Gwenn on brands

gwenn on brands


Gwenn Nevelsteen.
Founder and strategic director of Untitled Workers Club. Mother of 2 daughters, Mila and Liv, and owner of a wire-haired teckle called Jérome — the mascotte of the agency.

It’s more fun to work with people who you like and who you share your goals with. Let’s talk and find out.

Why untitled workers Club?

We changed our name because we changed our vision. The focus of Untitled Workers Club is ’cultural branding’. We want to help brands in both the commercial and the cultural sector to become more culturally relevant, by tapping into a disruption or movement in society. We believe that doing so will not only increase the business of those brands but also create a more open-minded society. ‘Untitled’ because it is not about us. It is all about the brands and organizations we work for. We were inspired by Pablo Picasso who didn’t want to give his work names. If it had been up to him he would have named them all ‘untitled'. Work should speak for itself. The beauty and the power of a piece of art are in the eye of the beholder. 

Why the Workers Club?

Untitled Workers Club is about all the ‘unsung heroes’ who play an important role in a project. We love to work with people who love to work, who want to push things forward. You won’t make a difference when you just do what everyone else is doing. The harder you experiment, the bigger the chance you’ll end up with new and impactful work.

You come from PR and architecture.

I've always had a passion for storytelling. I started my career in publishing and later in PR. It's not just about the words, it's also about the feeling that a brand exudes. When I did the PR of major architectural projects, I said that it was important for a building to evoke an emotion. For example, some people find the station of Calatrava in Liege-Guillemins is architecture as spectacle. Others are moved by it. Perfect. I feel that a building that does not evoke anything (outside of functionality) is a missed opportunity. It's the same in our bussiness. Too many advertisers think in worries and fears instead of possibilities. It's a shame to make things that leave people and audiences complete indifferent. We see it as a kind of mission to make work for our clients that pushes their businesses and society forward.

Someone made us all believe that if your brand’s posts on Facebook reaches the right people that’s considered creative. No matter how dumb that post is.

And how do you translate that into the advertising business?

With Untitled Workers Club we search for or create the story behind the brand and pay a lot of attention to the feeling that the brand radiates. That is why we try to work with artists and specialists, the untitled workers, wherever possible. They leave the well-worn paths and clichés more readily. They provide more impact, surprise and emotion.



In the back a sculpture of Anton Cotteleer and a charcoal drawing of Birde Van heerswynghels.

But it doesn't stop there?

It only becomes completely interesting if you can respond to a cultural movement or a social tension as a brand. Smart people gave this the term 'cultural branding'. As a brand, you can actually mean something. Not just for the business, but for society. Cultural branding transcends marketing.

So is it's not about a 'look and feel' for the cultural sector?

(Laughs). Many people think that cultural branding is about a logo, design and identity for the cultural sector. Of course we have nice references within this section. Think of M-Leuven or Kanal-Centre Pompidou within the cultural sector or the race cycling brand Jaegher, the fashion brand Le fabuleux Marcel de Bruxelles and Generous biscuits in other sectors. 
But cultural branding is about being culturally relevant. As a brand, you bring an answer to the needs of a group or a subculture of our community. And by this I don't only mean "the culture lover." Women, motorcyclists or school-age youth can all be a subculture.

Can you give an example of this?

I love the 'Like a Girl' by Always. Whereas for a long time they communicated about their perfect product features — you know "the blue liquid" — this campaign is about girls' self-confidence. I have two teenage daughters myself and I notice that the age-old prejudices around gender - such as rational thinking, being good at math or whatever — still have an impact. Always has addressed this in a very simple and accessible way with this campaign. I very much welcome such a commitment from brands. Too bad we don't see more of it.

Then the digital world is ideal. A story can easily be picked up there.

I believe mostly in good creation, which is based on the right insights of course. Research by Nielsen Research shows that 5-35% effectiveness of an online campaign is achieved by the correct targetting of audiences and that 50-80% is achieved by an impactful creation. Everything now seems to be about targetting, while the importance of a good creation should definitely get more attention. Let's face it, we won't be surprised much anymore. You're lucky if you see one decent commercial on any given night. And those prerolls, for example. I look more at how I can click away from them than at the preroll itself. Proper targetting or a high GRP does not solve this problem. Managing your own brands makes you realize how marketing is just a small part of a very difficult puzzle.

I notice you're an atypical agency.

I take that as a compliment. We don't strive for mainstream. The general public also wants to be surprised. We hardly participate in awards either. It creates freedom in the way you work. You can use that money to do other things that are much more inspiring. For example, we buy art from young Belgian artists and take the agency to the Venice Biennale. We also invest in our own brands. Not only because it is very satisfying, you learn a lot from it: production, design, competition, service... You better understand the concerns of customers.
Tom Boonen now drives a Jaegher and that’s a blast (laughs). We are also very excited about the high technology project 'Rubey' that soon will be rolling out.




I'm Gwenn Nevelsteen,

you can call me