Bart Jan Scholte – Fatboy

Bart Jan Scholte – Fatboy


Fatboy. Design products with a smile

In 1998, the Finnish designer Jukka Setälä designed a beanbag unlike any other. Fatboy is – as many people think – not named after the firm shape of the beanbag, but after the artist Fatboy Slim. That name was on a CD cover which Setälä received in the late nineties and this gave him the inspiration for a brand name: Fatboy the Original. The Dutchman Alex Bergman saw a lot of potential in the Finnish beanbag design and in 2003 he acquired the exclusive selling rights.

The last 15 years, Fatboy has developed considerably. The beanbag is without any doubt the ultimate hero, but Fatboy does a lot more than just creating beanbags. The collection has expanded into a diverse range of iconic products: from lamps and carpets to side tables, hammocks and the Lamzac. Nowadays Fatboy the Original is available in over 60 countries. All products are designed with one goal: escaping the daily routine with a big smile.

Bart Jan is ranked in the Adfo CMO Top 100 and worldwide responsible for the communication and new product development of the Fatboy brand, He is a senior commercial professional with over 20 years of broad marketing and sales experience in corporate and private equity environment. Bart Jan specializes in transforming, developing and  improving product portfolios, brand communication, category visions, product innovation and team performance.

What does the brand Fatboy stand for?

Fatboy is really different from all other companies. We want to make Fatboy more than just a brand. We would like people to get the Fatboy feeling and we would like them to become Fatboy lovers. Not only because we have nice products, but also because it brings a smile to your face and makes you feel connected to the brand. Fatboy stands for ‘escaping the daily routine with a big smile’ and Fatboy just makes that little difference. This can be an eyecatcher in your interior, but also some time to relax in your busy life. We always say; because most others are boring and too serious, we are going to do it differently, and that is the Fatboy way.

How is Communication and Media organized within Fatboy?

We have always built the brand through retail partners and events. We do a lot of sponsorship and events with a high reach, such as TV series and activities with major retailers. We give retailers some of our products to demonstrate that they are large and colorful, so they attract a lot of attention. Because we have built our brand mainly together with retail partners, we have also structured our organization that way. This means that we have a very important Trade Marketing department, including B2B and Events, but also a Brand Communication department. In addition, we have a team of Creatives and a Product development team, all of which we exploit in-house. Our Trade Marketing department arranges all communication via the retail partners and the Brand communication team communicates (directly) to the consumer and they manage all social campaigns, mailings and our Influencer campaigns.

Fatboy has never done any above the line communication, with the exception of perhaps a short brand movie. If you look at paid and owned, the share of owned is 99%. The brand awareness differs per country, in the Netherlands it’s about 90%, which is high, but what people know about us is very limited. They often only know the Beanbag. Then they mention our table light. When you see our light, you recognize it, but it is not mentioned top of mind. But you recognize it when a product is a Fatboy product. And for an advertiser who wants to build his brand, we do not hide our brand but try to make it as visible as possible. There is always a big label attached and that is also our strength, that label is our business card.

We recently rolled out our new social strategy and our objective is to increase our visibility. We focus mainly on showing the visibility of our products. We believe that the brand Fatboy is built by the product and that if you see it somewhere your first reaction is; hey that’s funny, that’s Fatboy.

Our focus is on Instagram and we are stabilizing Facebook. On Instagram we want to do more Brand Building by creating a lot of visibility. We always made extensive use of reposts and of consumers who showed their product use. However, as a brand you are less in the driver seat and and can do less of our own brand building. We have adjusted this and in the timeline on Instagram you see that we have started placing our own posts. Everything we place is created, modelled and shot in-house.

On Facebook we go more for Brand Engagement, that means in particular the background story, story telling; why do we do the things we do. On Facebook there is often a link to the events, such as at camping Bakkum where we completely decorate tents with Fatboy products and use our Facebook platform.

But we can make such beautiful content ourselves, if no one sees it and we do not create the range, how can we still convey the Fatboy feeling? We have chosen influencers for this. For example, there is a campaign for the Lamzac, our inflatable beanbag. We have adopted a number of influence experts for this from various countries and we will be posting our products from April to the end of the year. One of the Influencers we work with is Jolie Jeanine in Germany. A lot of people like her photo style, lifestyle and clothing style very much and Fatboy fits in very well. She gets an average of 9,000 likes for every post she places. She is participating in our #getfat campaign and part of this campaign is to make a to do NOT list, instead of a to do list. Escape the daily grind, take your time and enjoy life. In this way we buy reach and that is part of our paid strategy.

Do you have certain objectives that you measure?

Besides the analytics on Facebook and other social channels, we have some communication objectives. These are:

  1. Knowledge: have they seen us, some unique impressions.
  2. Attitude: positive sentiment, have they liked us, an engagement measurement method.
  3. Behavior: number of visitors from social to our website
  4. Conversion: from website to a purchase.

There is no one-to-one-ratio between the visit to our webshop and social, because people often take a break and only come back later. This is not visible in the analytics, but we will of course try to increase this. It may also be that they have seen something on social and are going to buy it in a store or online at Fonq or Flinders and that is why sales is also an important KPI.

Do you have other forms of (brand image) research?

We have a small budget and we have grown from an entrepreneurial spirit and we have to do things smartly. The most important brand builder is the product itself. The second is our content and the third are the employees. We do very little market research because we think we need to enter the market ourselves as employees to hear how people think about Fatboy. As a result of a multi-country survey, we know how people think about Fatboy and we repeat that survey every few years.

What are the next steps for Fatboy?

Our goal is to get Fatboy to a second stage and a younger audience. We are working to apply more structure so that we can work towards one specific goal. We try to spend our money as well as possible and it may be that we will do more market research in the future, because we cannot keep doing everything on gut feeling.

Do you see differences between countries?

There is one global product portfolio, but we do see differences in sales between countries. In France lighting is much better, in Germany the Lamzac is favorite and in the Netherlands in particular the original bean bag. We provide support material to retailers or e-tailers and we try to encourage them to also pay attention to the other products. For this we have developed a Content Distribution strategy. For example, where a product is not known as well, we show a product that they do know. So, you start thinking more about a collection, a picture of the much sold bean bag with a lamp in the background to create demand for it. Because our products are sold in different countries it’s difficult to keep all kinds of different channels and websites up and running and we want to centralize it more. Our content distribution strategy must determine what we show where and at what time. It must be relevant to our target group and on the other hand it must entice us to the next step in the funnel, so that they eventually make a purchase.

Our Fatboy products do not belong to the primary needs. In a house you always put chairs, sofas and tables first, then the functional lighting and we are in the third shell, products to make your home personal or your garden just a little more fun. Also in terms of social media strategy we know that people are not necessarily looking for our products and for a store you are no more than the icing on the cake. On the other hand, our products do invite extra impulse purchases. If you see a Fatboy lamp on a table, you are easily tempted to buy it.

We always try to ensure that we always do more than the customer expects through our retailers. We try to create fans of the brand. We also try this via our employees, if they have a party at home, they can dress up their own party and borrow items through our own rental service ‘dress your event’.

How is the balance for brand growth between the retail partner strategy and the media strategy?

The retail channel was always the most important. Today, we are increasingly helping retailers in their omni-channel approach to better sell to the consumer. If we have a nice video or mailing, then we also make it in a neutral format for our most important retail partners. The content is at least in our hands, so we determine the image of our product and our brand and we also create reach in this way. The relationship between the retail channel and the media channel, which is direct to the consumer, used to be 99% through our retail partners. Nowadays, we see great growth opportunities for our media strategy where we approach the consumer ourselves. We do this for 99% via social media and we reach partly through influencers, but for the most part through our own activities. And with that, Fatboy is different from all other companies

Are you familiar with Byron Sharp?

I know Byron Sharp and I have read his first book, but not yet the second. The most important is that success of a product is penetration and visibility. That applies for Fatboy as well. And Byron Sharp also says that you must be available always. The only thing that does not suit us, is that we want to lie everywhere and always. We want to be visible and of course we are always available at, but we do not go for maximum penetration and we are not in all stores. There must be a match between the brand and the retailer.

We mainly achieve organic growth. We try to convey to people the Fatboy feeling and the emotional connection through which we create fans instead of one-time buyers. If they do not buy anything, they can still be a good Fatboy fan and get a smile on their face from our products.

What was a successful apporach?

The Lamzac has become a huge success with one video on YouTube from the inventor of the Lamzac. Fatboy has embraced the product and it’s a great success. From my background I was always working to achieve reach by buying GRP’s. However, the content is so much more important. A lot of time is spent on the media strategy, but the content strategy is actually subordinate. It is about the effectiveness of advertisements and the relevance of the content for a specific target group, what do they think of it and what do they speak about? And that one particular movie of the Lamzac, that was filmed with an iPhone with millions of impressions and millions of sales, is the most effective and successful campaign I could have ever imagined. And that’s though only one thing and that’s good content. I also believe very much in a good content distribution strategy where you literally think about everything you create, where you post, for whom, when and why.

What is your opinion about bursting?

I believe in an organic approach. Bursting gives a lot of waste. You can make a certain impact, but I believe much more in the power of repetition, in terms of ‘hey, there is another Fatboy product’.

There is an always-on strategy on the other hand, how about that?

I believe in disruptive content, taking something out of its context that puts you on the wrong track. With our images we try to get at least one second extra attention by being surprising in the content, that is our strategy. We try not to think in terms of standards, that is Fatboy.

What is your opinion about targeting?

In order to perform well on social media, you need to target and you must be able to describe your target group properly. For that I believe in formulating need groups and moments. Do you fancy an event or do you want to dress up your house and put in your own personality? We are looking at how we can describe target groups and customer journeys with people who experience certain moments together. Previously you had personas based on sociodemographic characteristics that you then supplemented with their needs and now we have extended those needs to certain experiences and moments. For example, the Friday drink at the office, but it is difficult to target on social media.

We believe that Fatboy should be there at the nice moments that matter, we are part of life.