How Cypres's content marketing story began
Some books teach you about content marketing, other books are content marketing. That’s true of the favourite book of Martine Peleman, Managing Partner of Cypres. This article first appeared as an interview on the website of Custo, the trade association of content marketing bureaus in Belgium.
Almost 20 years ago, I was on the Thalys to London when an article in the on-board magazine caught my eye. It was about a new restaurant and plant nursery, housed in a greenhouse in the middle of one of Amsterdam’s city parks. It was called De Kas.
I love cooking and eating. I’m always looking for great new places to eat, new recipes and unique food experiences – especially if healthy eating is involved that’s good for people and the environment. I also love books and photography, and art and culture in general. So of course my attention was grabbed by that article in that magazine on the Thalys, especially when I read in the margins that the people behind De Kas had published a book.
“In 2001, top chef Gert Jan Hageman found a new direction for both his career and a 1926 greenhouse belonging to Amsterdam’s Green Services department, which was due to be scrapped. Hageman, who had earned a Michelin star in Dutch haute cuisine, was looking for a new opportunity to grow his own crops and process them as freshly as possible. In his restaurant and nursery De Kas, that dream is a daily reality.”
I was sold. I ordered the book from the Netherlands and it has been one of my absolute favourites ever since.
Content marketing avant la lettre
When I bought the book, I don’t think the term ‘content marketing’ existed here – perhaps it did in the Netherlands. But back in the early 2000s, the people at De Kas knew exactly what they were doing: they put their restaurant on the world map through content marketing.
The book was fantastic. The evening photos of the greenhouse lit from inside were stunning, the meals – simple, with lots of vegetables – were phenomenal. Their vision of conjuring fresh food on the table with vegetables grown in your own garden was innovative.
I loved it. Not only that book, but the whole philosophy, the story, the look and feel. The branding was consistent, the quality shone through. The book was the restaurant and the restaurant was the book. I don’t think it’s ever left me. It’s been on my reading table for years. It has undoubtedly been one of my inspirations for cooking much more with vegetables at home. The restaurant, which you have to reserve six months in advance, immediately went on my wish list. Little did I know what was to come.
Meanwhile at Cypres
In 2012, we decided to strengthen Cypres, which was actually very content-targeted (when it was founded in the 1980s, that word didn’t exist, of course), and transform ourselves from a communication bureau specialised in below-the-line projects into a content and content marketing bureau, primarily for B2B companies.
That turned out to be more complex than we’d thought. We had to rediscover ourselves and rethink our offering. Our staff had to be informed but also convinced, and above all they needed training. Our clients had to make the switch with us at a time when there was very little talk of content marketing in Flanders. People had no idea what it was, and thought that it was complicated and out of their comfort zone. I had to find concrete examples.
“Just as in all businesses, you have to fatten, prune, guide, weed, plough and talk.”
- Gert Jan Hageman, chef, De Kas
Between dream and deed
We wanted to launch our content marketing story by 2014. Choosing a suitable place to do it wasn’t difficult. The book from De Kas was still on my reading table, and I had probably been unconsciously looking for something to do with it for years. Suddenly I knew: we would take the whole company to Amsterdam and immerse ourselves. We would experience content marketing in real life. I had the whole plan in my head, based as far as possible on the book and the website of De Kas. I was dreaming of picking tomatoes with the owner, knowing that in the book there were 50 homegrown varieties.
But then I contacted the management and came away from the conversation empty-handed. Fleur, the woman was called, and she didn’t want us in Amsterdam at all. She thought it was all just a hassle: 25 Belgians who not only wanted to eat but who had chosen the location and the story of De Kas to create an entire programme around? No. She didn’t call back. Meanwhile, the clock was ticking. It seemed hopeless.
The cook and the content
So on spec, Pieter (Vereertbrugghen) and I took the train to De Kas. To begin with, Fleur wouldn’t budge, until I told her we’d brought a box of Pierre Marcolini chocolates especially for Gert Jan Hageman and would like to give them to him personally. The man turned out to be a fan of Marcolini and was charmed. We had coffee and a conversation. We told our story and he was immediately on board. He saw what we were doing and was enthusiastic. He would help shape our project himself.
A little while later we returned to Amsterdam with the whole company. We had the time of our lives. Gert Jan was not only a phenomenal chef but also a born storyteller. And what a story he had to tell! He explained in minute detail what content marketing had done for him, without ever using the word itself. Storytelling, storydoing.
Meanwhile, he picked some delicious things for us to eat and made bruschetta with fresh strawberries on a mini barbecue, in the middle of his field. He autographed a book for everyone and included special tips for each recipe. We were walking on air. Everyone had understood the power of content marketing. We were on our way.
Meanwhile, De Kas has a new book out. But the old one remains my eternal source of inspiration… :-)
Hungry to learn more about content marketing?
We can’t provide you with the book on De Kas. But if you want to read more about the power of content marketing, we’re happy to share with you our pocket guides to content, content audit and content governance.
Ready to write your own content marketing story?
Curious about what content marketing can do for your business? Let’s discuss it together. We might not be picking tomatoes – but we can certainly have an informal chat over good coffee.