Today, content and content marketing are hot topics in the world of communication, but Belgian content agency Cypres has been operating in this field for over 30 years. It has experience working with major national and international brands including bpost, Brussels Airport, Beaulieu, DEME, Lidl, Thalys, ENGIE and Orange.
First of all, let’s go back in time. How was Cypres founded?
Martine Peleman (MP): “Everything started with Apple. The revolution of desktop publishing meant the start of our company. In 1986 we used the latest desktop publishing techniques to create the first consumer publication for Apple Belgium. In here, the Apple computers weren’t the focus, but what people could do with them.”
Pieter Vereertbrugghen (PV): “Since then, much has changed of course. Thanks to the rise of the internet, social media and smartphones, we now live in a completely new marketing and communication environment. But the thought that, as a company, you can build and enhance relationships via content has always remained. Hence our baseline: content to connect.”
Has the new media landscape changed your way of working?
PV: “Yes, inevitably so. In the past, we mainly operated in a print environment, but now we are a content agency with an omni-channel approach. We understand the digital, social and print pathways. We build content strategies, make texts, images and videos as well as the carriers of those types of content, such as websites, apps and magazines. On behalf of our clients, we sometimes also manage them.”
MP: “An important constant factor in our work is that we want our clients to hear the voice of the customer or the stakeholder. Only then will you create content to help people, inspire, entertain and eventually connect them. At the end of the day, content marketing to us is a type of relationship marketing.”
Can you give an example?
MP: “Sparkle is a magazine that we made for bpost, Belgian mail. bpost wanted to strengthen the position of the ‘letterbox’ as a touch point among agencies and advertisers. It wanted to show that the ‘letterbox’ in combination with other, new touch points, can achieve solid results. Together, we translated this need into a magazine that doesn’t focus exclusively on the letterbox, but on wide-ranging, current marketing questions that really matter to agencies and advertisers.”
PV: “It really works to take the needs of the target audience as a starting point. The reactions to Sparkle are much more positive than the average B2B magazine. The publication also gained awards from various national and international award shows. The foundation of its success is its audience-driven character. It presents visions, cases, insights and practical know-how that are relevant to the reader.”
“Never underestimate the ability of consumers to recognise quality”
Is the audience more important than the brand?
PV: “They are both important, but the notion of ‘brand identity’ in the classical sense is obsolete. The Mad Men era is over. In this day and age of social media, it is less about what a brand says about itself, and more about what others say about the brand. A brand identity has become more of a social identity. It is essential to start a dialogue with your target audience. In that sense, we view ever bit of content as a conversation starter.”
MP: “The relation between brand and consumer has become much more fleeting because the door to the competition is always near and always open. James Surowiecki once wrote in WIRED that we overestimate the power of branding and underestimate the ability of consumers to recognise quality. I believe he is right. Now more than ever, you need to deliver quality products People love Apple because their products are top-notch. Their branding is excellent too, of course, but they know that you can’t have a great brand without great products. More people go to the Apple store because of their phone than people buying an iPhone because it’s by brand Apple.”
What does a good content strategy add to that?
MP: “You have to put content at the service of the client. What do they need to make a well-informed purchase? What information can help them make the most out of a product? How can you offer content that can improve their lives? If you deliver that kind of content you will automatically build a relationship. Together with our clients we look at the entire customer journey and how content can play a role in all its aspects.”
What are your plans for the coming years?
PV: “We want to invest more in content automation: in what ways can automation bring the right content to the right person at the right time.”
MP: “The question therefore remains: How can we offer more service to our clients? Where can we continue to create added value for them?”
This interview appeared first in Discover Benelux, issue 22, October 2015, as “Best of Belgian Branding & Design”