Amsterdam calling: a small hub for a big world

Perhaps it is the city's compactness that forces people to 'think outside the box' and strive for the big idea

Brands today are faced with a massive array of opportunities. Technology has made the world seem smaller but has also left us with more strategic choices to make regarding platforms, content and data than ever before.

Amsterdam – a city of just 780,000 inhabitants – is the perfect incubator for bridging disciplines and creating stories that resonate with people around the globe. So what’s its secret?

It is partly to do with the people. Most Amsterdam agencies are either wholly expat or 100 per cent Dutch – and, historically, they haven’t mixed much. At Blast Radius, we’re different. This historical division between global and local agencies is a curious quirk and we think it results in missed opportunities, particularly when it comes to effective storytelling.

The principles of creating narratives that intrigue, provoke and move people have not changed with time. What has changed is that the nature of storytelling has become increasingly multifaceted, allowing for greater interactivity on both a personal and communal level.

Finding a path for your story

The opportunities created by digital platforms allow for greater technological innovation. Yet this doesn’t happen automatically. You can’t just "put the story out there", wherever the latest fad is, and assume it will land perfectly. For it to be successful, you have to chart the most appropriate path that works for both your audience and your brand.

Brands that successfully manage this are what we term "networked brands", and everything we do is geared towards helping client brands become more like networked brands.

This thinking recognises that every brand has its own unique ecosystem made up of people, touchpoints, data and products. When you truly understand how a brand’s ecosystem works and you leverage it properly, this results in broader reach, deeper loyalty and higher sales conversion – resultsthat every brand wants.

We have a particular way of working that helps us build not only a client’s brand but also its business. We develop a "shared ideal" – a belief shared by both the brand and its audience – that is the lifeblood that runs through a brand’s ecosystem. And we have a short set of guidelines that prompt us to ask questions when developing ideas, such as making sure there are "no loose ends" (that every interaction leads somewhere else) or contextualising all parts of a narrative so they fit their particular environment.

Networked brands are also innovative, finding new ways to fulfil consumers’ unmet needs, engaging and delighting them in unexpected ways. This is more than simply making a campaign integrated. All too often, we see brands misinterpreting "integration" and simply creating "matching luggage", where the various components of a campaign all look similar but do not necessarily work together in a well-constructed journey that actually builds their business.

Due to the pace of technological change, brands’ ecosystems are constantly evolving. We need to strive to find new, richer ways to tell stories and get our audience involved in the stories themselves.

How data can enrich storytelling

Fresh takes on storytelling can come from more sophisticated data insights into consumer behaviour. Presented with an array of interlinked customer journeys, marketers have substantial data to interpret that informs strategy and measures effectiveness.

Good measurement is based on being able to know how to select the right quantitative data, but real understanding can only come from adopting a more qualitative approach to convey the bigger picture in simple, clear terms. The data itself also needs to tell a story, if you will.

Why Amsterdam?

We believe that Amsterdam is the perfect location for producing rich, evocative and effective campaign stories. As mentioned above, it’s partly to do with the people. In addition to an impressive array of skillsets, Dutch staff invariably bring a healthy pragmatism and a directness that help us decide what will work best.

This practicality is a valuable asset in our hype-fuelled industry, where we are often all too easily seduced by "the next big thing" and innovation for innovation’s sake.

Blast Radius Amsterdam, unlike other agencies in the city, is home to a unique mix of outside and local talent. The merger of Blast Radius with the Dutch agency These Days last year helped create an agile company combining many strengths in strategy, creative and technology – but, most pleasingly, we get to enjoy working on a mix of global and local accounts.

The merger wasn’t without its cultural challenges, but it has given us the capacity to broaden our skills and we enjoy greater diversity of expertise. We find that clients such as Nikon and Starbucks want us to find new ways to tell stories, but to also ensure that these stories actually get embraced – and our unique cultural mix enables us to do this.

Our mission is to build our clients’ brands and business by creating networked brands, and innovation in storytelling helps us. Understanding the role data plays in both finding insights and measuring success is not an easy job, but Amsterdam is the perfect place to do it.

Simon Neate-Stidson is the senior strategy director at Blast Radius Amsterdam

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