Lotte Heijnis – AGU B.V.
Lotte Heijnis is Senior Brand Manager for AGU B.V., a Dutch cycling gear brand, operating globally. Lotte is responsible for the Dutch and European market when it comes to communication, from packaging, to how AGU products are presented in-store. Lotte tells us the brand has been around for over 50 years: “We use the strengths of the past and put our own 2020 twist on it. You are not going to reach all your goals in 1 year, but we do notice a positive uplift. In the Netherlands we are the biggest and most well-known cycling gear brand. On an international level, we are not there yet. That’s where our biggest growth lies.”
Ingredients for growth
Lotte explains that AGU’s most important KPI is the growth of sales: “When more people wear our products or use our products whilst cycling, we know the brand is performing well. Next to that, we have set ourselves the goal to grow as a brand. We want to rejuvenate and strengthen our brand. Once or twice a year we conduct a brand study, so we can track whether our target group is rejuvenating. When it comes to strengthening our brand, we look towards associations people have with the brand, which we also measure in the brand study.”
AGU’s most important ingredient for growth, are their products. Lotte: “I have been working at AGU for 3,5 years and repositioned the brand together with the CEO and Head of product, so we could make sure it became a conjoint story which matches the products. Product and brand should go hand in hand. Next to that, we look at the market and study the ‘rumours’ around the brand. As of 2019, we are once again sponsoring a World Tour cycling team (Team Jumbo-Visma). And you can really tell what it does for our visibility. These ingredients indicate that we are on the right track when it comes to brand growth.”
The role of creation?
Because AGU has been around for a long time, brand awareness is high, but Lotte explains that brand associations fell behind: “As said, we’ve repositioned the brand. We went back to basic and looked at where we are now, where we want to be, and how we are going to get there. When you have your brand strategy set in place, the rest can be filled in easily. Our pay off is #everydayriding. We want more people, to cycle more. People feel good about themselves whilst cycling, and contribute to a better, more durable world. We develop our products on being comfortable on the bike, feeling good, whilst also looking good. When we take that into account, the rest is child’s play. When you look at creation, the most important thing is to make sure you have a good brand strategy, which is carried by the entire organisation. Creation is all about having a consistent brand appearance in both your product and communication. I call it the AGU signature.”
When it comes to their creatives, Lotte shares which elements are important: “We are proud to be a Dutch brand, and we cater towards all cyclists, which is reflected in our creatives. Next to big innovations, such as creating the best gear for the pro riders or developing a heated jacket, we use smart little product twists. Making the sleeves of winter coats a tiny bit longer, in the shape of your arm when you are on your bike, so the rain doesn’t get into your sleeve. Dutch design to make riding your bike as comfortable as possible. Bringing everyday riding to the next level. Which also ties into the sponsorship. Last year, we developed the best gear together with Team Jumbo-Visma. And this year we take our partnership to the next level. Besides the product developments which are available for all cyclists through our collections, we also share stories with the riders of the team about their personal drivers to cycle. Combining this with the motivations of other cyclists like commuters we show that we are a brand for all cyclists.”
“Our creatives are inspired by research and innovation”, Lotte continues. “Which includes our own brand study. We would like to showcase that we are a Dutch brand, but this is not reflected in how our customers think of it. That’s a trigger for me to take that into account more. We are also inspired by product innovation, such as the introduction of our heated jackets so you are able to train when it’s cold or raining.
Lotte shares that when it comes to developing new products, AGU uses test teams. Lotte: “With e-bikes, we look at people who take an e-bike to work every single day and provide them with samples. But we also test in the idea phase. With panels we can extract information from cyclists and find out where their needs lie. We listen closely to consumers, our stakeholders, and the professional riders of Team Jumbo-VIsma. In addition, we use existing studies such as the sport monitor. What people find important when purchasing cycling gear for example. Looks, comfort, aerodynamics, it’s information that really helps us develop our creatives.”
Successful creatives & main pitfalls
Lotte: “I like brands who have a purpose, because they mostly communicate about why they exist as a company. Consumers are getting more and more critical these days, it’s no longer just about consuming a product, but how it affects the planet as well. Brands and creatives for the future are those that don’t use purpose as a marketing tactic.”
Next to what makes brands successful, Lotte explains where the main pitfalls lie when it comes to creatives: “We want a lot of things, so the biggest challenge is making choices. Not trying to share everything at once. But think about what our goal is and stick to the plan. Preventing ourselves from sharing everything, because you will end up sharing nothing at all. AGU stands for all cyclists, whether you just take the bike to go to work every day, or you are cycling professionally. The most important thing is that our creatives are credible and consistent and cater towards all those riding their bike.”