As she completes her first month in her new role as Verve’s Strategy Lead, Eveline Koppejan, offers us a peek behind the curtain to talk aha moments, the golden ratio for strategists, and how strategy will get Verve closer to its ambition of being the world’s #1 branding agency.
The evergreen tension in our industry: branding people are perceived as strategy consultants and marketers as car salespeople or creatives. In your career, you’ve been both. Where do you stand now?
It all started with a fascination for well-designed packaging, which developed further into an education in fashion and branding. Before Verve, I worked for brands like TikTok, HelloFresh, Moncler and UNICEF at MediaMonks. I loved the ever-changing stream of clients, industries and challenges. It forces you to reinvent yourself and your methods. But there was never enough time; if you start a project today that should’ve been finished yesterday, it won’t be at the level that you want it to be.
Branding is a different game. You dig deep; challenge, question and contend until you get to the heart of a company. You collaborate on a concept that will serve them for the next 5-10 years. In theory, at least! Most of our clients are hyper-growth startups in industries that didn’t exist a few months ago. Understanding where they’ll be in two years' time is already a stretch for some.
Martin Weigel puts it nicely: “A lot of strategy is about getting to the next step. By the time you've got to the next step and certainly the step after that, the possibilities in the situation will have changed”. Our priority is getting to that very first step.
Branding is a different game. You dig deep; challenge, question and contend until you get to the heart of a company.
If you weren’t a strategist, what career would you have?
I love to translate complex matters into simple, comprehensible texts and images. This is essentially what I do as a strategist - untangling multi-faceted, layered companies and their aspirations.
I once had a conversation with someone about my day-to-day tasks, and she guessed that I was a children’s book author. I like that metaphor because great children’s books are simple, imaginative and meaningful. So that would be my pick.
Most strategists rely on ratio. But in branding, it’s all about emotions. How do you cope?
It can feel counterintuitive. Branding is all about intuition and subconscious referencing. Strategy is about having a well-informed opinion. You need to back up your decisions, even about seemingly flimsy topics like colours or shapes.
As a strategy team, our opinions are not based on our own subjective truths. They’re based on brand, market and audience insights. We do a lot of reading, observing and talking. It’s always worthwhile talking to people. What are they saying – what are they not saying? Often people say the opposite of what they mean, and often people do the opposite of what they say. It’s our job to understand the difference.
Verve’s strategists come from diverse backgrounds and schools of thought. How do you unify them to buy into Verve’s own way of doing strategy?
We have a good balance of strategists on both sides of the is branding an art or science debate. But all of us live by the Verve values: sense, challenge and love. We sense what’s going on in the world around us. We challenge ourselves and everyone we work with. We don’t just say ‘yes and amen’ to every point of feedback. And we simply love what we do. We want to solve clients’ problems as well as we can. A briefing is a puzzle waiting to be solved. A strategy is the current best possible answer to that.
Challenging is in Verve’s DNA.
Do you stick to a set-in-stone ‘Verve methodology’ or are your processes more flexible?
As a team, we’re reinventing ourselves all the time. Our methodology is not set-in-stone but more like carved in wood. We talk about living brands a lot - but we’re a living team with a living methodology too!
When is a why-statement great, not just good? How long should a strategic deck be to get the message across and not gather digital dust after the presentation?
We’re constantly asking ourselves and each other these questions to keep raising the bar. We believe that quality work attracts quality people and quality clients.
Our methodology is not set-in-stone but more like carved in wood.
It’s 2026 and you’ve been Strategy Lead for three years. Where do you see Verve?
I believe we’ll be closer to our Big Hairy, Audacious Goal: to be the #1 branding agency in the world. Can you imagine what we've learned passing all those basecamps on our way to that top? Excellence is about iteration.
We won’t get there by working with the most brands; it will be through work that is influential and makes a positive impact. This impact doesn’t always have to be achieved by Verve. It can be achieved by how our clients go out in the world and use their products and services for the better. I like doing good by branding better.
What do you love most about your new position?
The title of ‘lead’ implies that I know it all. But that’s not true - every project, and every encounter with a colleague, is an opportunity to learn something new. I see life as an experiment, and I see work as an experiment.
Being part of paradigm shifts in a company is always exciting, but we try to make the process fun too. As part of the strategic sessions, we often ask clients to imagine their company at a party. Is it that friend who's dancing on the bar or the thoughtful person who never orders just one drink? Branding can be a field trip for clients. Sometimes, they’ve been stuck with a boring, limiting brand for years, and it’s finally time to shake things up!
Getting to those aha moments is the best feeling in the world. When we boil down the vision of a brand and translate it into a statement, slogan or just one word. ‘Get on top of your paperwork’ for Caya, ‘Celebrate friction’ for Juni, ‘Move up’ for The Org or the ‘training improvement engine’ of aNewSpring. Something sticky that just gets it. That’s so powerful!