All posts by aroundtheworldin80brands

Eike Batista in Rio de Janeiro

We exit the train and are struck by the marvellous view over Rio. We’ve been here before, but today is an exceptionally clear day. “A great day for taking pictures,” I think to myself. We walk up a small flight of stairs under the right arm of the Christ. There are not many people on the site. A man is leaning on the balustrade overlooking the Lagoon and Ipanema. As he looks up, we recognise Eike Batista.

Eike Batista - The power of Passion
Eike Batista – The power of Passion

“Welcome to one of my favourite spots,” he says. “I wanted to meet you here, to show you one of my greatest passions: Rio. By sharing my story about Rio with you, you’ll get an insight into how I run my business; from a holistic perspective. “Let me start with my vision,” Eike says while stretching his arm to invite us to follow him and walk around the Christ statue. “It started with the idea of making Rio the most beautiful city in the world. I wanted to make the city safe, prosperous, clean and attractive. The perfect city for living and working. Cidade Maravilhosa.”

I take out my camera and zoom in on Sugarloaf Mountain, which we just passed by car. A cable car just left the ground station. I wait until it is halfway and press the shutter. “Great shot,” I think to myself. “Rio certainly has the looks to be the most beautiful city in the world.”

“That’s an ambitious vision. What was the next step?” Anouk asks.

“To achieve my goal,” Eike says, “I needed to involve more people, raise the stakes. But how? How could I get politics involved? And how could I engage the man on the street?”

I’m trying to think of a good answer, but I come up blank. “I hope the questions were rhetorical,” I think to myself.

“Then I saw the light,” Eike says while raising his index finger. “The answer was in the Olympics. If we could get the Olympic Games to Rio, then we’d be on the international stage. It would also give politics the necessary push. So I decided to invest a lot of effort into the bid for the Olympic Games.”

“Clearly you chose the right way to go, as the Olympics will indeed be here in 2016,” Anouk says. “And everybody is talking about it, from politics to the man on the street. And not only in Rio, or even Brazil.”

“That is exactly what we needed – to create a good climate for investors,” Eike says. “We got the train rolling.”

We walk on, following the balustrade, until we’re overlooking downtown Rio and Guanabara Bay. I look through my camera and focus on Santa Theresa. This is where we took the historical tramway over the Lapa bridge up on the hills and where we had a great lunch overlooking the busy city centre. I focus on the bay, adapt my shutter speed and click. “Nice shot,” I think out loud.

“Okay, so you got everybody’s attention,” Anouk says. “What were your next steps?”

“So Rio was on the international stage, and everybody was focused,” Eike continues. “The time was right for the operational part. This plan included over one hundred things to deal with; good challenges, including cleaning the Lagoon, restoring Copacabana to its original glory, renovating the downtown area, upgrading the port area, building a new modern art museum, improving the city’s infrastructure, and many more.”

I scan the city through my lens and see an aeroplane taking off from Santos Dumont Airport. More to the left I see the port area, which is being completely renovated while keeping the old look and feel intact. I continue to the left and zoom in on Maracana football stadium. “What about Maracana?” I ask.

“Maracana was built to host the World Cup football in the 1950s,” Eike responds. “It is being completely renovated for the World Cup in 2014. When it’s finished, it will once again be the stadium the whole world is jealous about.”

“What about the favelas?” Anouk asks. “Are they also part of the master plan?”

“I’m not a great believer in treating symptoms,” Eike responds, ”I believe more in stimulating the local economy and creating jobs. The master plan will create prosperity, also in the favelas. You don’t give a hungry man a fish, you teach him how to fish.”

We’re passing under the left arm of the Christ statue and behind the Corcovado mountains we can see the Tijuca Forest, stretching as far as the eye can see. “This is the world’s largest urban forest, covering some 32 km2,” Eike says pointing at the mountains, “the original rainforest covered the entire Brazilian coast when the Portuguese set foot on land some centuries ago. Tijuca Forest is therefore something we should protect.”

“So what makes you so successful?” Anouk asks.

“It all starts with passion,” Eike responds, “passion is my power. From there it’s like the full circle we made overlooking Rio de Janeiro. This is also the way I look at things. A 360-degree, holistic approach. Add perseverance and you can make things happen.”

I turn my camera on Eike and zoom in on his face and push the shutter. “The power of passion,” I think to myself.

© 2012 CoolBrands – Around the World in 80 Brands

Meeting Bob Jeffrey in Cannes

We’re sitting on the terrace of the Mocca across the street from Le Palais. “This is the best place to meet people,” I think to myself. “The perfect pastime. Sit, drink coffee, meet interesting people.” I can see Anouk coming across the road, apparently in quite in a hurry. “The Worldmakers are in Cannes!” she says.

Meeting Bob Jeffrey - the man behind Worldmakers - CoolBrands Around the World in 80 Brands
Meeting Bob Jeffrey – the man behind Worldmakers – CoolBrands Around the World in 80 Brands

“Worldmakers?” I say. “Worldmakers? Do you mean The Elders? Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Kofi Annan…?”

“No, the Worldmakers. The interviews we watch on YouTube on the JWT channel,” Anouk answers. “The ones where Bob Jeffrey talks to thought leaders.”

“Oh, you mean the Worldmakers!” I say.

Bob Jeffrey is JWT’s global CEO and we watch his interviews on a regular basis. He is based in New York, but apparently he’s in Cannes during the Lions.

“Let’s try and meet Bob,” Anouk says. “Great idea,” I reply. “Let’s sit here, drink some coffee and wait ‘til he passes by!” “Only joking,” I add.

I leave some money on the table for the coffee, get up and follow Anouk across the street. Instead of heading to the conference building, she turns left towards the beach. “Where are we going?” I ask.

Without slowing down Anouk answers: “We have to make a plan. I have to think.” She goes down the stairs to the beach, kicks off her shoes and walks down to the sea. “This is the perfect environment to think about how to get hold of Bob Jeffrey,” she says.

“We don’t have to get hold of him, we just wanna talk to him,” I think to myself without actually saying it so as not to disturb Anouk while she’s brewing up her ‘plan’.

There are not actually that many people on the beach. On the boulevard there are quite a few with badges on a key cord though who are clearly attending the Lions festival. Out to sea, about 300 metres from the beach, a big yacht is preparing to enter the marina. “Maybe he is on that yacht, drinking champagne,” I joke. But Anouk’s not reacting – she’s obviously still trying to come up with a way to ‘get hold’ of Bob, while overlooking the Mediterranean.

“I’ve got a plan,” she says all of a sudden. “In 45 minutes there is this conference with writer and philosopher, Alain de Botton. I can imagine it’s the kind of conference Bob would attend. The conference is taking place in Theatre Debussy. We have to spot him as he enters Le Palais, which will give us four minutes to walk with him to the conference room. In those four minutes we tell him we’d love to interview him and publish his story in our book Around the World in 80 Brands.”

“Great idea!” I say, “let’s synchronise our watches and take up our positions at the entrance!”

Thirty minutes later we’re on our way to Theatre Debussy, talking to Bob Jeffrey. “Bob, thanks for talking to us,” I say. “How did the idea for Worldmakers come about?”

“Well, there are two main ideas,” Bob says. “It’s related to who we are at JWT. We are ‘Worldmade’. We seek inspiration from around the world and we find the spark of creativity in international interaction. We can learn a lot from the people I interview. People that make things happen.”

We walk through the central hall of the Palais des Festivals, up a flight of stairs, and turn left towards the theatre.

“And the second?” I ask. “The second idea is…” Bob thinks out loud, “…that in addition to gathering inspiration, JWT also wants to inspire the world by interviewing the world’s most respected thinkers. ‘Worldmakers’ is an interesting source of valuable knowledge.”

“Does it have anything to do with talking the talk and walking the walk?” Anouk asks. “When JWT is pitching multiplatform business, this is a nice little hook that could impress potential clients.”

“Of course,” Bob replies. “It shows the agency is doing the same sort of thing – online video – that we want our clients to do as well. It shows our expertise in the matter.”

We enter the theatre, which is slowly filling up with creatives from all around the world. We stand in the passageway talking. On stage two men are testing the cameras and lighting. Another is turning some buttons; probably testing the sound. “Testing 1, 2, 3,” suddenly radiates from the speakers.

“Alain de Botton is coming on stage any minute now,” I think to myself. “Now is the time to ask Bob if we can interview him later today.”

Behind us, the announcer takes to the stage, some people start clapping, and we still haven’t set a meeting with Bob. He takes a step towards his empty seat… then turns back to us. “Guys, how about we interview you two after you’ve finished your trip Around the World in 80 Brands. Let’s discuss it over lunch after Alain de Botton’s speech.”

Bob walks over to his place and the announcer opens the session, “Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to welcome to the Lions stage in Cannes, writer and philosopher, Alain de Botton.”

We’re still standing in the passageway applauding like everybody else in the audience. “Wow,” I whisper to Anouk. “If we get interviewed on Worldmakers, we’ll be the Alain de Botton of storytelling.”

© 2012 CoolBrands – Around the World in 80 Brands


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Meeting Jose Miguel Sokoloff in Bogota

We are talking to Jose Miguel Sokoloff, global CCO for Lowe and partner of Lowe-SSP3 Bogota. Jose has been using creativity to try and help solve the guerilla war that has been raging in his home country Colombia for decades.

“Before I share my story, let me ask you a question,” Jose starts. “Have you ever been to Colombia? I see you spend a lot of time in Brazil. If you think Brazil is booming, wait until you see Colombia.”

“To be honest, we would like to go, but the stories we hear are not overly joyful,” Maarten says.

Jose replies, with a smile. “Yeah, I’ve heard a thing or two about Amsterdam too! But it seemed kind of okay when I visited last time. It’s true though, of course. Everyone knows some of the issues Colombia has been facing for as long as I can remember,” he says wryly. I am now 50, and have never known peace in my own country. I live in the city, and most of the war takes place in the jungle. But still, it affects everyone. There is one third of my country that I just can’t visit if I am to stay safe, however much I would love to. If I go to other countries, like Ecuador “next door”, I see people living in freedom.”

“That must be really frustrating,” I say.

Jose Miguel Sokoloff
“It is,” Jose continues. “It’s frustrating and makes me a little sad. Peace is what I want, for myself and for my four children. I have been wanting to change things forever… So that’s where we are at now. I am trying to change things. I used to work for a large international agency where we worked for multinationals, selling detergents and cars.

“Don’t get me wrong, I love that work, but I wanted to give something back to society as well. So that is why I started my own agency, as a way of increasing our ability to influence the things around us. By having local clients as well, alongside the global accounts we have at Lowe, we can influence the way they communicate, help them give back to society and in doing so change things. Of course, it is not just me. We have a whole team of professional and passionate people whom I work with to get things done and to make the difference.”

© 2013 CoolBrands

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Meeting Aline Santos Farhat in São Paulo

We leave our pousada just after breakfast. We walk to the corner of the street where we hail a taxi. “To Parque da Luz next to the Pinacoteca,” I say in my best Portuguese. The taxi makes a left turn, then a right and then a left again, zigzagging through the streets of Jardims Paulista. “I love this part of town,” Maarten says while looking out of the window. “It doesn’t feel like we’re in a metropole of 20 million inhabitants.”

After 20 minutes we arrive at the Pinacoteca, the oldest and one of the most important art museums of Brazil, since 1905 housed in this characteristic building. Here we have a meeting with Aline Santos, Global Senior Vice President for OMO.

We find her on the terrace of the Pinacoteca café which looks out over the park. “Instead of in my office, I wanted to find the right setting to share my story,” Aline says, pointing at the tall trees in the park. We look at the trees and back at Aline. “Is OMO into tree-washing these days?” I ask. “Not the trees,” she replies, “but the children playing behind the trees.

OMO - Dirt is Good

“A few years ago, we were sending out more or less the same message as everyone else, using the same language and the same images. This is a great danger in this market: the threat of commoditisation. Besides, we didn’t want to just be talking about ketchup stains anymore; we needed a message that mothers would remember even after the laundry was folded away in the cupboard. Brands without a purpose have no future in today’s competitive market.

“So, we came up with the Dirt is Good concept, which was a revolution in detergent land, where dirt used to be the enemy. We started encouraging parents to let their children play outside more. Let your kids discover the world, let them get dirty and OMO will take care of the dirt.”

Aline points again at the children. “I remember my own childhood, I played outside with my brothers all the time, climbing trees, building tree houses, running around, feeling free and getting the opportunity to explore the world around me. This is not only important for kids, but also for the adults they will become.”

The São Paulo sun is shining in the park, we leave the café, start walking towards the children and stop in the shade of the trees. I watch the running children, then turn to Aline: “So Dirt is Good has become a philosophy?” She pauses for a few seconds. “You can say that it has outgrown OMO as a product and has become a wake-up call for mothers.

“Using OMO as a vehicle, we started spreading the message about the importance of playing and exploring. The physical and emotional development that go with it. Children have the right to play, to be children. Of course, in the end we are a detergent producer and I have to make sure we sell enough products, but we make sure that we have a purpose in society.”

We walk back towards the Pinacoteca and I turn to Aline. “It is a most interesting challenge you have, creating a higher purpose for a detergent,” I say. “It probably isn’t a walk in the park at all.”

Read more: Aline Santos Farhat -“Dirt is Good” 

© 2012 CoolBrands – Around the World in 80 Brands

Meeting Deola Sagoe in Lagos

Deola Sagoe – Princess of African Fashion –

It is early afternoon when we touch down at Lagos International Airport and as we walk out of the arrivals hall, we are immediately engulfed in a wave of hot, humid air. I take off my jacket and before I even start looking where to go, a smartly dressed man walks up to us.

“Welcome to Nigeria!” he says with a smile. “My name is Fauzi, we were in touch via email to arrange our meeting. Please follow me, our car is waiting.” I am immediately struck by his perfect British accent.

Our chauffeur-driven car heads towards the city and we soon hit dense traffic. As we inch forward in the Lagos rush hour, Fauzi briefs us in preparation of our meeting with Nigerian fashion designer Deola Sagoe.

Deola Sagoe - Influencers Around the World
Deola Sagoe – Influencers Around the World

“Deola started working in fashion more than 20 years ago when she joined her mother’s label as a junior designer,” he says. “Her very personal style is inspired by her culturally diverse education on three continents. She picked up different ideas and cultural trends around the world, but Africa remains her greatest inspiration – the different textures and colours, the culture, the people, the vibe – she calls it ‘African Soul’.”

Fauzi explains that he and Deola recently started working together where he would take care of the business side of her fashion-design company. “Like most artists, she just wants to create beautiful things – she isn’t very business-minded,” he comments with a little smile.

Meanwhile our driver has managed to extricate himself from the traffic jam and turned onto the 12-kilometer Third Mainland Bridge. “We’re going straight to Deola’s atelier on Victoria Island,” Fauzi says as we speed across Lagos Lagoon. “She’ll be meeting us there.”

Surrounded by Lagos Lagoon to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the south, Victoria Island is clearly a more upmarket area, with brand-new high-rise office buildings, modern hotels and fancy shops.

“So how successful is Deola’s brand today?” I ask.

“The future looks bright” Fauzi says. “Deola has a haute couture and a prêt-à-porter line and the brand is slowly making a name for itself around the world – Deola is also showing her collection at the New York fashion Week.

“How do you see her wider role as an influencer of African fashion though?” Anouk asks.

“She has given 21st-century African fashion design a tremendous boost – her work is the clearest expression of African identity imaginable. Through her designs, Deola is spreading African culture, influencing the image of Nigeria and acting as a goodwill ambassador. In my opinion it is ground-breaking work.”

Our car stops in front of a sleek two-storey building with an unmistakable African look and feel. “This is it!” I tell Anouk as we get out of the car. “Get ready to meet princess of African fashion.”

© 2012 CoolBrands – Around the World in 80 Brands


CoolBrands Around the World in 80 Brands - Deola Sagoe  SOPHISTICATED FASHION WITH AN AFRICAN SOUL – DEOLA SAGOE

Meeting Ken Egbas from SERAs - CoolBrands Around the World in 80 Brands  MEETING KEN EGBAS, THE MAN BEHIND NIGERIA CSR AWARDS

Meeting Jacqueline Lampe - AMREF - CoolBrands Around the World in 80 Brands  MEETING JACQUELINE LAMPE IN TANZANIA – AMREF FLYING DOCTORS

Meeting Clara Chinwe Okoro - CoolBrands Around the World in 80 Brands  MEETING CLARA, THE ICE LADY IN LAGOS


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Meeting Camiel Eurlings at Schiphol Airport

The benefit of the benefit of flying KLM –

It’s early in the morning when the taxi drops us off at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. It’s real Dutch weather today: grey and rainy with a chill in the air.

In two hours we are flying to Brazil, where we are going to make a reportage about the Atlantic rainforest.  After check-in, we have time for a coffee in the KLM business lounge. Just as we are about to settle on two chaises longues with our café lattes, we see Camiel Eurlings, KLM’s managing director, sitting at the reading table. We met Camiel last month during a KLM dialogue about sustainable aviation.

We go up to greet him and he tells us that he is on his way to Paris for a meeting with Air France. “Et nous allons au Brésil pour sauver la… rainforest,” I say in my best French. “La fôret vierge,” Camiel helps me.

“This is exactly what we were talking about last time: our core business is to fly you to Brazil, and we do that with maximum safety and comfort. But that is the basis, and it doesn’t allow KLM to distinguish itself from other airlines. It’s about purpose. What role does KLM play in the life of its customers? What is the benefit of the benefit?”

“The benefit of the benefit? Can you explain?” I ask.

“It’s simple: the benefit of flying KLM is that you arrive safely in Brazil. The benefit of the benefit is that you can do your work there, making your reportage about the rainforest. How can I, as KLM, help you with that reportage? I can fly you there, but I can also put you in touch with our network of frequent flyers who know Brazil. Our cabin crew can give you tips about local customs, and where to have a good meal in Rio. That is the benefit of the benefit of flying with us.”

“How can I help people do business in Hong Kong? By flying them there, making sure that they have a stress-free journey and arrive at their meeting rested. Flying them there is our business, enabling them to do business is our purpose.”

Camiel Eurlings - CoolBrands Influencers Around the World

“Sounds logical,” I say.

“The same goes for helping people get to know Maasai culture in Tanzania and climb Kilimanjaro. We don’t just drop them in Dar es Salam, but at the airport near Kilimanjaro – that way they are in fighting form when they start their trek.”

“Wow, I never realised that climbing Kilimanjaro was the benefit of the benefit of KLM,” I say with a smile.

“And while we’re there we can also make a positive contribution to the local economy. Cabin crew do volunteer work – by helping in orphanages or cooking for the homeless. Many of our flight personnel are members of Wings of Support and Pilots Without Borders.

“And as we are anyway flying there, we might as well collect clothing in the Netherlands for the orphanage. Flying there and then just going to lie by the pool is too superficial for many KLM employees. They also want a purpose, a role in society.

“Enabling people to play a role in society, to do business, discover destinations, meet other cultures and make a valuable contribution in the lives of others. That’s the benefit of the benefit of flying KLM.”

© CoolBrands 2012

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Meeting Roberto Stern in Rio de Janeiro

We’re in Ipanema, the heart of Rio de Janeiro, and it’s quite simply stunning. Its art galleries, cafés and restaurants and of course its famous beach lend it an air of sophistication and elegance.

If there’s anyone in this magnificent city who really understands beauty, it’s Roberto Stern,CEO and Creative Director for H.Stern, one of the world’s leading, most innovative jewellers. It’s our lucky day – we’re meeting him for coffee.

H.Stern meeting

“Roberto, jewellers have traditionally been a fairly close-knit group, sticking to tradition and running their business with a certain degree of secrecy. How come you have broken the mould?”

“When I took over in the 1990s,” Roberto says, “I took over a very successful business created by my father. He was an innovator from the start. Like you say, before him the world of top-quality jewellery was very much a closed book, but he opened up our doors to the public to demonstrate our craftsmanship. He was also the first jeweller in Brazil to use Brazilian gemstones like aquamarines, amethysts, topaz, citrines and tourmalines. Without his vision, these stones might well still just be the domain of stone collectors. Nowadays, they are used in jewellery around the world and are known as Brazilian coloured stones. We created a new demand.”

“You’re something of an innovator yourself,” I say. “Where does your drive and creativity come from?”

“I think I get it from my dad. The only way he could express himself was to do things differently, and I have the same passion. Although I am originally an economist, which helps me with my function as CEO, I got into design because I wanted to do things that people thought were impossible. Create shocking, imperfect, organic design. I also wanted to make the brand attractive to all generations and so transformed the business into a house of design.”

“Why did you decide that was the best way forward?” I ask.

“Since I started in 1995, globalisation has swept the world and consumers everywhere want the same thing: style. They are looking for creativity, simplicity and straight elegant lines. Being ostentatious is out. It takes significant effort to stay on the cutting edge but we are out there with our global team anticipating trends, fashion and behaviour. It’s a far cry from the traditional artisan shops jewellers were known for. In the past few years we have launched collections inspired by the arts, architecture, music and fashion. Recently, we asked Oskar Metsavaht to design a watch for us, and we have just launched a unique Oscar Niemeyer line inspired by the curves he uses in his architectural designs. But while we have grown younger, we still respect and preserve our roots – top-quality craftsmanship.”

© 2012 CoolBrands – Around the World in 80 Brands

   Read more stories on Roberto Stern

Roberto Stern and Carlinhos Brown    Roberto and Carlinhos Brown – “anything but mainstream”

Roberto Stern and Diane von Furstenberg    Partnering with Diane von Furstenberg

Roberto Stern and Oscar Niemeyer   Roberto and Oscar Niemeyer – A legendary collaboration

Roberto Stern and Irmaos Campana     “Strolling through São Paulo with the Campana Brothers”

Tim Burton   Tim Burton and Alice in Wonderland

Grupo Corpo   The movement of Grupo Corpo

Making of the Iris collection with Kathy Holmes   Roberto and Costanza Pascolato on ‘Katie Holmes campaign’

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Meeting Lenny Niemeyer in Rio de Janeiro

We meet Lenny in her spacious atelier in Botafago, one of Rio’s beachfront bairros. Surrounded by racks of clothing, print samples and piles of books, she welcomes us as though we have known each other for years. She immediately starts telling us about her new collection – a retrospective of 20 years of Lenny – and asks for our input.

Meeting Lenny Niemeyer in Rio
Meeting Lenny Niemeyer in Rio

An icon of the Brazilian fashion scene, Lenny Niemeyer started designing swimwear in the 1980s when she moved from São Paulo to Rio. It all started when she was looking for bikinis – for herself and for friends back in São Paulo – and was disappointed by the choice. “So I started designing them myself,” she says with a smile. “I started looking for different fabrics and prints and soon enough not only my friends were buying my designs, but also fashion stores.”

But it was when she opened her own shop in Ipanema that she really got a feel for what women were looking for and how she could help women feel confident and beautiful in swimwear that suited their bodies. This continues to be her goal.

“My main aim is to help women feel perfect,” she says. She explains that – unlike in São Paulo where you will probably go out to dinner or a play – in Rio you’re more likely to end up at the beach. “On the beach, you can’t hide and so you need the very best tools to present yourself. My beachwear is there to help you do that.”

Using natural materials like cotton and different types of silk, she designs Brazilian bikinis, elaborate bathing suits and a wide range of after-beach wear and wraps – all with the aim of making every woman feel at ease in Rio’s glamorous beach scene.

“So where do you get your inspiration?” I ask as we scan the colourful designs crowded on the clothing racks around us. “From around the world,” Lenny says with a sweeping gesture. “I travel to Asia and Africa to find new themes and designs and I bring them to Brazil.”

Bringing together materials and designs from different cultures, she weaves them together with the ‘Brazilian soul’ to create signature designs. Yet, while she draws her inspiration from around the world, Lenny and her brand are inextricably linked to Rio. Even though she was born in São Paulo, she has become a Carioca at heart and, as a Brazilian celebrity, is strongly associated with the laidback Rio lifestyle and its famous parties.

Right now she is working on a new collection inspired by 20 years of Lenny, revisiting signature designs and giving them a fresh twist. “If you really want to understand how I work and how I translate inspiration into pieces of swimwear, you should join me in making my new collection.”

Awesome! We’re super excited: we get to take part in designing Lenny’s retrospective collection and will see the process unfold from today until the after-party at Fashion Rio in three months time.

© 2012 CoolBrands – Around the World in 80 Brands

Lenny Niemeyer - CoolBrands Influencer Brazil  Read more stories about Lenny.

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© 2012 CoolBrands – Around the World in 80 Brands

Tags: Lenny Niemeyer, Lenny, Niemeyer, From Rio with Love, Rio de Janeiro, Rio, Brazil, Brasil, Carioca, Rio Lifestyle,

Meeting Ken Egbas in Nigeria

On our trip around the world, we want to experience cool destinations, meet visionary people and brands with a purpose. In recent years, we have come across more and more brands that tell their Corporate Social Responsibility story according to the triple bottom line; People, Planet, Profit. These criteria measure the real success of a company from an economic, ecological and social perspective. I follow these brands, which understand they should have a purpose in society, with increasing interest.

Meeting Ken Egbas from SERAs - CoolBrands Around the World in 80 Brands

Meeting Ken Egbas  – Influencer in Nigeria

In Lagos I found someone who shares my interest; Ken Egbas, founder of The SERAs, which he describes as a ‘new way of promoting behavioural change and adoption of sustainable practices by corporations in Nigeria’.

The meeting is set in Yaba, in the office of TruContact, Ken’s PR agency that founded The SERAs. The office is filled with books from floor to ceiling. I try to read some of the titles in the semi-dark – all the curtains are closed to keep the sun and the heat out. People, planet, profit by Peter Fisk, Brand New Justice by Simon Anholt, No Logo by Naomi Klein…

The door opens and Ken enters the room. He is tall and slim, wearing an elegant striped shirt. Behind him a woman enters, armed with a notebook and a smile on her face. “Welcome,” Ken says, “I like you to meet Arit Oku, she is second in command here at TruContact. Without her…” Ken doesn’t finish his sentence but shakes our hands instead and invites us to sit down around a large table.

“Good to meet you at last, Ken,” I say. “You founded The SERAs, Nigeria CSR Awards back in 2007. Why did you decide to do this?”

“Personally, I want to ensure that our living environments remain in good condition for the present and future generations,” Ken says. “And the best way to do this is to encourage organisations to take their Corporate Social Responsibility seriously. The business entity should be used as a vehicle for delivering stakeholder value and not just for maximising shareholder profit.”

Ken reaches behind him to push a button on a fan. “It’s getting hot in here,” he says. The fan accelerates and Ken continues his story.

“In 2007, very few organisations had sustainability reports to present,” he says. “Some international organisations were reporting on the global level, but very few were talking about the Nigeria situation. A very limited percentage of corporations were willing to disclose the actual figures in terms of funds committed to the CSR portfolio.

“The overall goal is to promote behavioural change in Nigeria with regards to sustainability, or the triple bottom line. We do this on two different axes, sharing knowledge and creating awareness. The first is done through the annual report with best practices, and the second by the awards.”

“Awards?” I say. “Tell me about the awards.”

Ken looks at Arit. “We organise an annual award ceremony to reward the best CSR practices,” she says. “It shifts the attention to issues of sustainability and attracts a very high-profile audience of top industry and political leaders.”

“How do brands participate?” I ask.

“Participation in The SERAs is voluntary,” Arit says. “Corporations subscribe and commit to the terms. This includes disclosing information and cooperating during the verification by the field research team. The outcomes of the field research are captured in the annual report and documentary.”

“Are you satisfied with the results so far?” I ask.

It takes a few seconds before Ken answers. “I think we started an important trend back in 2007,” he says, “and a lot has changed already. Nowadays, more organisations are looking at their operations with a sustainability focus and have committed to conducting their business in a socially responsible way.”

Ken pauses for a few seconds before concluding. “But there is still a lot of room for improvement,” he says, making a wide gesture with his arms, probably to indicate the margin for improvement.

“I think you’re doing a great job,” I say. ”It is important that companies are beginning to understand that being responsible brings huge rewards – both financially and in terms of social capital.”

“So true,” Ken replies. “If you’ve finished your trip around the world by October, you should stop by in Lagos again, for The SERAs award ceremony.”

© 2013 CoolBrands – Around the World in 80 Brands


Meeting Clara Chinwe Okoro - CoolBrands Around the World in 80 Brands  MEETING CLARA, THE ICE LADY IN LAGOS

CoolBrands Around the World in 80 Brands - Deola Sagoe  SOPHISTICATED FASHION WITH AN AFRICAN SOUL – DEOLA SAGOE

Vlisco - Meeting Roger Gerards and Patrick Liversain in Accra - CoolBrands - Around the World in 80 Brands  VLISCO – THE AFRO-EUROPEAN LOVE BRAND – ROGER GERARDS AND PATRICK LIVERSAIN

Meeting Jacqueline Lampe - AMREF - CoolBrands Around the World in 80 Brands  MEETING JACQUELINE LAMPE IN TANZANIA – AMREF FLYING DOCTORS

interview with Anouk Pappers and Maarten Schafer  INTERVIEW WITH MAARTEN SCHÄFER AND ANOUK PAPPERS

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Tags: Global Storytelling Campaign,  Around the World in 80 Brands, Around the World, Influencers Around the World, CoolBrands, third party storytelling, creating talk value, storytelling,  people planet profit, brands with a purpose, Ken Egbas, meeting Ken Egbas, ken, egbas, SERAs, SERA, SERA awards, Nigeria CSR awards, CSR, corporate social responsibility, sustainability, lagos, SERAs award ceremony, TruContact, Arit Oku, Arit, Oku, pr agency

Meeting Henrique Alves Pinto in São Paulo

It’s a hot and sunny day in São Paulo and we’re on our way to meet Henrique Pinto, one of Brazil’s leading ‘new-generation’ businessmen. We’re in the upmarket Jardins Paulista neighbourhood, looking for a restaurant called Figueira that is meant to be near the famous Oscar Freire shopping district.

“Apparently the place is built around a gigantic fig tree,” I tell Maarten. He looks at me with a sceptical smile and I can see him think, “A giant fig tree, in the middle of São Paulo, sounds like an urban myth,” but he only smiles and says: “Sounds special – let’s go check it out!”

There’s a distinct Brazilian mood in the air at Figueira – people sipping cocktails, laughter and flirting in the air, and the rhythms of bossa nova in the background. And, as promised: a giant fig tree in the middle of the patio dining area. As soon as we walk in, a sharply dressed 30-something-year-old guy steps up to us. “Anouk, Maarten! Welcome to São Paulo! Come this way, let’s sit down.”

After we order drinks, I turn to Henrique. “So we hear that you are something of a serial entrepreneur, setting up successful businesses one after another. Do you have a magic touch or is Brazil changing?”

“Ha!” he says with a broad smile and a twinkle in his eyes. “Good question! I guess it’s a bit of both. You know, I have no pretentions, I come from a modest background. When I started out at the age of 18, I had everything and nothing: on the one hand I was lucky to have a caring and supportive family behind me, and to have received a good education. On the other hand, I had no connections, and no financial backing whatsoever. I was hungry though, I had an unstoppable drive and the will to succeed. I saw the opportunity my parents had given me and was able to make the most of it.”

“Okay,” I say, “but there are plenty of young people out there with ambition and goodwill, but they don’t make it to the top by the age of 37.”

Henrique Alves Pinto ‘The power of the mind’
Henrique Alves Pinto ‘The power of the mind’

Henrique gazes into the distance as he considers my remark. “That’s true,” he says as he turns back to look at me. “I’m not saying it was easy. Brazil was a different place when I started out. The economy was isolated, not everyone had access to education and – worst of all – you needed jeitinho to get anything done.”

“You needed what?” asks Maarten with a puzzled look.

“Jeitinho brasileiro,” says Henrique as he turns to her with a smile, “a very Brazilian term, how can I translate it?” He makes a snaking motion with his hand. “It’s about always finding a way round the rules: breaking traffic laws, bribing officials, evading taxes, getting your distant relative in the ministry to speed up a procedure… basically corruption and nepotism.

“Forty years ago it was the way to get ahead, what smart people did – and kids were raised to admire people who made it and got rich through jeitinho. It was a system that made the rich richer, and left the poor with no opportunities. For kids growing up on the bottom rungs of society, the only way of succeeding, of living the dream, was football.”

“So how did you get around jeitinho?” asks Maarten. “How do you break a system like that?”

“By fighting it.” Henrique suddenly has a fierce look in his eyes. “A dream is just a dream if you don’t wake up every morning and go fight for it.” He pauses for a minute and takes a sip of his açai fruit juice. “I’m not saying it was easy – it was a struggle. We – by ‘we’ I mean the new generation of entrepreneurs – were trying to change deeply engrained habits. We didn’t just want change for ourselves, we wanted change for the country.”

“And you did that setting a new example,” I say. “And by inspiring people to believe in themselves.”

New business ethics

“That’s right,” says Henrique, “but of course it’s easier said than done. It was hard work, we faced resistance every step of the way… We had to fundamentally change this country’s business ethics, and make a decisive shift away from corruption.”

“And what do the new business ethics mean in practice?” asks Maarten.

“It’s many things on many levels: it means paying your taxes and abiding by the law, but also sharing your success, motivating people and showing people that if you really want something and set your mind to it, you can make it,” explains Henrique.

“My generation and those after us have turned things around. Today’s youth reject everything to do with jeitinho and Brazil is a different country than it was 30 years ago. We have generated a virtuous cycle in which the economy is moving from strength to strength, more and more people have access to education, infrastructure is improving and overall living standards and expectations are constantly rising.”

“I read that in the 1980s Brazil was defaulting on its debt, while today it’s the eighth largest economy in the world,” says Maarten. “That’s a pretty unbelievable change to be part of.”

Henrique nods. “It’s been an incredible journey. For me, there is nothing more satisfying than contributing to my country’s development by giving people the opportunity to prove themselves. Together with a small group of entrepreneurs, we made Brazil what it is now. We invested heavily in the domestic economy, played by the rules and provided thousands of families with the opportunity to rise out of poverty. As an example, the CEOs in three of my companies started as interns. They now run multi-million dollar companies with me; they’ve literally grown together with the companies.”

“We heard you also give motivational speeches to the younger generation and underprivileged communities. I can really imagine people are inspired by you – both by your words and your achievements,” I say. “Where do you draw this incredible strength from?”

Henrique laughs. “I’m a strong believer in the power of the mind: if you work hard and believe in yourself, if you unleash all your passion and capacity, then the world is your oyster. I am deeply convinced of this – it is how I live and how I work.”

© 2012 CoolBrands – Around the World in 80 Brands

Meeting the Campana Brothers in their atelier in Sao Paulo

“Here we are,” says the taxi driver, as he pulls up in front of a non-descript garage door in a deserted street. He has taken us to a part of São Paulo where we have never been before to meet Humberto Campana, one of Brazil’s most renowned designers and one of the two Campana Brothers.

Meeting the Campana Brothers - by CoolBrands Around the World in 80 Brands
Meeting the Campana Brothers – by CoolBrands Around the World in 80 Brands

There is no company name on the door, but there is a doorbell. “This should be it,” I say as I press the bell. “Or maybe it isn’t,” I reconsider as the door remains closed. “Great. The taxi has gone and here we are in downtown São Paulo and no Irmãos in sight.”

At that moment, the door swings open and a woman invites us in with a warm smile. This must be Ana Paula, the brothers’ business, marketing and communications director and Humberto’s right hand. “Now we’re talking,” Maarten says as we enter a large space crowded with tables, chairs, lamps and cupboards. “We have just landed on Planet Campana!” From amidst this jumble of furniture, Humberto suddenly emerges. “There sure is a lot of stuff,” I say. “Do you produce all your pieces here?” “Actually,” Humberto says, “the best way to tell our story is by strolling through our atelier. So I suggest that we walk and talk – does that suit you?” “Sure, we’d love to take a peek behind the scenes,” says Maarten as we follow Humberto into the workplace.

“This is where we create prototypes, make special items and produce our own goods. We don’t have a factory so there is no mass production – every piece is custom-made. We do work with some partners, like Edra in Italy, who have licences to produce some of our designs, but that’s about it.

“For us, it’s not about high sales figures, but about the creative process,” he explains as we walk past a craftsman who is welding pieces of metal together. It’s interesting to think that this will soon turn into a – more or less – comfortable chair.

“Most of our inspiration comes from São Paulo,” Humberto resumes. “The chaos of the city and the total lack of any architectural standards make it a fascinating patchwork of inspiration for us. São Paulo appears hostile, but right under the surface you find humanity.”

Ana Paula continues. “The brothers attach a lot of importance to sustainability, local production and the use of natural materials. By choosing sustainability and low environmental impact, they hope that others will learn and follow their example. It is a way of life.”

Humberto interrupts: “But watch out! We aren’t lecturing society – we are doing this to express our beliefs. We have always drawn inspiration from everyday objects that we come across on the street or in a corner shop. “For example, I once walked past a street vendor whose stall was filled with teddy bears,” he says as he walks over to a lounge stool made with teddy bears. “This is what we turned it into. This chair is an icon of our time, illustrating our need for comfort and tenderness.”

“Can I try?” “Of course!” says Humberto with a broad gesture. “Make yourselves at home.” “Hmm, this is nice,” I say as I sink into the arms of the teddy bears. “Guys, I’ll be right here if you need me… In the meantime, could you bring me a latte, please?”

© 2012 CoolBrands – Around the World in 80 Brands