How Let it Grow builds a brand that creates impact
With her pockets full of knowledge about the value of plants and flowers, Silke Tijkotte sees an opportunity to simultaneously serve the financial interest of the corporate she works for and contribute to society. She is determined to make her mark, but she doesn’t know how. Franklin de Bekker, a master in telling stories, sees the world she envisions and wants to help her.
I think it was during a regular Young on Board meeting that I told you about my assignment from Royal FloraHolland.
Young On Board is a group of young changemakers appointed by the Amsterdam Economic Board to focus on innovation and the future of the region.
All members shared what they were up to. You had a vision for a new world, but you were lost in corporate culture. Consultancy firms, spreadsheets, team building sessions, powerpoint presentations…
I felt stuck. That whole process was exhausting. But I saw a way to benefit the sector in the connection between healthy cities, conscious consumers and talent. And I was dying to get started with it. But the document I had made to convince Royal FloraHolland of my ideas looked horrible!
It did… But when I saw it, I finally felt as if we could do something meaningful with the Board. I mean, we got together with people working for big corporates, universities, the municipality, startups – all fields of the triple helix were there. We finally had a concrete case to work on.
The triple helix Refers to a set of interactions between academia, industry and governments, to foster economic and social development.
We could be valuable for the city of Amsterdam together. The objective of Royal FloraHolland was economic growth, but in my opinion, we could only do that by bringing about change. Which means, doing something that people are waiting for. So I was focusing on making people’s lives easier with plants and flowers. That’s how I wanted to create value. I wasn’t talking about euros, I was talking about speaking to a new target audience, reaching out to innovators, for the benefit of the whole floriculture sector.
When you showed me that presentation, I saw someone with a good idea. And besides that, I saw someone who was working close to the decision maker of a major company. I was convinced that you were trying to influence the company for the better. And if you could succeed in changing the approach of the largest corporate company in the floriculture sector, maybe it would be possible to change the world.
I wanted to give visible meaning to the value of plants and flowers in order to connect talent to the sector and to make green hip again. I knew where I wanted to go, but I couldn’t make the next step. That’s why I wanted to work with people who can tell a story that turns strategy into action.
It was good that we decided not to work from the auction in Aalsmeer, but move to a fresh environment. It really all began at Spring House.
Spring House is a home to a community of entrepreneurs, artists, strategists and researchers who develop new concepts to improve society.
True. You know how the best ideas come to you while you’re in the shower? New scenery can really open your eyes and foster creativity. You see things from a different perspective.
At Vandejong Creative Agency we wondered what the problem was in the first place. Our work is closely related to recognising trends and translating them into future-proof solutions. From our perspective, there was no such thing as a declining market, because in Amsterdam everybody seemed to be into flowers and plants.
Yes! It was already happening. People were already trying to find ways to bring nature into their city lives. We just had to convince Royal FloraHolland to believe it too.
We tried to give a context to what we saw was already happening in the world. We drew a circle around it and gave it a name because that’s when you can claim it. It becomes words and images and rituals. And within that context you can create stories. Stories about the beneficial effects of plants and flowers for urban living. And we didn’t come up with those effects, there was scientific research to prove it. We only gave it a name, so that it could stick.
We made sure the story appealed to the imagination, to really open up people’s hearts.
And then, if you want to make sure people want it, it has to look good.
When you develop a story from the perspective of the person for whom it is important, you create energy and commitment. We built a narrative that everyone would fall for. We made sure it appealed to the imagination, to really open up people’s hearts.
With the story we created, we got the approval to develop the concept. The organisation was in need of a way to speak to consumers, so it was up to me to figure out and sense how to capture the solution in a persuasive way. I understood the side of Royal FloraHolland: problems, issues, belly ache. And I knew that we had to give visible value to plants and flowers. But I could never have done that without the help of a creative agency like Vandejong.
We didn’t know where this whole process would lead us, but we were so eager to get started. We treated Let it Grow as a learning environment for everybody involved, including the team. It was a space for research and development. We wanted to create a similar culture and attitude within the corporate. It was an opportunity to renew the sector and help them come into contact with their community in innovative ways.
It was super exciting to work according to lean startup principles in our so-called innovation lab. The quicker we would fail, the sooner we knew whether a concept would work. We could quickly repeat our working methods and start with pilot projects. This was a completely new strategy for me!
The lean startup principles advise that startup companies invest their time in building products or services to meet the needs of early customers in order to sidestep the need for large amounts of ini- tial project funding and reduce the risk of failure.
It was great that we actually found a way to translate startup ‘slang’ into a language that speaks to growers and breeders. People within the corporate world frequently refer to the build-measure-learn feedback loop, but we wondered: do people actually know what it means? So we came up with the Grow Cycle.
The build-measure-learn feedback loop is one of the central principles of the Lean Startup method- ology. It’s a frame- work for establishing the effectiveness of new products, services and ideas quickly and cost- effectively.The aim is to continuously improve your offering so that you eventually deliver precisely what your customers want.
That’s how we could explain that you can’t just pull grass out of the ground. You have to let it grow. The result of the strategy must be exponential. So we started small with the intention to let it become bigger and bigger.
We have a vision to make the world happier and healthier using plants and flowers. So we strategically developed an urban green lifestyle in which they are inextricably linked to all facets of life.
I love how we invented a way to translate our own words in the language of Royal FloraHolland. It is still a challenge to find common ground. We didn’t want to express everything in figures, but we also didn’t want them to lose us because we pronounce things differently.
Yes, stakeholder management really involves a lot of communicating. Of course the entire organisation is structured in a way to benefit efficiency. Everything is focused on running cost-efficiently and meeting targets. But we wanted to broaden that horizon. No, we didn’t know what the return on investment would be in numbers. We only knew that it would take time and we believed that after a while it would pay-off.
So we framed it with McKinsey’s Three Horizons of Growth model. Thanks to that we were able to prove that Let it Grow could really innovate the whole sector, but that change should not be expected immediately. Basically we let an infographic explain what we felt by heart.
McKinsey’s Three Horizons of Growth model provides a structure for young businesses to continue to grow in new directions without neglecting performance in the present.
By referring to that model it became clear what we were doing in terms of repayment. However, for some we still remained a mystery. It has always been our intention to start an idealistic movement, but people kept on asking whether we were a marketing tool.
It was super exciting to work according to lean startup principles in our so-called innovation lab.
Which we are not! We’ve always been very strict about that. That’s also why we were so keen on creating our own brand, rather than using the corporate design. We needed to make sure there was no doubt about our intentions. Therefore we needed to form our own brand.
Exactly. And a brand is not just your logo or your typeface. A brand is the language of your organisation. It’s the visible side of everything you do and what you are trying to sell. With Let it Grow, we sell a vision. So we need to build a relationship with an audience that could really start a movement from the ground up. We needed to stay away from the Royal FloraHolland branding.
This is specifically important to the people we wanted to speak to.
We deliberately targeted Innovators and Early Adopters, terms used by Everett Rogers’ Model since they are the real influencers. If you win them, you win everybody. They’re tapped into the current trends, and they immediately sense it when something’s full of hot air.
Everett Rogers’ Model seeks to explain how, why, and at what rate new ideas or innovations are spread. An innovation must be widely adopted in order to self-sustain. There are five groups of consumers that take-up innovations.
– early adopters
– early majority
– late majority
Today’s consumers are well informed. Now everyone is using mobile devices, they can easily find out what a product’s reason of existence is. And if it’s not real, they see through it. So once you know which people will make a difference and when you decide how you want new products to grow, you have to connect with a new group of people.
Luckily, it wasn’t difficult to come up with the name Let it Grow. We had already included it in our Grow Cycle strategy. When we saw it, we all knew that had to be it. It’s a bit activist and it has that ‘making progress together’ feel to it.
I totally underestimated the effort that goes into a creative process.
Well, what we wanted to do as a creative agency is stand next to you, to form a larger organic team. You had an enormous drive to change things, but you were on your own, working in an organisation with a fixed structure and hierarchy.
And in the end we didn’t only build an amazing brand. The collaboration between Vandejong and Royal FloraHolland was also rewarded with a Dutch Design Award!
The ultimate crown for us as partners. For me that really proves that we did create impact.
A brand is the language of your organisation. It’s the visible side of what you do and what you’re trying to sell.