TenCate's visual vision 2/3

28 October 2020

Part 2 of 3: visual content for the various divisions

Jaap de Carpentier Wolf, head of Corporate Communications at TenCate, the materials technology concern, has formulated a clear vision when it comes to communication; keeping one's eyes and ears open to what's happening in the world and endeavouring to translate key trends and themes into a coordinated communications plan. By way of several concrete examples, Jaap explains his vision in a series of three blogs. Following his first blog about the Field in a box™ case, Jaap now gives us a more in-depth explanation of how Ten Cate’s different divisions handle visual content.

Outside-in changes

As already described in the first blog, for a B2B-minded production company, it’s an absolute necessity to adopt an ‘outside-in’ way of thinking and acting. The world is changing apace, in much the same way in which end-users and clients are communicating and seeing (technological) solutions. As an organisation therefore, we have to keep up with the times too. Using numerous digital media, we aim to make our communication even more integrated, even more interactive and even more powerful. If we fail to do so, we will lose the interest of our target groups.

It’s precisely because the speed of information exchange in the B2B segment is increasing and the time needed to absorb information is much shorter that we now stick to the principle: ‘photo before text, video before photo, animation before video, interactivity before video’. Our image bank and the video management system are both the digital source and the practical interface linked to this, which enable us to present the (moving) image in real-time on multiple platforms, such as websites, sales apps and the digital magazine with built-in survey. Through the use of interactive videos too - for example, on the website, at the beginning of the digital funnel – there emerges, in one fell swoop, a totally new dimension and dynamic in the way information is presented to potential and existing customers.

The corporate communication team helps the divisional marketing teams at TenCate with the way in which they communicate with their external audience. At their disposal is a sophisticated box of marketing tools containing countless collective, but nevertheless personalised digital aids, which help convey the corporate message. This means that the divisions can build and expand on their marketing communications more effectively vis-à-vis their specific markets and customer groups worldwide. It helps place the right content into the right context and at the right stage of the buyer-customer funnel.

Eye-opener for customers

On the basis of the diverse animations and interactive visualisations we have created over the years, we know only too well how difficult it is to make technical information accessible and visual in as compact a way as possible. Often, this is hugely underestimated. In particular, with respect to non-visible parts of a larger – often highly technical – whole, it is important to get across more clearly to the viewer what the distinctive characteristics are, and in turn, what their added value is. A video or animation is not a goal in itself, but a valuable tool for doing this. For internal purposes alone, this helps put into word and image the necessary information in a powerful, client-oriented fashion in the accompanying voice-over and pictograms. It would seem that engineers and other technicians are particularly challenged when it comes to thinking in images and translating these into a story line.

So it was an eye-opener for our clients that we started to think in terms of systems, that is ‘total solutions’, rather than just in the semi-finished products that TenCate as manufacturing organisation produces. Or, for example, for Field in a box™, we mention that other components are made or supplied by other partners. We make the details visual and tangible by using animations and infographics or (moving) icons derived from these.

A number of examples of visual content we have used for our TenCate Advanced Armour division (e.g. armour-plating and anti-roadside bomb protection) and the TenCate Advanced Composites division (e.g. composites for the air, space and automotive industries) include:

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A change in mind-set is required

Another challenge is to get the best out the visual content in the sales process. We do this for example, by installing 9 inter-linked television screens above our exhibition stand on which large-scale animations and interactive visualisations can be seen. This dynamic way of imaging is a real eye-catcher amongst all the other ‘static’ stands. In fact, the moving image is the ice-breaker in making conversation with new customers. The details shown in the animations are repeated in the accompanying sales app, so that the system solution being promoted to the buyer or client is translated in a consistent and congruous manner. It’s also possible to have the animation transmitted digitally direct from the sales app into PDF format, complete with all the supporting information. The infographics and pictograms derived from this can be found in this with a text descriptions.

In practice, some other things that we wanted to do - from a communications point of view - we failed to do successfully. That’s a pity sometimes, not least because the integration of digital communication media is changing more quickly than ever these days. At the same time, we have to remain aware of the fact that an organisation so predominantly oriented towards production is not always able to change as quickly as you would want. So, when you talk about visual and digital communication, an internal change in mind-set is required, that is, a different way of thinking and acting. We call that ‘from 3.0 to 4.0’. High-quality CRM and marketing automation will help drive this forward.

Nevertheless, in the intervening period over the past few years, we have led the field in this and that was absolutely necessary too. This is because, in the digital reality, marketing and sales must increasingly work together towards a common goal: a more customer-minded way of thinking and acting. In actual fact, we were a little ahead of the study that Forrester launched in February 2016 with the title ‘Digital Wake-up Call’. Its introduction was an exact reiteration of our vision vis-à-vis the rapidly changing world:

A greater proportion of the buyer’s journey has shifted to the digital world, but the B2B marketing mix isn’t keeping pace. Marketers must put 2016 budgets to work on shifting interactions seamlessly between digital and physical contexts to engage more digitally sophisticated customers. This report shows why B2B marketers must refocus their communications, promotion, and demand generation activities, turn their enterprises toward the customer, and create more engaged customer relationships that derive new insight from each encounter.

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Down to the very last detail and in slow motion

It’s undeniable that this way of visual communication works for TenCate. Even though it may only be internally, to help put the message more compactly in the right context. But externally too, it has been beneficial for our image. A number of animations and interactive visualisations have been used by major news organisations, such as CNN in the US and NOS News and RTL News in the Netherlands, for example, with the anti-roadside bomb protection system. This was all because visual material finally became available which showed how this ingenious system worked, in just a fraction of a second. The impact of a roadside bomb is so quick and so profound that there is nothing to see, apart from the devastating results. Our animation and interactive visualisation solved that problem and the press and the social media immediately picked up on this.

Just showing the devastating effects of a roadside bomb is not enough. What we want to do is show what happens in detail and in slow motion and why our advanced solution works so effectively in saving human lives. Our challenge is to persuade our audience and target groups with our visual content. And that has proved successful with respect to the various TenCate divisions. In so doing, we are extremely grateful to the experts at C4Real. Together, we have taken great strides forward.

And what’s also true is that we have had to invest a large chunk of our marketing budget to create our vision. Engaging in this type of visual content does not come cheap, but the alternative is much more expensive. Technical innovations – especially groundbreaking ones – demand modern visualisations, whether in 2D or 3D. Soon, even 4D will be the norm. The foundations have already been laid, it’s simply a question of translating and expanding on these. That’s what makes the immediate digital future so fascinating. The holo-lens, virtual reality, holoportation - in just a while the unimaginable will become day-today reality. For example, a ‘physical platform’, such as the Field in a box™ sports pitch, might not only serve as a ‘social platform’ for the sporting and social development of kids, but primarily as a ‘digital platform’ which adds a third dimension to the ultimate sports experience.

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In part three of this series of blogs, Jaap de Carpentier Wolf will elaborate in more detail about the overarching vision over the last few years implemented in the communications division of TenCate and explain where it is heading in the future.

Click here to read part one of this blog series.

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