Vivian Butzelaar – Simpel

Vivian Butzelaar – Simpel

Vivian Butzelaar is Marketing Director at Simpel, the largest independent Dutch MVNO dominating the sim-only market, which was founded in 2007: “12 years ago we entered the market as a challenger, a rebel with a mission to challenge the complexity of the telecom market. To make mobile telephony accessible and affordable to everyone by applying simplicity to everything we do. We believe in a healthy relationship between price and quality, meaning that it’s possible to offer products at low prices and still deliver outstanding service and quality. There’s an attraction, a pull in that. Deservedly so, because what you see is what you get. Having said that, this is also exactly where the friction is. When you look at budget brands’ image statements, price perception may be low but often at the expense of reliability. Simply saying ‘we’re trustworthy’ doesn’t make for a credible argument. Let others say that about us, we never underestimate people. It takes time to prove yourself. To build and protect a reputation. Therefore, we need to be consistent in what we say and live up to that as a brand every day. Our customers and tests by authorities such as the Consumentenbond brought to light that we’re definitely succeeding in doing that and our customers are willing to stay. So why be modest then about that? Claim, own and preserve it.”

Main KPI’s for brand growth

Simpel’s most important KPI’s are penetration and domination in our category by increasing and retaining (mental) market share. “We manage a simple, daring strategy by continuously introducing ground-breaking propositions, using steady and distinctive brand-assets and clear categorial associations. Together with our always-on cross media strategy, constant process and product innovation and an outstanding service we make the impossible possible every day.”

Last but not least, fun is a very important KPI while riding (bumpy) roads in a dynamic jungle. Sounds simple right? If you can integrate that into your process magic can arise, I discovered. Call me crazy but this translates itself into what you project as a brand. There’s a hidden but undeniable attraction there.”


“We have a recognisable and distinctive visual identity. Such as our property for example, created by our advertising agency Alfred six years ago. We fell in love with this property because, like our brand, it has a childlike quality. We try to look at the world in an uncomplicated, almost naive way. This property has become a real asset for us throughout our consistent cross medial strategy. With our consultancy agency we do periodic research to measure and improve our media and campaign performance.”

“I think it’s important to always explore and experiment, but keep what is good. Don’t change things just because people tell you to be insatiable as a marketeer. When in my opinion you should mainly be effective and only change assets if the alternative is better. I’m no fortune teller. Nobody really knows what’s best up front. True, to me it’s a matter of gut feeling and heartbeat. For that I’m willing to fight.”

You can’t just say; ‘I’m reliable’. It instantly and by definition achieves the opposite effect.”

Innovating through simplicity

According to Vivian, Simpel has entered the market with an innovative philosophy: “We haven’t strayed from that philosophy, and we still aim to make complicated things straightforward in favour of our customers. An example of one of our product innovations is the introduction of our ‘Belplafond’, which was based on an insight. We gave our customers control over usage to prevent bill shocks. We try to think along with the consumer.”

Vivian: “Another example is Mix & Match, where, for instance, you can combine a low number of minutes with a large amount of data, whereas other parties might force you into a package that doesn’t fit your needs. Sometimes you underestimate innovations when you find and introduce them.”

“I experienced this with Mix & Match. We never claimed to be the first! Still hurts. The value of an innovation that is so close to the essence of your brand can seem so obvious that it can easily be overlooked. Almost two years later, another provider claimed Mix & Match as a successful USP.

It taught us not to be too modest about innovations. To claim what is ours. We’re not the brand to introduce huge technological innovations. We are market leader in a budget world. disruptive innovations can be very expensive, so we choose to put our money into our propositions and process developments. We’re happy to let the technologies prove themselves first, before we adopt something relevant. I think that the most important thing about technological innovations is not to just innovate for the sake of being innovative. An innovation must fulfil a relevant function and be enduring.”

The SIM only market

Vivian explains that the market has grown extensively over the last couple of years. “When we entered the market, we had to explain ourselves. What is ‘sim-only’ and what’s in it for you as a customer. In a time where providers were ‘giving’ phones away for 0 euros there was a lot of tension. Since then, the sim-only market has grown 4 times its size.”

Feedback from customers

Because Simpel is an online-only provider, customer service is the only direct contact they have with customers. Vivian: “It’s important that our customer service is closely related to our brand essence. One could say it’s an extended part of our marketing team. We have a very flexible and personal policy, and improve based on the feedback of our consumers, which we’re able to do very quickly. We always try to live up to the expectations we create in our advertising and to deliver that little bit and unexpected extra. To me that’s success.”

Vivian: “Simpel definitely has the potential to extend. But for now, we’re focusing on the Dutch and sim-only market. Carrying out our philosophy: making mobile telephony even more accessible and affordable for even more people in the Netherlands.”