Marianne Bruijn – Rabobank

Marianne Bruijn – Rabobank

Marianne Bruijn is Brand Strategist at Rabobank. Marianne is responsible for brand positioning, brand architecture, brand designing and brand communications, together with her team. She focuses on activating the brand and bringing the cooperative positioning to life. From emotional cross-media brand campaigns to cooperative storytelling on social media, owned, paid, and shared media.

Main KPIs for growth

The last few years, Rabobank has conducted a lot of research into the growth of their reputation. Marianne: “We found that for us linking the role of the brand to the ‘society’ was the most important driver of our reputation. Helping customers, but also contribute positively to their society, is very important. This also translates to how trustworthy you are. As a bank, which carries a lot of important, personal information, that is very relevant. Our brand tracker shows that helping customers and providing in their needs is also an important driver to ensure growth.”

“Next to that, there are 3 important drivers to grow the strength of our brand: relevance, differentiation and salience”, Marianne continues. “Relevance focuses on ease of use, your app, your digital development. The second driver is differentiation. When it comes to innovation and digital, we need to be at least on par our competitors, but it will not be the area where we aim to differentiate ourselves. Our Rabobank brand DNA is more closely linked to personal involvement with clients and their local environment. We needed to be more prominent in that area, including our communication. The cooperative mentality is hard to pin down. But we focus on the fact that we are involved with our customers, and the world surrounding them. That is our biggest differentiator, that cooperative mentality. The third driver is salience, the extent to which you are present as a brand. This includes sponsoring, share of voice, visibility of our app. We score really well on salience, and are even the number one in the Netherlands. But, what we represent, wasn’t always entirely clear to our customers and we have been working very hard on this recently.”

Role of creative

According to Marianne, the role of creatives is very important. “This has been a journey for us. We have 9 million customers in the Netherlands, and we want to attract a large group. We don’t want to polarise, because we are an inclusive bank. But we do want to modernise and communicate on an emotional level. This has been a long journey in partnership with our advertising agency. We really see it as a partnership, and do everything together from the start. Whether the idea comes from me, my colleague, or the creative director. Sometimes it slows the process down, as we are always striving for the best. If you want to be in the Champions League, you need time. So, we took a year to figure out what our vision is, how we want to come across, what the tone of voice will be, our brand personality. We continuously test and optimise and look towards new challenges and developments. Until we reach that golden idea, which you can then translate into a creative concept.”

Marianne shares an example: “Rabo ClubSupport is the first campaign where we show the cooperative Rabobank. We differentiate ourselves with our Cooperative Mentality. It is the How in Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle. We are connected and involved with our clients and their local living environments. Together with our members and partners we work on solutions that are good for our clients & the world around them. We have introduced ClubSupport on a national level, as it was already a big proposition locally. We offer our knowledge, network and financial support to associations and clubs that have social goals. With ClubSupport, we have created a campaign which is built on emotion. A Club is a second home for many people. It is a place where people can be themselves, where everybody knows your name, where people make friends. And then Corona came along, and everyone misses their club even more, so, we have shown people returning to their club. The club life ensures that you stay healthy on a mental and physical level, so you can contribute even better to society. As a corporate organisation, you want to share a lot of things. But sometimes, that feeling you bring across in your campaign, is even more important than the message you are telling people. I came across a quote recently that nicely illustrates this: “What people say, you will forget. What people do, you will forget. The feeling people leave behind, that is people will remember.” In my eyes, that’s creatives’ greatest challenge.”

Creative symbols

Marianne: “At times, concluding with the cooperative Rabobank can be perceived as a bit traditional, so I challenged my team to come up with a modern metaphor. We needed something visual that represents cooperativity, togetherness, that mentality. We needed a symbol which also ensures brand recognition. We are known for our sponsoring, so we came up with the idea to add an &. In sponsoring, it will translate to for instance the name of the club, followed by ‘& Rabobank’. Which instantly makes clear to everyone that sees it, that we represent a partnership and togetherness. That we are here for much more than just commercial purposes. We have now included the & symbol in all creatives where Rabobank talks about the cooperative brand. When you can’t really focus on that messaging because of media channels that are very swift and only attract a few seconds of attention, think of translating that message into a symbol. A metaphor, allowing you to not need as many words anymore.”


Rabobank is based in 40 countries, but mostly works de-centralised. Marianne: “Our mission ‘growing a better world together’, is universal. How we realise our mission is through our cooperative mentality. Every country will recognise themselves in that statement. And our cooperative mentality is now being embraced in every country. The way they communicate and operate, radiates that mentality. The teams over there know the culture well and create their own campaigns for their specific target groups. From the Dutch headquarters we sometimes create global campaigns with brand cues that resonate everywhere, which we then facilitate for all countries. They have a lot of freedom when it comes to their campaigns, but within certain frameworks. As diversity is a very important topic within Rabobank, we recognise that there is still work to be done. So, we need to catch up, and modernise the brand at the same time. In our creatives we try to stay on top of that. Often, we work with real customers and associations, and unfortunately, some local regions aren’t really diverse. This means showing multiple clubs, and selecting those clubs that do represent that. It makes our casting quite challenging.”

What lies ahead

During the corona crisis, Rabobank stopped all their advertising campaigns, as they didn’t find it appropriate. Marianne: “We focused on how we could help our customers by talking with them and offering solutions to our customers. We consciously made the decision to not entertain commercial messages, as we didn’t want to give people the wrong impression. Instead, we focused on functional communication and offering solutions. Which also gave us the time to work on our brand positioning. At the end of August, we have started our brand communication again. I think the corona crisis has inadvertently had an impact on technological development. Being digital has become more and more important. Up until a year ago, people were convinced you could only have a mortgage interview in the office. You couldn’t do it over the phone or a digital meeting, as that wouldn’t feel appropriate for such an important event in life. Within 4 months, that has changed drastically. Those digital cues must be part of your creatives. Creatives don’t just revolve around making a nice clip or video, you need to create multidisciplinary campaigns. Where the business and your digital development is evolved. You need to make sure that all those elements, disciplines, are incorporated in your concept. And that is very challenging.”