OnBrand ’19: Uncover the future of branding

OnBrand positions itself as the leading branding conference for marketing and creative professionals in Europe. As a group of digital creatives based in Amsterdam, we definitely couldn’t miss out on meeting like-minded professionals who also want to learn about the latest in branding.

Every company wants to be unique. They want to stand out, make a change, be the lead competitor in their market and give their clients a brand that they can identify with. That’s why each year a lot of companies and individuals attend OnBrand. This way they can stay up to date with all the relevant topics and trends revolved around branding and be inspired by other creatives who are also passionate about their work.

After a long day filled with inspiring talks, delicious food and lots of socialization, we got to think about our biggest takeaways from the event. Some of them were mind opening and helped us put our branding into perspective. We hope they can do the same for you.


“Volatility breeds short-term reaction and not long-term brand building.”

Mike Flynn, Strategy Director Design Bridge

With this quote, Design Bridge wanted to make clear that we’re living in the fast pace age. Our ecosystems are rising and categories are blurring. Knowledge is at the edge of our fingertips, everything we want to know is just one simple search away. Because of this, markets are becoming more competitive, making it harder for companies to create sustainable success in this environment. The reason for this is that we’re all so busy being focused on trends (that oftentimes only give us a few clicks and nothing more) that we lose sight of what is important, our brand. It’s a hard thing to do, especially when you want a quick return on your investment, but we have to focus on creating valuable and distinctive content that will still having meaning and relevance for our company and consumers for years to come. In our team, we make sure that all the content we create reflects our brand’s story and purpose; this way we know that we’re not just following trends (that may not even suit our brand) but creating valuable content.

At the end of the day, interaction trumps. Consumers want an experience, not just a logo. So, create an idea that has higher meaning and never stop evolving your brand. This is what’s going to build your brand.


“We need to identify types of personalities and not personas.”

Kristopher Smith, Managing Director AnalogFolk

We’ve heard it all before. When selling a service or product it is recommended to make a persona out of the data you have acquired about your (potential) consumers. We admit it, we’re also guilty of doing this. The truth is that a persona has no actual understanding of an individual’s behavioral needs and problems. These are the needs and problems that can be solved with our products and/or services. These are the customer frictions that we can turn into opportunities for magic. That’s why we must find who needs us and not just who we are supposed to serve. What AnalogFolk means with this is that we need to analyze data and behavior to see who we actually need to focus on and what they want from us. We have to connect the dots between data signals and our business problem, and we have to understand our audience’s motivations and behaviors. We must use mindsets to position our creatives for success and we need to create ideas that serve our audience. In short, we have to connect, humanize and create. Personally, we couldn’t agree more. This talk opened up our perspective on traditional marketing, teaching us that we need to use data to challenge the status quo.


"You must confront the truth in order to affect the change."

Amanda Fève, Chief Strategy Officer Anomaly

While discussing lies brands (still) tell us alongside an all-female panel, Amanda Fève said that we must confront the truth in order to affect the change. These women intensely talked about how brands nowadays often still use a lot of stereotyping in advertisements because it’s what they have always done, and they are not fond of change. Change is way too much effort. Stereotypes are easy, people instantly get them, especially if it’s something they have seen multiple times before. But the world isn’t binary. We must always offer proper representation for everyone; this is especially important in the world we’re living in now. Working with a multicultural team with different backgrounds, Ngrane completely understands that each person is unique and doesn’t want to be categorized into a box. It’s important for each person to feel like they are being heard and properly represented. Oftentimes, in both advertisements and on the work floor, this still isn’t the case. It isn’t because we as companies are not aware of these stereotypical behaviors in our daily life, it’s because even when we are confronted with them, we don’t do anything. We must confront the truth, accept it and take actions to change things where change is overdue. Brands must stop being conventional and stop focusing on what used to be. Our world is continuously changing, and our brands need to be part of the change if we want to stay relevant. We must stop looking back, left and right and focus on going forward. We do want to point out that not all stereotypes are necessarily negative, the negativity often lies in how they are implemented. When using a certain stereotype in advertising we must always ask ourselves first if this is coming at somebody’s expense or perpetuating harmful stereotypes.


"To be part of culture, you need to be in conversation."

Tim van der Wiel, Founder and Creative Director GoSpooky

The life of a marketer has become a lot harder in the last few years. This is because there is an excessive amount of ways to advertise something nowadays. Marketers always strive to get as much exposure and actions from one advertisement as possible. The problem here is that sometimes we have little to no progress on the channels we’re already using. That’s why it’s important for companies to continuously analyze the market so that they can be the first to find the best upcoming place to get exposure and eventually their return on investment. Possibilities here are to try out different channels, switching up your content or simply just focusing on a different target group. As companies we must try to walk other avenues, we got to try something different and new. Who knows? This new path might just give us the publicity we need. All publicity is good publicity, it is exposure, a way for people to get to know us and talk about our brand. Any bit of exposure can have an impact on how people know and perceive your brand. Just like Tim van der Wiel stated: it starts with a conversation and before you know it, it becomes a brand that people identify with, it becomes part of their culture.


 “We need to invest in cultural and emotional innovation like we invest in product and brand innovation.”

Stephen Gates, Head Design Evangelist InVision

Let’s start by saying that no team in the world is perfect. The same goes for companies. In fact, according to Stephen Gates, every company in the world is dysfunctional. Whoever you think is doing it right, whoever you want to work for that seems like they got it figured out, they don’t. The thing is either they hide it better than you do or they’re more transparent about their problems. Every company has problems. It’s how they deal with it, how transparent they are with it, that makes the difference. This means that even though no team is perfect, we still have to strive to get the best teamwork. This is because the experience you’re putting out reflects the way your internal teams are working together. Your work is your truth. Sometimes this is hard because every creative, every leader, feels like they’re doing/getting it wrong. The reality is that whenever you’re a creative you have things like your education, your childhood, your career and insecurities that make you different and unique. Society teaches us that we are not good enough when we are not like everybody else. This is ridiculous because the people who we admire and think are the best, they took that insecurity and made that difference their unique strength. As individuals in a team, we must bring these unique strengths together to create sustainable work that is up to standards and that will have value for years to come.

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 CurleySenior Global Marketing ManagerBen & 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 FataarPlatform13Founder

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 TomichSenior Vice PresidentAdvertising and InnovationThe 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.