Caroline van Turennout – Zeeman

Caroline van Turennout – Zeeman

Caroline van Turennout is Director Marketing & E-Commerce at Zeeman. She is responsible for the Zeeman brand, its marketing activities, and the communication for the 1300 stores in the 7 European countries Zeeman is active in, including e-commerce. Caroline is also member of the Management Team, a team of 8 which overarches the entire organisation. She has been working for Zeeman for 6,5 years, and underlines the importance of marketing within the brand: “We want to be a brand, not just a retailer. One of the success factors of Zeeman is that we all know how important it is that the brand is noticed. One of the perks of being a marketer at Zeeman is that we make our own products, making them truly part of the brand. It’s not just advertising, it’s the location of your stores, keeping the prices low. Everything we do is a reflection of the brand.”

Main ingredients for growth

“When it comes to brand growth in relation to Zeeman, it’s about growing from store to brand”, Caroline continues. “Becoming detached from the physical store in the minds of consumers. We don’t really measure KPIs, and don’t invest a lot in research, mainly to keep our prices low. We do look towards brand awareness and sometimes we look towards our newer markets such as France and Spain to see if we are growing there. Right now, we are at the start, especially in the newer countries, so it isn’t that beneficial to measure it. As a marketer, you are tempted to use all sorts of tools and research, but we try to stay clear of that. We make decisions based on our own intuition and data we have inhouse.”

Creative success

Caroline shares that people deal with tons of impressions daily, so your creatives need to stand out. However, a perquisite is that you need to start with a good insight: “The good thing at Zeeman is that we found a good construct, and know exactly what fits our brand. We need to make good creatives, as we don’t spend as much on media. Our media budget is limited, so you need creatives to stand out so you can save on that budget. For instance, there are some campaigns, like the sneaker campaign, where we didn’t deploy all media, and looked whether the campaign needed it after the launch, or whether it had gained enough traction already. Which is also related to our stock. Our business model consists for 20% of products that are always in the store. 80% is interchangeable. Once it’s sold, it’s not coming back, so it wouldn’t be useful to deploy that advertising spend. Throughout the year we have campaigns revolved around that 20%, it’s campaigns like these that attract our main target groups. Children’s clothing is an exception, where we do show the seasonal collections.”

So, what makes creatives successful? Caroline: “A good insight is really important, connecting to something that relates to your target group. You need to be relevant. Next to that, it needs to fit the brand. It’s difficult, because what defines the brand? Is the brand that what you have put to paper, what you would want your brand to be? Or is it the definition of your brand in the mind of the consumer? I often use 3 indicators to check whether a creative will be successful or not. First, it needs to fit your brand, but shed a different light on your brand, defining your brand a little differently. Second, it needs to surprise the competitors, and third, it needs to lead to action among your consumer. We are continuously working to improve our position and that network of associations. Your brand is expressed in so many different elements and moments. Your stores, your office, your products. You need to keep building your brand, it’s an ongoing process.”

(Co-)creative process

“When it comes to our creative process, we are very open,” Caroline continues. “Occasionally we go through older and new ideas and test among ourselves whether something will work or not. When we move forward with an idea, we ask other departments what they think. We don’t write a briefing; at Zeeman we have a more co-creative way of working with our agency. From my experience, it works best when you work together closely with your agency. We work with rough sketches and leave room for creativity. We don’t like to set everything in stone by using a briefing. I believe creativity can really flow when you keep everything open. Alongside that, you need to have a clear brand identity, so you know you are on the right path. Because we have such a strong brand identity, we can tell almost instantly whether something will fit Zeeman or not. Another thing is that you shouldn’t involve too many people in the creative process. When you know to whom you are pitching the idea, you can often steer towards their point of view. You shouldn’t burden creative people with the way of thinking of those who will make the decisions. You must protect yourself against that.”

When it comes to research, Caroline explains Zeeman doesn’t test their campaigns, and rely on their own intuition. However, research enables them to look closer at the brand. Caroline: “When we re-evaluated the brand in 2015, we had close to no research results available. At the time, I opted for 1 tool, the BrandAsset Valuator consumer study. It allowed us to look back on the progress the brand had made over the years. It gave us lots of insights. Since then, we have been looking at it annually in the Netherlands and Belgium. We look at our target groups and whether the brand associations are evolving.”

Adapting communication

According to Caroline, Zeeman adapts their proposition to adapt to current times. “Right now, during the corona period, we noticed that people have bought more sweatpants. So, we are expanding our assortment in that area. We also look at different seasons. Over the last few years, the summer weather has carried on into August and September. Whereas before, the winter clothes would already be in store, we are now selling our summer clothes for an extended period of time. However, our strength is simplicity in numbers. We can’t adapt to everything, as it would raise our prices. A trend in marketing is to organise everything around the customer, but our options are limited, as it makes our process more complex and costly. That’s where our challenge lies. Whatever the time demands and whether you are changing your message, the most important thing is that it fits your brand. Continue to work from the brand’s DNA. You can take a leap in your communication, but at the end of the day, it needs to fit the core of your brand.”