for Uber, innovation has become all about using this talent to solve problems. These problems define what the user wants: which is the ultimate key to using innovation successfully. He said that: “Innovation is a constant cycle. New problems arise, with new chances and new bridges to build to new horizons.” So as long as you stick to your brand identity, solving problems and branching out can be literally endless. Uber sure hasn’t stopped at taxis, take for example Ubereats or Uberkittens or Uberfly they are all reacting to a certain problem while using the same mentality to solve it.

Liferay: Creating and keeping momentum: Proven principles for exceptional experiences

Edmund Dueck

At Ngrane we’re all about that positive attitude. Which is why we loved the talk by Edmund Dueck from Liferay. We’ve seen many different brands crumble in the face of innovation, all because they didn’t keep that momentum they started off with: they became outdated.

First and foremost, elongating your momentum requires a strong sense of persistence, bravery and an eminently positive attitude. From then on you can get a grip on the two pillars that Dueck said were most important. Yep, he puts the ‘moment’ in ‘momentum’.

The first being “Moments of Truth” as a brand you need to make sure that you’re not only innovating just to make shiny new stuff but that you create useful things that relate strongly to the target group. You need to be insightful into the purest form of truth to nail this part. Once the truth is out there and known to the brand the second pillar arises: “Moments of Connection”. Creating a mutual empathy between you and customers will create loyalty that surpasses any sort of time or trends.