Why marketing with purpose isn’t for softies.

Make it simple but significant’: that’s the motto of Rotterdam-based strategic and creative branding agency DEARDAN&Friends. Founder Danny John Debisarun, aka DEARDAN, started the agency almost six years ago in search of work that would give him a sense of purpose. Today, it creates campaigns for national and international companies who aim for more than just monetary profit. “We want to awaken people with a gentle kiss.”

DEARDAN (41, creative strategy director) spent over a decade working for agencies but found himself facing a deficit of meaning in his work. “I was no longer happy working for clients who don’t use profits to make a significantly better product or service, so I started over from scratch. At DEARDAN&Friends, our common driver is to create meaningful and inspiring communication for brands that want to create a positive impact on people’s daily lives, the environment and society.”

“I simply want to contribute to something meaningful with like-minded people and have fun while doing so,” DEARDAN attests. “I now co-manage the agency with Irene Trimp: a former client turned independent content marketing strategist. Our collaboration was so synergetic that we decided to join forces for other clients, as well. We work with a network of specialists who are on the same wavelength to create campaigns with impact and heart.”



More meaning, less clutter

To achieve said impact, DEARDAN is a firm believer in clarity and simplicity. “We want to move people with our campaigns and change their view in the long term – but not through loud, shocking statements. It’s not our style to grab people by the throat: we prefer to awaken them with a gentle kiss.”

“I also believe honesty is key. We always search for the positive side and make people rethink their set beliefs,”explains DEARDAN. “But we don’t want to paint an unrealistically sunny picture either. With our campaign ‘Helden voor de klas’ (Heroes in the Classroom), aimed at attracting new teachers, we emphasised their position as important role models for the future generation. That’s not to say it’s an easy job, but it reminds people of the value inherent in that work.”


‘Helden voor de Klas’ motivates young people to be a hero in the classroom for the next generation.

To create campaigns that work for each client, DEARDAN&Friends takes a fully collaborative approach. “Our clients don’t just wait for us to pull a rabbit out of our hat. We work alongside them to refine a campaign until it’s perfect for them. This means that the resulting strategy is supported by the entire company and its stakeholders. And the proof is in the pudding. This year we won the Grand Prix Content Marketing Award for best partnership.”

Between social impact and innovation

The agency’s emphasis on purpose and meaning in its campaigns does not mean that its strategies are soft, DEARDAN emphasises. “We provide the analyses to show that what we create has a real impact. We work with for-profit companies, so the numbers have to add up.”


Naming and branding qlinker. The 100% digital housing corporation of the Netherlands.

Trimp adds: “Our way of working is both data-informed and purpose-driven. We like the data, but we mostly love contributing to the purpose of our clients.” “Our main focus is the sector on the interface between social impact and innovation,” continues DEARDAN. “For example, we created the brand strategy and brand identity for ‘qlinker’, the first entirely digital housing corporation in the Netherlands. And we have just started working on naming and branding Zenid®, jet fuel from air: an international consortium of tech companies who turn carbon dioxide from air, water and renewable electricity into carbon-neutral kerosene.”


Naming and branding world’s first kerosene from air together with Urban Crossovers.

Diversity in a fluid world

Diversity is another important topic for DEARDAN&Friends. “When we attend marketing events, we see that most of our colleagues are part of a homogenous group. We rarely meet people who look like us. The result is that in most brand communication, white heteronormative role models are still the norm. That’s probably not a conscious choice: everyone works from within their own established frameworks. But it would be nice if diversity felt more natural instead of a token.”

And it does come naturally for DEARDAN&Friends, as evidenced in their campaign for Pleegzorg Nederland, the national foster care organisation. “Our imagery included people of all sorts of ethnicities, because that’s the reality we see around us. The client told us that we had created something quite different from other agencies they had worked with. For us, diversity and fluidity are the norm.” Trimp adds: “It is something we work on consciously. We look for specialists who can push our all-inclusive communication to the next level in terms of ethnicity, gender and sexuality.”


National campaign Openjewereld.nu invites people to think about foster parenting without prejudice.

“The key to good communication is to focus on what drives your target group emotionally,” DEARDAN concludes. “People should be free to think for themselves: you don’t have to force-feed them your message, you just have to communicate things in a way that connects with them. Simplicity and positivity paired with intelligence – I’d like to think that’s our signature style, and I hope to keep it that way in partnership with many interesting clients to come.”

Find DEARDAN & Friends’ portfolio online at: www.deardanandfriends.com or click on the images to see cases.

This article appeared in – Marketing specialists of the Netherlands – by Discover Benelux © 2020. Text: Maya Witters | Photography: Chris & Mischa Bonis

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Personal branding