For our September interview we caught up with Greetje Demuelenaere, Co-Founder of brand strategists Comma in Bruges, Belgium, and newly appointed Director on the Tribe Global Board.
Hi Greetje, tell me a little bit about Comma, how do you describe your agency to clients and potential clients?
Comma, brand strategists is a strategic B2B marketing agency dedicated to entrepreneurship. Our core values are passion & commitment and our aim is to achieve exceptional co-creation between our clients and experts. Comma, brand strategists takes companies and organizations to a higher level. We put our expertise to service your brand. Drop by our office 411:, it’s an inspiration. As our motto goes, ‘Fly high and enjoy the ride!’.
Comma is a resting point. We start from strategy to marketing in order to go to communication. It doesn’t stop there, because the results must be measured to make immediate hands-on adjustments. People switch too often to practical implementation and creation instead of taking thoughtful and planned actions. We've noticed during the pandemic that there is also a danger in this because people want to switch quickly and take action.
Companies and organizations should find their way to a brand strategist more quickly. The translation of business strategy into a marketing strategy is an essential step for any company's evolution. We are able to achieve this through our ecosystem. One team is the driving force behind our services: brand strategy (corporate transformation), brand marketing (marketing experience), brand building (strategic visualization) and brand results (agile project management). We want to brand the future with energy through innovation, creativity and lifestyle.
How long has Comma been in business?
Almost 16 years, we started in October 2004. After more than 10 years of working as a marketing manager in international and national companies and 4,5 years as a marketing manager in an agency, the time was right to write my own story. It was my childhood dream to do this together with my husband Wouter Casteleyn.
Wouter is a master in International Politics & had a career in the fashion industry for over 10 years, so it was the perfect combination to bring strategy together with creativity. You can feel our vibes, vision & soul in everything.
You are based in Bruges - tell us a bit about your city.
Our office is 10 minutes away from Bruges, well known as the Venice of the North. The historic centre of Bruges has been included on the UNESCO World Heritage list as a medieval city. The economic significance stems mainly from its seaport, Zeebrugge, but also from its industry, service sector and schools at all levels. The city is also a worldfamous tourist attraction. What makes Belgians so special is that we easily adapt to different languages (Dutch, French, English, German) and cultures. That’s not a coincidence if your capital city is Brussels, the centre of Our 411 office the European Union.
Going back to business, who are your key clients?
We focus on B2B (85%) and B2C (15%). If we zoom in to B2B, 65% of our turnover comes from companies and 35% from organizations like federations, education and care (residential care centres). This consists of anything from growth strategy to brand strategy, from digital transformation to innovation, from marketing to communication planning to storytelling.
What is it that clients like about Comma? What do you do that is special?
In co-creation we achieve successful results. Our entrepreneurship & passion with a hands-on mentality and a high dose of creativity & innovation is the base. No problem is too big. We immediately switch to solutions and opportunities. Our distinctive character is a mix between result driven marketing advice and creativity.
We are in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic. What is the latest news from your city?
Our city is actually doing very well during the crisis. Contaminations are low. But we take our precautions. We wear masks at the office, disinfect regularly, desks were pulled apart and our workshop room was transformed into a Covid-proof pub style. Our office is safe to visit.
Are you doing anything new or different to support your clients through the Coronavirus crisis?
Comma, brand strategists has a customer intimate approach. We are there for our customers. We call them to ask how they are doing personally and with their businesses. Our customers are Clevel, which makes it easy to connect.
We offered our help to scale up our clients or give them oxygen for innovative thinking.
Our two projects for 2020 were focusing on digitization and connection. Due to Covid we realized that at an accelerated pace, together with our team and customers.
We also had our annual Big Marcom Survey which we organized in the midst of the crisis. We gained interesting insights about marketing and communication within international SMEs.
You have been newly appointed to the Tribe Board of Directors. What will your role be on the board? What plans do you have to help the network evolve?
Here is my top 5 list! First, I will help to figure out Tribe's long-term strategy with short-term touch points in a strategic way, like we do for our customers. Second, I want to identify the specialists within Tribe Global for a particular job (global or regional) instead of outsourcing the job like we usually do. That’s how all Tribe agencies create internal revenue and it stays within the Tribe family. Third, get really connected with like-minded people in the Tribe Global family. This would create better bonding amongst our 2800 colleagues and a stronger position. We build teams through knowledge within the group. So the 2800 colleagues get to know each other better. Fourth, keep building a strong Tribe Global brand online & offline and catch the quick wins. The fifth is a side note: I also have a lot of financial insights, so I’m happy to help with this too.
What have you done recently that you are most proud of?
I want to show you some projects that our dream team has worked on very passionately.
Fednot (federation of all notaries in Belgium) - Present the image that notaries are one of the most important professions. This way they remain the person you can count on.
Comma, brand strategists gave Fednot a brand-new image about the role notaries can play in this century. It is a profession in full transition and thanks to very good repositioning, innovative tools and a powerful awareness campaign with a full-fledged launch, we succeeded on all fronts.
Groep Velleman (large production company) - With a new CEO & private equity, Group Velleman wanted to transform the company.
We took a look at the repositioning of the production company Velleman, a well-known wholesaler and developer of electronics. Velleman has multiple brands under their name (Velbus, Whadda, Perel, Toolland, ...). But their brands were lacking focus and positioning. It wasn’t clear which product belonged to which brand. There was even competition between their brands. Our job was to make a clear brand story for all their brands.
First, we had a brand orientation session to organize their products. With the new product range in mind, we could develop a strong and distinctive brand essence for each brand. From there we could start with the positioning and rebranding. The close cooperation with the CEO helped a lot in the process. The results being achieved were immediately noticeable.
Satemwa (corporate social responsibility) - From bulk tea with stock prices to a specialty tea company that brings fair tea to your market.
‘Exchange’ asked Comma if we could help with economic development aid of Satemwa. Satemwa is a tea plantation in Malawi and employs 1700 people. Today they mainly supply Lipton and Pickwick with bulk tea. That bulk tea is an auction market where margins are very low and subject to market prices. Satemwa wanted a plan to grow their business in specialty teas. The location of Malawi is great for this, but it required an enormous transition of the organization and their position in the market. We helped to write this transition.
From strategy to positioning, to customer journey, to product/market matrix and not forgetting digital support, in this global world. We were able to make decisions after long team meetings and a visit from CEO Alexander Kay, European manager Wouter Verhelst and Laura Donners from Exchange in Belgium.
Groep Zorg H. Familie (care) - Merging 10 Catholic organizations into 1 group.Finding the glue between the groups colleagues.
Together we created 1 image and 1 magazine - ‘Sense’. Groep Zorg H. Familie comprises of 4 residential care centres, a psychiatric hospital for children, young people and adults and a sheltered living initiative. All facilities were housed in 1 non-profit organization. This switch to 1 umbrella structure, one brand with various sub-brands underneath, brought with it a strong positioning issue. That's why Comma stepped into the picture. We organized workshops with every level of the organization, developed a strong brand essence for each entity, websites, and the icing on the cake - a magazine. A strong piece of meaning. Read the case study here.
And lastly, Who is your favourite football team?
Uhm, I’m not into football. But I would say Club Brugge!
If you would like to find out more about how Comma can help your brand or agency, you can contact Greetje Demuelenaere at: