Nathalie Brähler has a wide and successful global experience creating customer-centric brands with an emphasis on the digital medium. She is an expert in understanding and using data to generate powerful insights and insights from interactions with customers, creating stories that connect brands with consumers, and innovative digital propositions that align with business objectives.
Nathalie has been a strategic and creative leader in projects for Megafon, Philips, Vodafone, NBC and Kraft Heinz in projects carried out in different cultures:The Middle East, Europe, Russia and South Africa.
At Creative Business University, she leads the radical change chair and builds a goal-driven, creative thinking culture to empower students to compete in rapidly changing global markets. It has redefined the university's four-year curriculum to meet a future that is getting faster and faster.
She was chair of the Creative Business Conference in October 2017, showing how AI, blockchains, bots, and ecosystems will transform creative business. She has been a member of the jury at several international festivals, as well as a leader in workshops for leading brands in innovation-related issues.
Nathalie speaks Dutch, English, French and German and made the digital strategy chair at Hyper Island between 2015 and 2016. She developed numerous projects based on Game Theory.
She is a dedicated coach, able to guide and inspire teams to create and offer impacting solutions that bring new aspects about client companies and consumer behavior.
What was your very first job?
My brother and I were always helping out in the advertising agency of our parents: bringing packages from A to B, cleaning the ashtrays (it was the late Mad Men era), bringing coffee, cleaning the company car. When I got older, I did my first ad jobs as a copywriter. The agency felt like a family; everybody worked very hard, but there was always time for a laugh.
Please describe, in your own words, what your job is and what work it entails.
I'm a creative strategist / creative director with an entrepreneurial mindset. All team members at 60 layers of cake have a sense of entrepreneurship, what people now call 'start-up mentality'. In my work, I collaborate with teams, agencies and clients in Europe, Middle East, South-Africa and Russia. In business & brand terms I usually look for a transitional strategy, achieving today’s desired goals, in preparation for the future - combining brand, digital, media and IP thinking. In creative terms, I value smart disruption and a great story. I like to work fast paced when it comes to getting things done, but when I do deep work, I follow my flow.
How did you discover that the creative world was right for you? Was there a time in your life that you credit to this discovery? What was there train of events that brought you to where you are today?
I come from a family with artists, mostly painters, so the creative world came naturally to me. My father and grandmother taught me how to look at the world with different eyes and made me put my "soul-spectacles" on. Their advice was visually based, but I chose the path of the words. I remember creating my first story, comic-strip style for a newspaper contest; I think I was seven years old. When I saw it printed on paper, in a real newspaper, I suddenly asked myself: will people understand this very personal story? That's when I learned to shape. I still tend to call on at least three people to read my rationales, stories and game concepts, just to grasp different ways of understanding. I need that interaction, and I will shape my work accordingly, but I always keep the soul of the work untouched.
The apotheosis of interaction with a story is in Reality Gaming, a field of interest I turned into an experiential branding business. To me, it's the ultimate way to tell a story: intense, interactive, immersive. Balancing the line between what's real and what's not makes an unforgettable experience for both customer and brand. In Reality Games the customer, or player, influences the narration and flow, sometimes almost real-time, which is very challenging for us, the creative team. Our first experiential project was a Benelux game for NBC Universal Global Networks, soon followed by numerous 'reality experiences', both for internal and external branding purposes.
In your constantly growing and expanding industry, how do you find inspiration to keep your work fresh, innovative and relevant?
To me, relevant work is based on (customer) empathy. The unconditional act of projecting myself into the customers’, users’, players' shoes has to be unreserved, unbiased - a challenge every time. That's why I switch roles; place myself in the full experience through the eyes of the user and really enact the whole journey. That doesn't only lead to unforeseen insights but also to hilarious situations which make these enacting session great fun to do in a team. I read, watch and listen to a lot of stories, fiction and non-fiction, from literature to interactive film, photography and theatre, to understand what people are actually doing and why. In conversations, I make an effort to listen more than talk. I try to master the art to disappear, rather than interfere while having deep conversations and to stay away from any assumptions about the “what” and “how”. All that keeps my mind fresh.
If you had to pick one piece of work or project that you are most proud of, more for the creative work and innovation it required, rather than its recognition or industry “success,” what would it be?
Our virtual co-worker was very innovative (and successful), but since it was developed for internal branding, we kept it off the advertising festivals radar. A mistake, when I look back. The latest IFTTT for Audi, in collab with Digitas Lbi, turning your Instagram into a playlist, was just a small part of a bigger campaign but is turning out to be very successful. Every year I guide students at Tech University and University of Arts in their (Design) Thinking process and explain how they can bring innovations to market. This year we will launch Water Farming as a new, innovative Dutch agriculture concept.
What social media artist are you most influenced by?
mmm.... not so much influenced by one artist. I really like the Dutch Bright tech feed, they can bring tech as entertainment. I also follow the Dutch Mediamatic because they merge tech with... well... anything: food, human skin, fungi, beer, plants, you name it; an art form in itself. Sometimes I use the poetry lines of @nayyirah.waheed for inspiration in a strategy or scenario. Her lines do not go deep but they say a lot with very few words. Furthermore: Spanish graffiti artist duo Pichi & Avo, Yvan Rodic / Facehunter on Insta / mrfh on Snapchat, Banksy, anothersomething.org (and their Current Obsessions).