20 Minutes with Anouk Jans
How to create a hype? That is the question concerning marketing-, advertising- and social media-agencies all over the world. Anouk Jans cannot give an answer to that question, she “just feels it” – and her gut instinct never seems to be off. Before blogs even were the next big thing, she had one. She founded her own social media agency before influencer marketing dominated the scene and parted with this idea when it had its peak. She exchanged social media for storytelling and now commits to bringing a change into the world of marketing: It is all about real people, their stories, socio-cultural movements, long-lasting creation of innovative formats, sustainable support of talents and challenging conventional ways of thinking. With her newest project, the C-Pop, she grabs zeitgeist by its topicality and sets up a school for creative freelancers. In an intimate environment, she creates a community by uniting innovators, creative leaders, newbies and questioners with the goal to enhance their skill-sets, inspire and get to know each other. Anouk does not approach a project for the sole reason of getting likes, followers or going viral, she starts them because she believes in it, she feels it – to fill a gap. She does not want to find the answer to the hype-question – Anouk wants to create something with societal and cultural relevance, while all the others are still searching for the answer to the wrong question.
"My inner compass is all about storytelling."
Nele Tüch: You have become known as the youngest fashion blogger in Germany and have worked as a stylist, columnist, speaker and author. At the age of just 22, you founded your own social media agency, which has developed into a consulting agency. You have managed the campaigns of major brands. Currently, you are realizing your creativity and entrepreneurial spirit with the creative collective BYUS and the Creative Pop-Up School - you have many talents. Where would you say lies your heart?
Anouk Jans: The C-Pop is definitely my most personal project so far because it offers a real added value for so many creatives and freelancers, but my inner compass is all about storytelling! Humans have been and will forever be my main inspiration. Our stories about life, death, pain, joy, love and faith. The urge to find out more about our hopes and dreams is what keeps me going. I want to find and tell stories that are touching and inspirational - not only as a creative director but hopefully also as a writer in the future. I am currently working on my second book.
NT: Could you tell us a little bit about your second book?
Anouk Jans: It is about life, love and friendship, partly autobiographic and partly fictional. It is also about questioning thruth, the significance of lies and the different realities each of us lives in. I guess one could say that it is a book about my generation and our perception of intimacy, connection and empathy. There is one quote by Masashi Kishimoto that fits beautifully to the idea behind the book: "...every single one of us goes through life depending on and bound by our individual knowledge and awareness. And we call it reality. However, both knowledge and awareness are equivocal. One's reality might be another's illusion. We all live inside our own fantasies, don't you think?”
NT: Is there a particular topic you are really passionate about at the moment?
Anouk Jans: Apart from our BYUS format „UNFAMOUS“ which portraits unknown talents around the world my focus these days lies on new ways of marketing. I am currently working with many great startups from the food industry which put sustainability and health first. To help them grow and create campaigns that transport their mission is something I care about.
NT: Still now, we are surrounded by so many outdated ideas - whether it is traditional gender roles, antiquated beauty ideals or racism issues. Why is the 21st century arriving so slowly in brand communication?
Anouk Jans: Looking back at the beauty standards that surrounded my 16-year-old self I am very proud of the change the industry went through until now. Our role models shifted, our beauty ideals and our priorities, too. Of course, it could all have happened faster, but what matters more to me than speed is consistency. It is my job to wake up brands which still need a change of thinking and to be sensitive at the same time, to combine their tradition and their new possibilities with respect towards their history.
"In the end, it is all about really listening - to our heart, to people and the needs of the environment."
NT: Even when it was not fast, a lot has changed. People are becoming more aware and more conscious - will we be able to maintain this way of thinking in the long term?
Anouk Jans: I definitely think so, yes. Of course, we still have a lot of work and soul-searching ahead of us but what counts are empathy and intellectual attitude. As Amy Rosenthal said: „We need to pay attention to what we pay attention to“. And we need to be kind to others and ourselves. In the end, it is all about really listening - to our heart, to people and the needs of the environment.
NT: What has the creative industry not yet understood?
Anouk Jans: That great marketing and important storytelling cannot be measured only by numbers. Followers and likes should not drive our society nor our way of thinking and creating. I know it seems a little unrealistic at the moment but I am actually looking forward to the day when we have new creative currencies outside of Instagram and when big fashion influencers will not be the centre of marketing anymore.
NT: Did the idea for C-Pop come from a personal aha-moment?
Anouk Jans: Oh definitely. I received so many portfolios from freelancers and questions about how to get in touch with brands or how to start working in the industry that I thought: We need a safe space for those questions! Also, I was never a huge fan of festivals so I wanted to create something that was smaller, more intimate. A big stage and a big audience is not always an indicator of quality.
NT: In an interview, you once said that you make decisions intuitively. You recognize if something is good when you ‘feel it’. In which project was this feeling especially strong?
Anouk Jans: A campaign that was meant to be ironic at first: My Persil hoodie campaign. At that time Vetements was all over the place and after noticing the DHL shirts and getting a request from Persil I put the Persil logo on an oversized hoodie just for fun. Looking at it one day later I somehow new people would like it. After Persil gave me a go for the campaign I contacted a small but high-end design studio in Hamburg and said that I needed a unique and iconic fit for an oversized hoodie and that I wanted to print the Persil Logo on it. The challenge was to make it high-quality so it would not look cheap. The output was the cosiest sweater – I still wear it and receive amazing feedback about it even years later. The interesting thing about the campaign was that the idea was not new but the interpretation was. From that, I learned that you do not have to reinvent the wheel every time. Different perspectives are just as interesting as completely new approaches.
NT: How important is the right balance, and what does it look like for you?
Anouk Jans: That has been my struggle for years: Balance. For me, balance is about calmness and peace of mind – letting go of my perfectionism. Weirdly enough many of my talents seem to be a gift and a curse at the same time so I need to learn to let go, otherwise, I would go nuts in a world where you cannot control anything except your own mindset.
"My personal secret of success is that I always seek for inspiration. The brain is a muscle, if you do not train it, it will get weak."
NT: Personal leeway (=Freiraum) - what does it mean for you and where can you find it?
Anouk Jans: To be who I am without fearing judgement. And also the freedom to make mistakes, to try things and to fail. Space for failure is my personal leeway.
NT: What would you recommend to everyone in the creative industry?
Anouk Jans: Be inquisitive, always keep your eyes, your heart and your thoughts open and try things: try, fail, try again. My personal „secret of success“ (and success is something everyone needs to define for themselves, of course) is that I always seek for inspiration. The brain is a muscle, if you do not train it, it will get weak. And the brain is the main tool for any creative out there!
Photo: Olaf Malzahn
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