2022 started very exciting for Michaël Follens. The experienced marketing manager and an avid photographer joined the boobook team beginning of January, taking on a new role in his career as an Insights Consultant.
Michael studied Communication Science (Major in Marketing) at the University of Leuven. “Marketing is exciting because it’s a field where it all comes together”. You have corporate economics combined with human psychology, language, data analysis, design, etc. It’s very much about connecting with people,” explains Michaël.
After he graduated, he wanted to broaden his marketing knowledge within corporate structures, so he decided to study Business Economics. “Thanks to additional studies in Business, I learned more about finance, production, etc., in general, the 360° view on marketing. It was fascinating to learn all of the business aspects, adding value to my existing knowledge and giving me a good starting point on the job market,” says Michaël.
Even though he studied marketing, his first job was in sales. “I started working at Coca Cola Enterprises in Belgium as a sales representative. This experience was precious because I could talk to every stakeholder, and I was in touch with the entire supply chain. From a supermarket dep. responsible to a district manager. I enjoyed talking to clients and listening to their suggestions and feedback,” admits Michaël.
“However, I missed the marketing part in my sales position. After three years, I joined Lidl as assistant manager in the marketing communication department. Soon after joining, my direct responsible left the company, so I became Head of Marketing. I was only 26 at that moment and had to learn very fast how to manage people with different backgrounds and personalities, Back then, Lidl also was one of the biggest spenders on publicity and the retail markets. So, I learned a lot about budgeting and negotiating as well,” he explains.
After Lidl, Michaël started working for JORI, a premium Belgian manufacturer of high-end design, upholstered furniture. “As Head of Brand and Product Management, I had to take care of everything regarding Portfolio Management, Brand Strategy, Market Research, Online Brand Communication, etc.,” says Michaël.
The job evolved, so did Michael’s expertise and interests. In recent years, he became more and more interested in the research part, such as competitors’ analysis, segmentation, pricing strategy, consumer journey, etc. “The idea to apply for a job at boobook came at the right time. After almost 11 years at JORI, it was time for a change. I was more than ready to take on a new challenge. So, I reached out to Nicole, got the job, and here I am, thrilled to start a new chapter in my professional life,” shares Michael.
As he joins boobook, Michael hopes to bring some fresh perspective to the team. Shifting from the role of ‘the client’ to becoming a consultant, he is now in an entirely opposite position. On the other side of the research, helping marketing managers and insights experts achieve their objectives. His previous experience is an essential tool to understand the clients on another level, as he was once in their shoes.
“Indeed, this role is new, but also not so new. I’m on the other side now, and I want to look at things from my background. For example, when we get a briefing from the client, I can look at it and think: If I were in their place, what would I do, brief and expect from the agency? I really hope my point of view brings an added value when conveying our research,” says Michaël.
On top of developing his strategic and consulting skills, Michaël also sees his new job as an excellent opportunity to learn more about the technical side of market research from other boobook’s team members. “One of the reasons why I was interested in boobook is because they are absolute specialists in quant methodologies. That always appealed to me while studying. Although I don’t have a purely mathematical background, I always enjoyed doing statistics, so I really want to get to know more about that side of our projects,” admits Michaël.
Changing jobs is a challenging transition for Michaël. “I think the agile way of working at boobook will be an interesting transition for me. . It’s a new way of working, also due to COVID, and I’m sure it’s the future. So, I’m happy that I can be part of a team that cultivates this approach,” he explains.
When talking about the current trends and opportunities in consumer understanding and market research, Michaël is very clear about the importance of Big Data or, rather, harnessing its power to retrieve helpful business insights.
“I believe the biggest opportunity today in marketing is the enormous amount of data we get. We can gather data with everything we do in a company, and this gives us enormous potential to get access to big datasets that contain important insights. The retail environment changed with the rise in mobile apps, loyalty cards, referrals, etc. It’s incredible how much information a company can get out of it, and I hope more and more businesses will focus on extracting information from different sources to understand their consumers better,” concludes Michaël.