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When the puzzle seems to fit: why The Growth Revolution joined forces with OONA

Interview with Werner De Smet & Yannick Khayati about the power of cross-pollination

Following the joint venture between OONA and The Growth Revolution, we sat together with Werner De Smet, CEO of OONA, and Yannick Khayati, Founder of The Growth Revolution, for a coffee in the Sanba to discover their motives to join forces and further raise the bar as one team.

Can you briefly tell me about the joint venture between OONA & The Growth Revolution? Why did you choose for a joint venture? And how did it come about?

“About a year ago, Yannick invited me to The Growth Conference”, explains Werner. “When checking the line-up of the event, I was thrilled to see that people from Uber & Google would speak at or would attend the event. As I was eager to pick the brains of these people and get to know Yannick and his team better – the driving forces behind The Growth Conference -, I decided to tune in. And honestly … I had a blast! I loved the speakers, especially Kay Snels, who was Marketing Manager for Uber in San Francisco at that time. The fun thing is that later that evening, when Yannick and I were chit chatting at the networking party, we got a genius idea. As crazy as we are, we booked an inspirational trip to London. Overnight. Inspirational trip? Yes, a trip to London to go and visit some booming agencies and conduct interviews with their CEO’s, with the main goal of being inspired.” 

Yannick continues, “And there, In London, the seed was planted to eventually join forces. As OONA was looking for a digital engine and The Growth Revolution was looking for more structure, we both had the feeling that we could make each other better. OONA with its client service culture and The Growth Revolution with its digital savoir-faire, seemed complementary. And not only on first sight … The statement that Set Godin made in his book ‘This is marketing’, claiming that marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but rather about the stories you tell, gave us another motive to collaborate” says Yannick. “Why? As storytelling is an uncontestable part of the OONA DNA.” 

“It’s even our tagline”, interrupts Werner.  

“We both felt that the match was not only skillset wise, but also offering wise,” Yannick continues. “We are convinced that bringing together the best of both worlds, will level-up the offerings of both companies. And yes, this also means that The Growth Revolution will broaden its offerings to also serve B2C clients besides B2B players. And guess what? The first B2C clients are already a reality. 

“Soit, long story short,” continues Werner, “all these signals made us strongly belief that the performance and data driven culture of The Growth Revolution and the content driven culture of OONA, together form the ideal mix for a future proof, modern marketing agency. 

“And as experimentation is in the DNA of The Growth Revolution”, brags Yannick, “we’ve put it to the test to see how things work out. And now, after the first steps have been made, The Growth Revolution is slightly shaping its place as digital satellite around OONA. Exciting, isn’t it?”

Suppose the two agencies are human beings, what three character traits would clients use to describe each of you? And where is the sweet spot of similarities between the companies?

“If I think of The Growth Revolution”, starts Yannick, “clients would describe us as experimental, rebellious & hard-headed”. 

“That is also what we love the most about The Growth Revolution”, continues Werner. “That wild, outgoing aspect. But the energy needs to be channeled, and that is where OONA comes in. We bring more patience and focus to the table while The Growth Revolution bring us, OONA, out of our comfort zone & challenges us to get things done. Quickly. And it works. We are now able to look beyond the current limits and scope that OONA occupies. We start to question everything and are hungry for more!”

“Now, coming back to your question,” says Werner, “OONA is often described as a pretty lady who is wise, creative and welcoming. As someone who can tell well, someone who you like to be with. A duty conscious, outgoing person, who works her ass off.”

What can OONA and The Growth Revolution do for their employees that other agencies can’t?

“The ultimate goal in the field of people & culture”, according to Yannick, “is to build a platform that allows young talent to accelerate their skills. Quickly. We want to give our employees a lot of freedom, allowing them early on in their career to work on big opportunities for big clients. Unique in our approach is the guidance we give while leaving everyone as free as possible. Trust over control isn’t it?”

Which kind of customers are OONA & The Growth Revolution aiming to serve?

“That’s simple”, states Werner. “Aspirational A-brands and B2C clients. For us it’s all about consumer brands with a strong lifestyle component. It’s about the brands that want to disrupt. Brands that know how the world of tomorrow will look like. Progressive brands, brands that are on the frontpage of Adweek.” 

“That’s it”, continues Yannick. “We indeed aim to serve brands who’s Marketing Managers show dare and spirit. We are looking for clients that want to be challenged, clients that dare to make decisions. Quickly, as tomorrow is unstoppable.”

Together, you currently have a team of more than 50 digital natives. How do you mix up these A-players? Does the joint venture requires a great change within the company culture of both companies? And what do you look for in terms of joined culture – structured or entrepreneurial?

“Currently, we use teach me’s to share internal knowledge”, starts Yannick. “As teach me’s take place in a more informal setting – think of beers, meme sharing moments, … -, we see teach me’s as the ideal way to level up skills & mingle up people. Last week for example, we had a Twitter teach me. And while everyone is proclaiming that Twitter is dead, we had a Twitter expert from The Growth Revolution that did his utmost to prove everybody wrong. It was serious fun.”

“Another concept we’re about to launch to stimulate building upon each other”, continues Yannick, “is lunch & learn”. This implies that one afternoon/month we invite an external speaker to come over to inspire all of us, covering topics such as the future of cryptocurrency.” 

“But we are still working on it,” continues Werner. “It’s obviously something that has to grow, you cannot force this. Especially because OONA, in terms of number of people, is the dominating culture and you don’t want The Growth Revolution people to feel absorbed. And as there is no joy in losing, we both truly belief that building and celebrating successes together as one family, is the best ingredient to build a mutual perspective, … How? Via an entrepreneurial culture obviously. A culture that flourishes when structured entrepreneurship takes place. A culture where there is a system in the madness, to say it with the words of Shakespeare.”

Lastly, according to both of you, what does the agency of the future look like?

“As we told you previously”, begins Werner, “we aim to bundle the best of two worlds to create a resilient agency. For our employees, we want to be a knowledge center, an agency where people can improve and reinvent themselves. For our clients, we want to offer a skillset that is in constant evolution. We want to be an agency that is in constant stretch between the old and the new world. A hybrid player with the perfect size to be lean & mean!

Curious to see the first tangible results of the joint venture between OONA & The Growth Revolution? Tune in on our first joined event, Hack Your Growth, on october 24th and get a first taste of the best of two worlds!

We are happy to welcome you there, so make sure to claim your spot! 👇