Nico MulderFounder, CEO, marketing strategist, manager, consultant & speaker at mulder
Nico Mulder is founder of mulder, City Marketing strategist, speaker and consultant.
Previously, Nico Mulder was City Marketing strategist and consultant at amsterdam&partners, a marketing organization of the city of Amsterdam.
Being a member of many strategic think tanks for Culture, Tourism and Urban Marketing and having received several awards, such as the “UNWTO Ulysses Award”, Nico Mulder is one of the special guests at PARTTEAM & OEMKIOSKS' Connecting Stories.
1. You have a very broad professional background. Can you tell us a little about your journey and your professional experience?
Being an adolescent and not really knowing (yet) what to do later, I started studying Psychology and later on Marketing & Communication, since these are such broad studies and made me able to choose more precisely later on during my life/career. During these years, I had the possibility to study and do internships abroad. To me this was a very important factor of my personal and professional development. It led me to Spain (where I studied and worked), Curacao (where I did my internship) and Cape Town (where I did my thesis research). I gained so many friends and life lessons, it broadened my horizons and personal perspective.
After my thesis, I had the chance to start my professional career at an advertising & marketing agency in Amsterdam, so I could gather practical experiences of working in the field of branding, marketing and advertising. However, after 3-4 years, I noticed I wanted to use my capabilities and skills for something other than (just commercial) clients and became a marketing manager at the Cultural Board of Amsterdam, in which I became responsible for marketing all Amsterdam has on its cultural display.
Some years later the Cultural Board got merged into Amsterdam Marketing, becoming a DMO (destination marketing organization, responsible for city marketing of Amsterdam). I spent some years as a marketing manager, not only marketing culture but also Amsterdam as a tourist destination, leading up to me being a marketing strategist and consultant.
In 2019, I left the company, having spent 10 years working for Amsterdam (which I still see as a great period). I had come to realise it was time for me to move on. To use my knowledge and expertise for more destinations, to create better places worldwide. That's basically how I now guide destinations on place brand strategies and within their quest of becoming more sustainable.
2. What are mulder's main services and methodologies?
We offer a wide range of services, from strategy to (branding and marketing) execution. Depending on the place's demands and challenges I cooperate with many creative consultants and or art directors and marketers, all under my/our supervision and overarching strategy.
Our main expertise lies in the field of place brand strategy and (implementation of) sustainable tourism. Places all around the world are (or should) questioning themselves: what makes us unique, what is distinctive for us (compared to all the others) and maybe even more importantly how can we make use of our distinctive DNA in a better way, so that we do not (only) focus anymore on attracting more and more and more tourists, but to use tourism basically as a tool to create a better place. To get there, we conduct interviews, do research, organize co-creations sessions (with residents, stakeholders and/or tourists/visitors, etc.) and use all the input we gather to create better (brand) strategies for places. Better strategies to ensure residents can have or maintain a level of liveability on the one hand, and be attractive for visitors on the other hand. Accordingly, by shaping these place brand strategies, we look for and implement practical ways, tools, solutions, programmes and/or campaigns to create sustainable tourism. So tourism can be used as a force for good/better impact for these places. It shouldn't (anymore) be about consuming, we need to pivot into contributing, into regenerative tourism.
3. How does mulder contribute to urban sustainability?
Depending on the clients/places situation and demands, we focus on 3-5 main priorities. With these priorities often being coherent, we create a strategic and integral framework of a) main challenges, leading to b) practical solutions or programmes and c) specific goals and metrics.
We aim high (with our overarching strategy or vision), but start small (with practical steps to work on). That's the only way forward I believe. Essential within place branding and sustainable tourism is to focus on cooperation and accountability. A place is owned by nobody and everybody at the same time. Just an example: for a destination in Greece, we are now organizing co-creation sessions with stakeholders, and it was clear that this place is lacking a central agency/DMO or local government department from which all the tourism policies and measurements are taking place. So to create a coherent and efficient place branding strategy leading up to (more) sustainable tourism, we are now in the phase of a creation of such an agency and specifying it's KPI's.
4. How did you become interested in the Marketing area?
I was never really fond of the term "marketing" to be honest. Or at least, not very fond of the way marketing itself is perceived.
To me, in an early stage of my life, I became interested in places and people. The look and feel some of these places have (and some don't strangely!). And the stories and backgrounds these people have. In a place, it's always about the people of these places that bring color. That makes it more bright, who stands out. So you could say I was/and still am very interested in these stories and so storytelling became one of my specialities. A certain place should always look for its DNA and from that DNA (or the other way around) are all these stories that distinct that place. Berlin has a different feel to it then Lisboa. And Lisboa is different from Porto. This is what interests me the most, I guess.
5. How can we relate Marketing and Sustainability?
I think there is a huge need for marketers to become frontrunners, innovators and to use and implement the SDG’s into their strategies and activities. To me personally, marketing isn't or at least shouldn't be (only) about getting more customers, more tourists, more, more, more... It should be about the experience that we can offer our users.
So, looking at it from a city or place perspective: how can we create a better place for our locals (by tourism)? And how can we create a better experience for our visitors? I truly believe less (visitors) is sometimes really more. "More" as in a higher level of liveability and also a higher level of satisfaction. I am not having a wonderful time in Barcelona when I'm stuck in traffic loads of my limited time, eating bad tapas in a predominantly touristy atmosphere and queuing up to Parque Güell or the Miró museum. Places should focus on creating better experiences that will benefit sustainability goals.
6. You have received the "UNWTO Ulysses Award". What does this recognition mean to you?
It meant a lot, and not so much at the same time, strangely! It was great to be rewarded, to get recognition of all the work we have put into that project and campaign. But in the end, it made me more proud when we found out visitors were really engaging with more activities in surrounding areas due to our efforts.
Of course, these awards are great but reading positive comments from our customers/visitors made me happier. Then, I realise even more so, "yeah it is really leading up to personal and practical benefits".
7. What plans do you have in mind for the future?
Good question! I guess, mainly due to COVID-19, I realised (even more so) that it's good/better to live (more) in the moment. With me leaving amsterdam&partners two years ago, just before COVID-19 kicked in, I hadn't a clue where this adventure would lead me.
And now, two years later, the agency is doing so well, I'm reshaping plans and thinking about moving abroad, about hiring some extra staff, so we can service even more places.
But in the end, as I said in the beginning, it is not always about more. I am happy with where I am at at this moment. Perhaps me becoming a dad for the first time this year made me more aware of how precious life can be at times. But okay, if you ask me where me and my agency are in 10 years: hopefully we have found an office in a mediterranean country, servicing multiple places from all around the world and helping them to create better places, for all.
8. Being PARTTEAM & OEMKIOSKS a company that develops and manufactures multimedia kiosks, self-service equipment, digital billboards, interactive tables and other digital solutions for all kinds of industries and at an international level, how can this equipment and technology in general contribute to the development of Smart and Sustainable Cities?
Talking about creating better places, I always summarize "better" by using the 3 S's: being smart, social and sustainable. All things digital can really help create these better places, for residents and visitors alike.
Think about digital out of home screens offering options to book a taxi, table or to show the current capacity at a certain restaurant or museum. It can be used in crowd management or as a tool to gather consumer insights (research device). Also, I think these are great assets for places to enhance the customer journey. A user of a place (whether it is a resident or a visitor) is always on a 'journey'; one who is aware of a certain event is questioning whether or not to go based on its reputation. And if positively affected, a user can purchase and experience it and when satisfied it can become an advocate (for your event or place). These tools can be used throughout that journey to enhance it!
Connecting Stories is an editorial space led by PARTTEAM & OEMKIOSKS which consists of conducting exclusive interviews, directed at influential personalities who work in different sectors of activity.
The project, conceived by PARTTEAM & OEMKIOSKS, includes the publication of success stories, through small interviews with influencers who want to share details about their projects, opinions, plans for the future, among other subjects.
The idea is to connect stories, share knowledge, develop networking and generate content that can provide new visions, opportunities and ideas.
Founded in 2000, PARTTEAM & OEMKIOSKS is a world renowned Portuguese IT company, manufacturer of indoor and outdoor multimedia kiosks, self-service equipment, digital billboards, interactive tables and other digital solutions, for all types of sectors and industries. To know more about our story, click here.