As marketers, we know all too well the struggles of trying to craft a layered brand marketing experience that drives growth - with a very limited budget. But much like all other creative endeavors, sometimes those obstacles breed the most creative ideas.

Such was the case for Loic Jeanjean, head of demand generation and EMEA marketing for Pleo, who recently sat down for the latest installment of Let’s Talk Marketing, But First Fika.


Loic gave us the backstory on his journey within the brand marketing space, which included work in the startup environment and involved lots of bootstrap marketing. After bouncing around Australia and Canada, Loic took his experience back to Europe and discovered his true calling in B2B marketing.

It was around this time that he joined Pleo, a financial services company that was quickly scaling up. One of the company’s core missions is to help other small and mid-sized businesses to revolutionize their expense reporting processes. One of the main draws to the emerging unicorn was their Scandinavian approach to people and their customers.

While they serve 6 markets across Europe, Pleo also takes a particularly localized approach to serving their customers. This is in part due to the personalization they seek to offer, but also due to the fact that each market can contain different financial recording and reporting laws. Also, while Pleo enjoyed strong brand recognition in most of their markets, potential and existing customers in Sweden didn’t have quite as strong of an affinity.

This all presented a unique challenge to Loic.

The primary goal overall was to drive pipeline growth. However, as he would tell us, it was more important to ensure that people were hearing about the Pleo brand and enjoying positive brand experiences over time. He was more interested in building long-term afinity rather than tracking every lead and converting every website visitor.

Why include brand marketing, though?

“Not everyone arriving at the website is ready to buy today,” said Loic, “nor should they.”

Instead, Loic took more of an above-the-line approach to growth by focusing on brand marketing. He leaned on his past experiences in a bootstrapping environment to envision a new, low-cost experiential campaign that could bring the Pleo brand to strategic local markets within Sweden.

The answer: a branded food truck.

“People love a free lunch, so we knew we had to do something with food,” said Loic.

Here’s how it worked: the truck was stationed in a well-trafficked area in Stockholm where people would be darting out of their offices to grab lunch. Waiting for them on the street was the Pleo food truck. When approaching the truck, Pleo ambassadors would encourage people to register in order to get a free lunch. They would then be informed about how the system works while waiting in line.

When they received their meal, a receipt was printed out for them. The recipient then simply took a photo of the physical receipt in the app and hit “submit.” While the meal was free, in a real application, the expense would have already been submitted to their employer. The food truck was able to capture the essence and ease of the app in a seamless brand marketing initiative.

Plus, a unique quality of Sweden is that (despite being a very digital society) employees are still required to submit physical receipts with their expense reports. By law, employers must then retain those receipts for three years in case an audit is requested.

This presents quite a few challenges to the expense reporting process. First, employees forget to request receipts. Those receipts often get lost. Employees even forget to include items on an expense report. Additionally, receipts are often printed with ink that isn’t designed to last three years. Ink can fade and rub off of the paper while being stored, causing issues in the event of an audit.

Pleo helps alleviate all of these challenges by making expense reporting digital and immediate. But let’s go back to the food truck real quick.

At the completion of the brand marketing experience, guests who submitted their expense through the Pleo app were encouraged to then throw away the physical receipt.

“It was a little act of civic disobedience,” said Loic.

It was more than just a mini protest, though. It demonstrated that the brand actually understood the individual challenges that employees experience in Sweden. It gave them a lighthearted and quick way to let their frustrations out while also delivering a rewarding, positive experience with the brand.

Plus, this effort created a micro-army of brand ambassadors who could then go back to their offices and demand a better solution for expense reporting.

The initiative seemed to be a bit of a hit, too. On the first day of the event, the food truck attracted 100 guests. On day two, there were 300 people experiencing the Pleo brand. Of those who participated, 70 percent said they were interested in learning more about Pleo, which led a soft touch sales process.

Loic and the Pleo team are now looking at ways to replicate the brand marketing experience across all of Sweden, particularly for their existing users. Being a customer-centric company, it’s important to deliver random acts of kindness for those existing customers, according to Loic.

It’s not just about creating a warm and fuzzy feeling around the brand, either. The growth marketing team has a whole series of metrics in mind for the expanded program. Of course, they will be looking for the overall quantity of registrants, but they are also looking to measure changes in NPS score, increased usage and adoption, correlation between registrants and upselling subscription renewals, and more.

It’s quite an interesting look into how a food and beverage offering can simultaneously be boundary-breaking for Pleo, while also being completely on-brand.

So, why include brand marketing in the mix? Simple. It provides creative opportunities to deliver a layered experience that demonstrates your product while also building a feeling that customers will gravitate toward for years.

If you’d like to learn more about how Loic and his team approached the initiative, including why he views brand experience as the paramount deliverable, check out the video above.