Interview met Remco Armee  op
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Interview met Remco Armee op

Remco Armee is the e-Commerce Director at Independer and responsible for a broad range of tasks including marketing, business intelligence and data science, UX and product. Independer was launched in 1999, with the objective to make the financial world more transparent and fair. Nowadays, Independer helps over 1 million clients to make better financial choices. Consumers use Independer to compare and directly conclude financial services, ranging from insurances to energy and mortgages. Until recently, Independer was owned by Achmea, but on October 24th the acquisition of Independer by Persgroep was announced. As you will read in this interview, Remco is convinced that this acquisition offers excellent opportunities to further fuel brand growth.

Changing from transaction to trust

Remco: “Over the past 19 years Independer has shown a tremendous growth in awareness and usage. However, there are 2 important challenges for the brand: Firstly, most people perceive Independer as a purely functional brand; they have no idea about the purpose of the brand, and the passion that drives the people behind it. Secondly, more functional, is the fact that most people think of Independer as a comparison site and that their connection with the brand is insufficient to conclude – they buy their insurance or other financial product directly from the finance provider.”

“Talking about the first challenge, bringing across Independer’s purpose, started with an internal process, to re-define that purpose. We noticed that there was a strong purpose-based drive among our team, but that exact purpose was not identical for everyone. We have worked hard to define what we want Independer to do: making people capable of taking things in their own hands. We have translated this into our 3 years’ strategy: evolve from transaction to trust.” This strategy has several components: how we want the consumer to see us, as a brand that you can rely on; but also, internally, changing the transaction-focus to a consumer-focus.” In reaction to the new position as a part of Persgroep, Remco sees an excellent match: “One thing that we have in common is that both companies are strongly purpose-driven, willing to guide people to make better decisions.”

“When we are looking at brand KPIs they are on one hand rather traditional: growing awareness – also for our new products, such as mortgages, but also the ‘softer’ domain of building trust, which we measure with brand closeness or trust. Thirdly, we don’t want to claim a mind position on product-level but based on life cycle/category entry points. People shouldn’t just think about us when they want to have a new car insurance, they should think about us when they think about mobility, and at life stages: at moments of birth, moving houses – often financial decisions are linked with these moments, that’s where we want to be. And the choice for Independer consequently should not be purely functional but based on trust and goodwill. This means that we need to introduce the brand in a completely different way and include the purpose. Independer aims to become the place to go to for financial insight at moments in life when your personal situation changes.”

“We have experimented with a full focus on category entry points in tracking, in line with what we have learned about the way people make decisions, from Byron Sharp’s work. But at this time, it doesn’t give us the guidance we need for our marketing strategy – we also need to track the development of the brand. Therefore, we have chosen for a hybrid measurement, combining the tracking of brand KPIs like awareness and closeness monthly with measuring category entry points several times per year.”

Building trust based on a powerful brand promise

“The key ingredient to grow the brand is a strong brand promise; however, to convey that brand promise we need powerful communication. After all, if people don’t really know who you are, apparently you haven’t introduced yourself good enough. Telling our brand story in communication is really important and requires consistency in all channels: if you try to convey your brand promise in campaigns and at the same time people perceive your website as a purely functional comparison website, you create a mismatch. And it requires a smart media strategy.”

Increasing our presence, making more people consider Independer more often

“We want more people to consider Independer at more moments in time. And to achieve that, we can’t limit our presence to a limited number of burst periods per year, we have to present more often. Previously we spent a lot of time preparing a campaign, had an active period of a couple of weeks and then started preparing something new. We are now building a good structure to communicate in the coming years, that integrates all stories that we want to convey about Independer.”

“We obviously can’t afford to miss out on the Healthcare season, the 7 weeks at the end of the year in which people make their decisions about their health insurance for the next year. This is the most important period of the year for Independer to make an impact on a large group of people. However, we believe that if we are present all year round building the brand, there is less need to peak during that season. And it also offers a better opportunity to continue your brand story in January, but then bridging it to mobility. That way we spend our marketing budget more effectively, but we also build the brand position in an effective manner.”

The range of media that Independer uses is wide: “This ranges from all the work that we do in PR to the set of own media that we use, such as blogs, and paid channels. Online we used to focus on SEA, but we are now including more and more social, and of course we make use of offline media. We are currently increasing the role of our own channels, making better use of the data that we have to communicate with our clients.”

Defining the right media mix

“For online media we have all expertise in-house. For offline media, and for advice on the mix between both, we work with Mindshare; we see them as a partner and they get a lot of responsibility. Their strategist is involved in the creative development by N=5, and they do brand tracking, so that they have immediate insight into all relevant developments and can adjust media tactics if needed.”

“Making the right choices in media is a continuous challenge. On one hand there are general learnings and knowledge, for example the fact that radio can support TV. It is not always as obvious beforehand, as competitive pressure plays a role as well. Last year in December, for example, radio was completely dominated by healthcare advertising, and then you can argue whether the rules still apply – can you still make an impact with radio advertising?”

“Another aspect that complicates how to define media effect is that we are both looking at brand development and at Byron Sharp-KPIs – increasing presence at relevant category entry points. In the end we would want to close the loop with data-modelling, but we don’t have that in place yet. That’s different where it concerns the online channel, we use data science there and with touch-tell-sell-deal we lead people through the funnel, using the right channel at the best suited moment.”

Applying How Brands Grow in everyday practice

At his previous job, at Marktplaats, Remco got familiar with Byron Sharp’s work and he is strongly inspired by it. “Marketeers too often are guided by gut feeling and neglect the data; that’s what really appeals to me in Byron Sharp’s work. Where it concerns media, it is perfectly clear that you need to build a strong brand position. When more people think about you more often, your brand will grow. Bursting in media doesn’t answer that need, you need to be always-on. And that requires a different approach; it may seem to be hugely expensive, but at Marktplaats we have proven that it is achievable within the budget. That requires a different way of thinking, effective media buying and smart thinking about your campaign framework. You can’t afford to tell a different story every time, you need to create synergy, offer variation and at the same time ensure that your brand assets are recognizable.”

Becoming a part of Persgroep will help Independer in its ambition to be always-on. “The Persgroep-network reaches 12 million people daily, and thus offers great opportunities to realise a mass reach. And on top of that, Persgroep offers an excellent context to address specific topics which are of key importance for people’s financial situation. Think of pensions as a theme – people should be empowered to take charge of their own financial future. Putting this theme on people’s agenda fully fits our brand purpose, even though we don’t sell any pension products yet.”

“According to Sharp brands don’t differ too much in their offer, but in stand-out. That also links to what we have learned from Kahneman, that most decisions are not made rationally but emotionally. Brand assets, standing out from competition, is therefore of key importance, and we have to make sure that we hold on to the assets that we own. An example is our colour, purple, that stands out in the category; we will definitely hold on to that.”

“We need to use high reach media, with a broad message, to ensure the building of mental availability. More targeted media might become of interest when we are funnelling the message to specific life events, such as pregnancy, but that is not where we start with our new brand campaign. In a next stage, we may also diversify based on segmentation in the way people make complex financial decisions; this would not change the brand message entirely but could lead to a different activation message. Digital media can generate a mass reach – a good example is the cooperation that we have with Marktplaats in the car-domain. But for our brand challenge, we still need the traditional mass media.”


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