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What did the AgroDesign activities achieve over the three days of the Food, Wine and Packaging fair in Thessaloniki?
*Jonathan Marks, media consultant and digital storyteller strategist.
– There were several cases of social entrepreneurs who are clearly driven by the passion to do good for both their fellow citizens and customers abroad. Export is not an excuse for a failed market inside Greece – it has to be a genuine strategy and needs to be taken seriously.
– Growers and Producers got a “reality check”, validating both their foreign distribution model and getting critical, constructive feedback on the branding story, their name, packaging design and logo. For some this was a wake-up call, that their brand name or story would not work in foreign markets where customers have a different context. Strong stories and brands are essential if producers are going to stand-out in a crowded market.
– Dutch creatives got insights into the Thessaloniki creative scene. This city is clearly the creative capital of Greece. The local community has endured an extremely tough economic crisis. They have learned to fend for themselves and to no-longer assume that government subsidies will be forthcoming. There are signs of green shoots emerging as spring 2015 unfolds. But the recovery will favour those take the “lean startup approach”.
– The challenge facing both Dutch and Greek creatives is that most companies are either sole owners or partnerships between 2 people sharing a workspace. They realize that by working together, they can form collaborative teams that can approach larger (corporate) clients. These teams and alliances will be project based, organized rather like the international film industry.
– The severe economic crisis has made trust very difficult between individuals across all sectors in Greece. Often the insights from independent outsiders (i.e. the Dutch delegation) were able to start a more positive conversation within the circle of Greek growers and producers.
– I expect some simple collaborative projects will arise from the fair, where Greek growers and producers with global ambitions will experiment with the Dutch market to test ideas and hunches. The Netherlands is a great springboard to other, larger European markets – if the concept works in the Netherlands, it will work everywhere. This will only work if there is trust and interaction between Dutch and Greek creatives. They need to establish a common way of collaborating together and decide on the value put on each other’s contribution. This has a chance of working if all parties operate in a transparent way and work out the differences and expectations. Dutch designers can obviously command higher fees with Dutch clients than with Greek exporters at the moment. But I also sensed that Dutch creatives were willing to experiment – and benefited from the opportunity to understand other cultures.
– I believe there is an opportunity for cultural exchanges – Dutch designers would benefit from seeing how Greek creatives are creating their own renaissance. Mixing this with expeditions to see growers and producers in their own context would give the trip a practical dimension. Visitors are interested in the stories of disruption – how creativity recovers when put under pressure.
– I think some of the rising stars in the Thessaloniki cultural circles might benefit from visiting Dutch design week or other events in the Netherlands (maker fairs, smart city events) to share their approach and break a few clichés.
– The inclusion of Dutch food importers in the delegation was important to the success of the mission. The selection of the entrepreneurs was also crucial – while at the fair they acted as independent consultants rather than commercial importers. They shared experiences which might not have happened had the setting been a purely commercial market.
– Agrodesign played an important role both in matchmaking and taking an active part in making the Dutch delegation feel welcome. The results were clear on the faces of the participants – and in the e-mail correspondence which flowed after the exhibition finished.