An interview for Marketing Tribune

This interview was originally published on Marketing Tribune 

Jeff Povlo, American and general manager of social design company Scape in Amsterdam, is a brand activation specialist with a penchant for developing concepts that connect brands with people while achieving business goals. Povlo has worked with global brands, cities and civil society organizations, and created innovative music, sports and entertainment platforms with international companies such as Heineken, Nokia, Vodafone and Nikon. Time for an interview with the American about his vision of B2B marketing!

How did you get in the B2B marketing sector?

I am a brand marketer at heart. I am American and started my career at a marketing agency in the United States. There I was responsible for strategy and concept development. I learned to not only come up with creative campaigns and projects (concept development) but for these always to be based on clear and measurable objectives (Strategy). I always describe myself as a brand activation specialist. Connecting brands, companies and cities through projects and concepts with their target audience will subtly contribute to the business objectives. In America I worked for international brands such as Heineken, Kraft Foods and Nabisco, in Europe I worked for Heineken, Nokia, Vodafone and Nikon. For Heineken I worked on bringing the brand to market in Central America and the Caribbean. Heineken wanted to strengthen the relationship with the local community. By Heineken linking emphatically to local music festivals and events such as the carnival, I created a link with the locals. When Heineken music appraoched me, I joined the Global Marketing Team. In this role I was responsible for music and film. Regarding cinema I worked with product placement in films and the campaigns around films. And in music, I created Heineken’s strategy and this launched globally and rolled out in all countries. In my work I’m always looking for the balance between the brands, whether companies or cities, and also their target. For both, there must be an added value. I apply this principle to B2B marketing with my own social design company.

What B2B case where you involved with that you look back on with pride?

There have been several over the years . I always try to create something positive with my work, not only for the brand, but also for society. But if I was to name one, working with Heineken on Heineken Greenspace – the project is still going on. The idea started in 2006 from the cooperation between Heineken and the city of Valencia and included giving a whole new meaning to an outdated and rundown district. From the perspective of urban development we create ‘green spaces’ – social spaces that offer a permanent location for young talent in the field of music, design, film and other cultural expressions. It was and still is the classic example of how a brand can be brought to life. Since the beginning, there have already been more than four hundred concerts, competitions, exhibitions etc. All organized or owned by Heineken or Heineken branded. It works so well is that it contributes to society as a breeding ground for young talent and together they create credible content. It creates a lasting impact, tangible memories and heartfelt emotions. This partnership between public and private actually characterizes all my projects, whether it is a technology company that wants to connect to the ever-increasing group of city cyclists, a project by the neighborhood adopted to facilitate volunteering or a brand that is trying to promote, in cooperation with the European Commission, employment among youth. I am particularly proud of this kind of project, where a private-public partnership comes about because there are naturally poor understanding between both worlds. Companies or brands are often faster than cities and other (semi-) governmental organizations and are soon seen as commercial parties that are purely for personal gain. But this does not alter the fact that towns and government agencies can still learn a lot from companies in terms of value, sales and the like. In turn, businesses can learn from cities when it comes to the sense of community and mankind. It’s great to see such cooperation flow into a project in which commercial interests go hand-in-hand with social interests and / or infrastructural interests.

What is your motivation in your work?

I strive in everything I do to create experiences that have a lasting impact on companies, people and community. Something must take root and produce benefits over and over again. I’m no artist or idealist. An added value for the target audience (companies, individuals or society) should always go hand in hand with commercial interests. I want to look back on my projects and know absolutely that they have made ​​a positive contribution to the creation of communities. They have been a unifying force and people and companies have been part of a larger whole.

Where are the opportunities in B2B area you crave?

As far as B2B marketing, I see two opportunities; partnerships and employer branding. Businesses and cities by the recent economic crisis have been forced to think more creatively and to seek cooperation with other companies. Where they could once just get by alone, you see that they are now more open to other disciplines and explicitly look at what competitors are doing. They are being supported by technological developments such as open data, big data, the cloud so as to ensure that the world is more transparent and work with others easier. The collaboration between various disciplines will accelerate the development process and lead to new, surprising ideas. In employer branding it comes to addressing your employees. Companies in the near future will be much more aware on attracting and retaining talent. Loyalty like that used to exist in respect of your employer – your life working for one boss – has long since gone. Companies with employees have to handle them a lot more as if they were customers, seeing what motivates them and where they get their fulfillment. Because, people have no career in the first place but they have a life. If you acheive engagement among your employees, you can also activate them and they are a dynamic and integral part of your brand.

 What do you think are the most important ‘B2B’ trends?

In our modern individualistic society we’re now going back more and more to social. And I am not just talking about social media, but social in the sense of being human and social interaction between people. We want to do things together and live together. Companies and cities also will be expected to behave as a social entity, which looks at what they can do for others, where mutual benefits can be achieved. And this implies indirectly that brands and businesses should seek much more cooperation with state institutions and civil society organizations.

 What can we learn from B2B cases overseas?

In other countries they are way ahead with B2B marketing when it comes to strengthening cooperation between private and public. There are some fine examples of projects where the objectives of a brand fit well with the added value that it brings to society. And then you think of companies that know their brand connects with themes such as health, environment, employment and social inequality. Like Salesforce with its integrated philanthropy, called the 1-1-1 model, Salesforce are committed to giving one percent of its people, one percent of its technology and one percent of its sales for social projects in the community. Or work environment specialists and office furniture manufacturer Steelcase who introduced the cradle-to-cradle principle in the Netherlands. This means that materials and components of their furniture were practically fully reused or recycled into new raw materials.

Where do you find your inspiration for B2B marketing?

I get my inspiration from everyday life and especially from the behavior and well-being people. What makes some people sit on the morning train with a grumpy face while others are happy? I am really into what motivates people, what they are talking about, what evokes strong emotions, what unites them with others and what excites their curiosity so they become moved by it. I have developed a kind of sixth sense for it and am like a sponge that soaks up all those observations of human emotions. And this applies also to companies, I get inspired by sincerity and behaviors that arise from within them. Companies that live their goals, live up to what they stand for and that give meaning to the things they do are still the strongest brands.

Who is your mentor and why?

That’s Lesa Ukman. She started her career on the Special Events of the city of Chicago, where she developed a blueprint for the sponsorship of festivals and city marketing. Now she has her own business IEG leader in sponsorship and marketing.

Making the ‘smarter’ world more human.

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