Eva van der Mei is a well-known face within the Dutch fashion industry. Eva started her career at the age of 21, working fulltime as Armani Netherland’s PR manager. She now runs her own office, EVDM agency. With technological advancements reshaping almost every aspect of communication and interaction, Eva is known for her fierce communication strategies and well-organized events. From her bright office at Amsterdam’s busiest shopping district during one of the final days of summer, Eva and I sat down to discuss the challenge she faced as a young entrepreneur, and the do’s & don’ts when it comes to creating moneymaking marketing campaigns.
They often responded to me in a way where they obviously thought; who are you and what are you doing here?
You have been running your own PR and communication agency for quite some time. Have you always been ambitious when it comes to your career?
Yes, I think so, I’ve always set the bar high for myself. In the past, I found that after working in a position for a year or two, I got a bit anxious, thinking: What I am going to do next? I feel like I always need a certain challenge to get the best out of myself while moving forward. But you know what they say: You have to enjoy the process more than the goal itself.
What do you find the biggest challenge in your work?
The most challenging is that we work for different brands. We need to know everything about everything, all new developments, tools and influencers. We have to be “on top of our game” at all times, but that’s also what makes it fun and what keeps me motivated.
What is the craziest request you have ever received from a client?
Once, we received a request for Kris Kross Amsterdam, with the question if we could arrange a launch party, including a pop-up shop, within two days. At that moment I thought: These guys are crazy, this will never work. But in the end, we did it.
As a businesswoman, have you ever been in a situation where you felt that, simply because you are young or because you are a woman, you were not taken seriously?
I must say that as a woman I have never noticed that. Marketing is really a men’s world, but many more women work within the PR. What I did notice during my time at Armani, was that they often responded to me in a way where they obviously thought; who are you and what are you doing here? (I was 21 at the time). It didn’t mind it though, because it gave me the opportunity to show them what I could do. If people have no expectations from you, it’s easier to blow them away at the end of the day.
Which brand do you respect most for its PR strategy?
I think Dunkin is very strong, firstly because they grow very fast in the Netherlands and they do it with great quality. It’s a brand that has been around for a long time, but every month we come up with something new. For example, we have already changed the name from Dunkin’ Donuts to Dunkin’ and recently we collaborated with the Voice of Holland, sending them donuts with the face of jury member Marco Borsato on it. In my opinion, those kinds of details really make the difference.
Nowadays, “brand experience” seems almost more important than the product itself. Do you agree? How do you see this reflected in your work?
I think that without the right brand experience most people won’t even know about the product. Of course, your product must first and foremost be good and meet a certain quality. Then you need marketing, branding and PR to create an experience around it. Especially in fashion you see a lot of designers with an amazing collection, but that do not get the appreciation they deserve, simply because they are no subject to the greater public. People want a certain experience, and with that in mind choose a particular product. We, as a PR agency must create that brand experience, with the brand and with the consumer.
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New trends, developments and technologies in the field of marketing follow each other in rapid succession. Especially when we look at events; from people wearing their own headphones during a festival to Virtual Reality. From a professional point of view, what influence do you think these current developments will have on the future?
The good thing about technology is that, as a brand, you have more and more tools to convey emotion and create an experience for your consumer. The first question we ask ourselves when organizing an event is: How can we turn influencers into ambassadors? This makes PR much more accessible. However, I am afraid that the end consumer is getting overwhelmed with the amount of information that is thrown at them. Therefore, as a brand, you have to make sure that what you do is unique.
If you want to be successful, you have to make
sure you inspire and motivate at the same time.
Because social media is a visual platform, events often go together with artistic locations and Instagram-worthy backdrops. Do you think an organization will get away with a bad event, as long as the location is “Instagram approved”?
No, the product itself is equally important. Of course, when you have an “Instagramble” location influencers will post about it, that’s for sure. But what we often see is that it doesn’t stick, because, even though people think the location is very cool, actually half of them has absolutely no idea which brand is behind it. You really have to make the connection with you audience and be clear about what you are selling. If you want to be successful, you have to make sure you inspire and motivate at the same time.
It seems as if the impact of promotional posts on social media is declining. Despite that, there are still a lot of opportunities when it comes to influencer marketing. What do you think (influencer) marketing will look like in the future?
At the moment the market is becoming saturated. And when it comes to choosing the right infleuncer for your brand, I think it’s important to see who fits your core values best. An influencer may sometimes have less reach, but may still be interesting because they fit the brand as a person. I think that there is now a very large group of influencers with whom you always reach the same people and who do not all have real followers. We’ve seen lots about this subject in the media. Influencers respond to algorithms, but as a brand this means you always reach the same group of people. So, is it really worth the investment than? I think that as an influencer you have to be truly unique to be able to enter into paid partnerships. You won’t get away with just a flat photo that also contains eight tags from other brands.
Sustainability is, after strategy, the most important theme for change within organizations. However, we are not nearly there yet. Do you believe sustainability can be used as a PR strategy?
We have a number of sustainable brands and we always mention it in our communication, however, nowadays sustainability has become a standard that every brand simply has to deliver. And that’s not all, as a brand you also have to be very careful in what you claim to be. If you say that you are sustainable and responsible, especially within the beauty industry, then every ingredient actually has to come from a sustainably source.
Greenwashing is immediately being punished. In your opinion, is this always fair or should we also welcome brands for the effort into becoming more aware of the impact they have on the environment, as long as this is accompanied by a long-term plan?
It must be the norm that you are working sustainably, we have no choice but to continue moving towards that direction. You have to live up to this standard, but you also still have to develop an interesting product that people actually want to have. It goes hand in hand.