David Verschoor – De Hartstichting

David Verschoor – De Hartstichting

David Verschoor is the Director of Marketing, Partnerships & Communication (CMO) at the Dutch charity foundation De Hartstichting. This foundation has a mission to decrease the number of heart diseases by executing a comprehensive fundraising program. David is member of the management team and responsible for a department of 70 experts and professionals. In recent years, De Hartstichting has hired many people with commercial experience, which brings a nice mix of people who have the experience of the business world and people who have the interest and the passion to do something better for society.

The reason for David to work at De Hartstichting was the substantial challenge that lay ahead. “When I came in, a lot had to change. Not because the revenues went down or people were leaving, but in order to eventually achieve much more growth. In addition, I was certainly struck by the social challenge that lies ahead, but also by the complexity it entails.”

The challenge of a charity foundation is not always visible for everyone, David remarks. “On one side, the Netherlands is one of the most generous countries in the world, but the largest foundation only has a very small market share: about 2.9%. De Hartstichting is number two and has about half of that, 1.3%. The total market is € 4.7 billion, but it is incredibly fragmented.

On the other hand, the public has become increasingly critical on what we do and how we do it. Certain missteps have been made and widely reported, and as a result, the industry has come under increased scrutiny. That makes things difficult and frustrating sometimes, but it keeps us focused. We do not work for major shareholders and not for our own benefit either; it’s all about (creating) social impact.”

How is Media organized in your organization?

“We have a team called Brand and Campaigns, which exists of 10 professionals. As part of the team we have two Campaign Managers, developing integrated, distinctive and successful campaigns. They are also responsible for the relationship with our media agency and the budget. The Campaign Manager is responsible for the briefing, the concept and Media management.”

How is media research organized?

“We have arranged media research in a slightly different way. Previously we evaluated campaigns individually, but that made it very difficult to compare them. We now have one standardized approach, also in response to our implemented brand repositioning, which leads to a standardized continuous effect measurement. In addition, we still have a brand tracker running. With our campaign effect measurement we can also go deeper into the various campaigns that have run during the year and we can get a better picture of the overall brand value that we strive for in the willingness to act, in the brand image and in the emotional relevance.

We try to steer towards more emotional involvement and a better understanding of what the brand stands for. Our campaigns always have more or less a relationship with this and in that way always contribute to the brand.”

What are the most important KPI’s for the brand?
“The marketing strategy of De Hartstichting is based on three pillars. The first one is to strenghten the brand image. We measure this image on two parameters: the overall opinion about De Hartstichting and the emotional relevance. The last one consists of different layers. Firstly, the understanding that the heart is the motor of life. That means that geting everything out of life requires getting everything out of your heart. De Hartstichting is there for everyone who wants to get everything out of life. In doing so, we are a modern organization working on a very pressing problem in the world today. Our focus, however, isn’t on the problem, but on the solution.

The second cornerstone of our marketing strategy is the tailormade approach we employ in order to get a close relationship with new customers and of course the existing ones. We want to gain more knowledge about the customers, who are our main focus and develop a better connection to their motivational drivers. A transition is made from traditional push marketing and focus on fundraising to a personal approach creating involvement.

These two pillars together compose the third, which is in fact: creating involvement. Involvement is not only giving more money, it’s also letting people do what is closest to their needs. Learn how to identify a stroke and how to act if a stroke occurs in your environment, or how to take care of the strength of your heart. That is how we create involvement, bind people to us and create brand value.

To measure these three pillars De Hartstichting conducts several surveys on brand image and customer satisfaction. The client satisfaction survey shows the way people are satisfied with the way they have been approached in terms of ‘personal’, ‘relevant’, ‘consistent’ and ‘recognizable’.”

How did De Hartstichting come to this new approach?

“A few years ago we learned that the perception of how the public looked at De Hartstichting and heart- and vascular disease was no longer in line with what we thought. The brand had lost a bit of its strength, was seen as distant and something ‘from the past’.

In addition, the perception was that cardiovascular diseases were resolved. The idea was that 50 years ago everyone died of these heart diseases and that today there are all kinds of treatments.

The reality is different:  if we do nothing, 1 out of 7 adults will be cardiovascular patients in 2030 and will be severely or reasonably limited in their happiness in life. With all kinds of research, we have confirmed and validated that image and started to think what we needed to do.

Our first thought was that we had to communicate even more impactfully and the second was the question ‘what do we need to achieve this?’. We defined distinctiveness in combination with increasing the number of people with involvement in solving a huge problem. We came up with a different view on the brand and approach to the Dutch market. We sent more positive messages instead of negative ones. ‘Try to get the maximum out of your life’ instead of ‘make sure someone will not die’. Positivity makes it easier to be relevant.

We need to enter into a more personal relationship with the public. People need to ask themselves ‘what can I do, for myself and my loved ones to reduce cardiovascular diseases and how can the Hartstichting help me with that’? As a result, we are trying to increase the level of involvement and we have made a huge growth by entering into that personal relationship.

All kinds of actions and initiatives have been created to achieve this, and those require the right infrastructure. We have continued a whole new CRM project with new suppliers. We are looking at how we can determine the different motivational drivers of the Dutch people, so that we can also find a better connection with people’s needs.”

What is the role of Media in this process?

“Our brand awareness is 99.3%, so we don’t have much room to grow there. What we must do, however, is connect with large groups in communications and media, and carry out to them that we are here to make sure everyone can get the most out of their lives. This requires a large media presence. Therefore, we are using all means aimed at the general public such as press, TV campaigns, social, paid, earned and owned media. You see that the campaigns where it really is about ‘what can I do’ such as the civil emergency campaign and the stroke campaign have a very big impact. We also won the ‘Zilveren Effie’ twice, which is abeautiful sign of recognition from professionals, but especially from the general public. And a nice confirmation that we are pushing the right buttons.

In March we were nominated as the Marketing Company of the Year, together with large commercial companies. It’s nice to see that we are listed among those companies. We are increasingly noticed as a brand people feel comfortable with. It’s a long road ahead, but the first steps have been taken.”

What does the Media Mix look like?

“It’s a continuous process of trial and error. For a campaign for the recruitment of collectors we’ve tried influencer marketing on social media. Another way of contribution is an action via the pay-app Tikkie, sent out by De Hartstichting to family and friends. This action is in cooperation with ABN AMRO. We test these kinds of campaigns and we’re seeing positive results, but also points for improvement. In any case, we try to use these kinds of campaigns to increase our reach via social media. With traditional media too, we look at how we can make the range as large as possible to ultimately achieve as much return and impact as possible. For these kind of activities we work together with our media agency.”

What is your opinion on online vs offline campaigns?

“Nowadays you can measure all kinds of parameters much better and determine the effectiveness of campaigns. Nevertheless, as far as I am concerned, it is still a combination of the creative concept and the various media channels, and it is up to the organization to fine-tune. We measure much more than a few years ago, including online. In recent years we have made a significant shift in the media budget from offline to online. We now communicate a lot online. For example, we have a very large community with which we communicate a lot. And through all channels and resources we try to get the largest range possible.

That is why we always look at how we can make more integrated campaigns. We are working on  more consistency between online and offline media to avoid that it is a different world with different approaches and expressions. Together with our media agency and advertising agency, we strive for truly integrated campaigns with a consistent image and a consistent message to increase recognition.”

Which KPI’s do you have for online?

“For online we look at reach and conversion. And we continuously optimize through A/B testing.

On a brand level we take social and online also in the overall brand measurements, but it is complex to include social in impact measurements and ask questions like ‘do you recognize this campaign’. The same goes for ‘through which channel have you seen this campaign’. Campaigns are spread over so many different channels that people do not remember the channels anymore. And because there are many different times when we approach certain target groups through many different channels, managing our communication calendar and the whole process is complex.”

In terms of events and activities, are there many regional events or are you trying to organize more national events?

“Our effort in particular is to reach as many people as possible through events and to give people a very positive feeling and energy. Finding a balance is also quite difficult, of course, thought leadership is also an ambition. On which themes do we really want to be seen and when do we proactively approach media? And how can we give that a bit of attention just by giving a small push, by thanking or by endorsing within the existing possibilities.”

What are the plans for the coming years?

“We are going to focus on the further implementation of our 3 pillars, instead of starting up new big projects. Of course we will continue to innovate. For example, we started a collaboration with ABN AMRO and Tikkie for a new way to donate money last year. But it constantly requires a lot of attention to take the right steps regarding our 3 pillars. We are now finalizing our new corporate identity, making it a bit warmer and more personal, fresher and more consistent. We will translate the new positioning into all our internal and external communication and branding material. We will put much more emphasis on how people can get involved with De Hartstichting and offer them different options and solutions on how they can deliver a contribution themselves. It is mainly about making the things we do even better, instead of doing something else.”

Byron Sharp, are you familiar with him?

“Certainly, many of our activities link well with his ideas.”

Biggest success in Media and why?

“Byron Sharp talks about brand growth and market growth by increasing your penetration and attracting new people to your brand. That is why we spend a lot of effort in organizing activities and events on a larger scale, so we can reach as many people as possible. This way we offer people other options to contribute to De Hartstichting, than just by donating money. Of course we also do that, but we mainly focus on attracting new donators in a different way that particularly suits them and not just us. This also ensures that we become more relevant as a brand to a broader target group and that ultimately leads to more involvement.”

Are there any points of improvement for the Heart Foundation?

“We as Hartstichting and charity organization became less and less distinctive ove the years. In that case you can keep pushing to ask for higher donations, or you can join ‘the race for the tear’ and try to push harder, but that does not result in more distinctive power. This may be different for other organizations, but it did not work for us. We wanted to manifest ourselves in a different way within the domain of charity, which also gives us the opportunity to broaden our domain. This makes us even more a social organization, which helps you to get the most out of your life. In my opinion, although Byron Sharp states you should stay within your own domain, I think our point of view offers us a lot of new opportunities.”

Bursting within Media, what is your opinion about that?

“We need to account for every euro we spend, so we focus our efforts on things that really make an impact. It turns out that the ‘Burger Hulpverlenings’ (civilian aid) campaign and the ‘Beroerte’ (stroke) campaign were our most effective campaigns. However, we also need to realize that these campaigns are only relevant for a certain group of people and we need to make sure that we also share our message with a broader audience.”

What is your opinion about being ‘always-on’, should it have a minimum level create impact?

“We have identified some areas and media channels where we really want to be present and position ourselves. But we also need to make sure that we create a minimum level of impact for our overall positioning and for that reason we use our ‘bloeddruppel’ (blood drop) campaign.  This campaign must be the carrier that stimulates people to start thinking more about De Hartstichting. We also need to take into account the wear-out of campaigns and the timing when to spread a new message. And on top of that we should not be too fragmented and try to pay attention to everything, risking that the overall effect will be too small and not relevant enough. A challenging balance.”

What is your opinion on targeting?

“We make use of personas and we are in the middle of a segmentation process. It may not be the ideal way of working, but practically it makes your implementation process easier and more efficient. Because of the segmentation we are better able to focus and set priorities and you need certain tools for that. This might result in a certain waste, but I think it is almost impossible to organize it in another way.

Looking at our media strategy, we try to reach as many people as possible with an age limit of at least 35+. The age group of 18-35 has a different view on life, they focus more on what’s relevant just NOW and they do not think much about how to get the most out of their life when they get older. So we try to reach an audience as broad as possible and depending on the subject we focus more on specific groups. This way of working might be a bit different from Byron’s opinion.