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saelens

Interview with Erik Saelens

Erik Saelens is the founder and executive strategic director of Brandhome group, which makes companies grow faster than their markets. He is a speaker with relevant know-how, business acumen and an impressive resume. In his tailor-made talks, Erik focuses on what makes branding meaningful today and how to make marketing relevant tomorrow. In this interview you can read about his passions and experiences spanning over two decades of business experience in brand marketing.

What got you interested in brand marketing?

I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of the “homo economicus,” because it is a framework that boils down to the idea that full (price) elasticity exists. Brand marketing is just the opposite. Branding is all about creating IN-elasticity with the target customers, and more broadly speaking with all stakeholders. That is what fascinates me about brand marketing.

 

You’ve written 15 books on brand marketing, which seems a huge amount. How are you able to be so productive?

Writing is my hobby. Reading too. And both inspire and structure my mind, my ideas, my views of the world and the markets surrounding me. I travel a lot for speaking and for Brandhome, and instead of watching movies on the plane, I write. I hardly ever drive myself; using public transport, Uber … all of it frees up the time to write. And I am a short sleeper, 5 hours is enough. You can download most of the books for free at www.brandhome.com/books

 

What are your biggest goals in your life/career currently?

I’ve been in the business for almost 25 years now. Speaking, consulting, writing, teaching, crisis management and turnarounds … What I’ve seen is the importance of brands in and their impact on society. Churchill once said: “First we shape our buildings, then they shape us.” Paraphrasing Churchill, I say: “First we shape our brands, then they shape us.” My goal is to make these brands and the stakeholders involved aware of their importance and prepared to take responsibility accordingly. That’s my career goal.

In life I strive for equal opportunities for everyone. For me, it doesn’t matter where you come from, what your socio-economic background is or what your gender is … for me only one thing counts: who you are, and what you will leave behind in this world. That is why I started Brandhome foundation, cofounded Unbox and sit on the board of a number of US companies that deal with learning.

 

What is the most unique experience you have had as a result of your job?

As visible as I am as a speaker and writer, I’m as invisible in my job. It may seem weird, but after being involved in some of the most impactful rebranding operations of the past decade, this is the price you pay: you become and remain invisible. Sometimes it’s difficult for our junior consultants to understand that the better you do your job, the less visible you become. Often, these operations involve potential job losses. One of the most unique experiences I had was when one of the largest financial institutions in the world went bust during the financial crisis. I was there as part of the team that saved that institution, and by extension hundreds of thousands of families of employees, customers … I will never forget that. That day I learned what responsibility really means.

 

How are your keynote presentations unique?

As a marketer I do my research, and there are 6 things I consistently hear back from the audiences and clients I work with: tailor-made, interactive, fun-factor, positive-energy, confronting, inspiring. My presentations are tailored to the objective of the event/client, and to the audience. In essence, speaking is similar to what I do at Brandhome, only in a different format. I dig deep into what the client wants, I set up specific research to have some scoops for the audience, and I ensure that there is massive interactivity with the audience. It takes a lot of preparation, but I like to be well prepared.  

 

How did you begin your speaking career?

I got a call in 1996 to come speak about Brandhome, which in those days was the first Internet knowledge platform in Europe on branding. From there I rolled into it, doing a lot of in-company speeches for top 10 to top 500, leadership sessions, customer events, global marketing conferences … And now here I am, almost 500 speeches and events further along. And very thankful for the clients, audiences, speaker managers and event managers who gave me the opportunity to travel the world, share know-how and learn a lot myself while meeting interesting people and making friends for life.