Mart Meijer is op zijn zachtst gezegd eigenzinnig. Deze financieel adviseur had dan ook piloot willen worden, en tja, van Mart hoef je niet te verwachten dat hij braaf de regels volgt, anders gezegd: je kan de piloot niet uit de accountant halen.
Zijn eerste bedrijf, IFS Finance, stamt alweer uit 2006. IFS staat garant voor degelijk financieel advies én uitvoering daarvan. Dat is een bijzondere combinatie, want dat betekent dat je je niet mag inschrijven bij de branchevereniging NBA en je je ook geen accountant mag noemen. IFS Finance zet daarmee de accountancywereld op zijn kop.
“Wanneer ik mijn klanten financieel advies geef, dan kan ik moeilijk zeggen…’En ga nu maar iemand anders zoeken om het uit te voeren.’
“Ik wil het leven van mijn klant gemakkelijker maken, zodat de ondernemer zich bezig kan houden met zijn core business. Ik snap wel dat er een belangenverstrengeling kan optreden bij de grote accountancy bureaus, maar zo ga ik niet met mijn relaties om.”
Met de manier waarop hij dat doet, onderscheidt hij zich danig van zijn geregistreerde collega’s.
Tags: Mart Meijer, IFS, Clyff, IFS Insite, IFS Interim, ID Insite, IFS Finance, Director of IFS Finance, Meeting Mart Meijer, Beegua, Clyff, Exact, #MartMeijer, Mart, Meijer, #CoolBrandsPeople, CoolBrands People
We arrive at New York’s Kennedy Airport around noon and get a cab into Manhattan. We’re here to meet Mariam Salzman, global trendwatcher, Cindy Gallop, author of Make Love Not Porn, and Heela Yang Tsuzuki, a successful entrepreneur who is making her way to the top in the global cosmetics industry.
As we enter the Queens Midtown tunnel, I take out my Ipad to look at my notes on Heela.
“She has everything to be successful,” I tell Anouk, who has just closed her eyes to catch up with some of the jet lag.
“Why is that?” she asks, without opening her eyes.
“She has financial experience after working at Goldman Sachs,” I read from my iPad screen. “She acquired marketing experience at L’Oreal and Clinique. And business strategy experience working for Wellstone in Brazil.”
We emerge from the tunnel to a brilliant view of Manhattan’s skyline. “Always impressive!” I say admiringly.
“What is?” Anouk says, her eyes still closed, “the diversity of her experience or the fact that she worked for American, European and Brazilian companies?”
“Actually I was talking about the Manhattan skyline.”
Anouk opens her eyes as the taxi turns right onto Park Avenue.
“Where are we going?” she asks.
“We’re meeting her in her favourite place in Manhattan, Central Park,” I reply.
“Cool, I could do with some nature!” Anouk says as she closes her eyes again.
We get out of the cab by the Apple Store on 5th Avenue and cross the road to head into Central Park.
“We’re meeting Heela at the pond,” I tell Anouk, who is making a peace sign to the John Lennon Memorial.
“Is there something else we need to know about her, before we meet her?” Anouk asks.
“Let me see,” I say, as I scroll through the notes. “She’s a graduate of Harvard Business School.”
“That probably means she’s not just smart but also well connected through the alumni network,” says Anouk.
“She’s investing in a cosmetic business in China and Brazil,” I continue. “Probably Russia, India and South Africa are next… to complete the BRICS countries.”
“There she is,” I say, pointing at a smartly dressed woman standing by the pond. “I recognize her from her LinkedIn profile picture.”
A few minutes later we’re strolling around the pond.
“This is one of the best places to escape from Manhattan’s hectic urban life,” Heela says. “It’s all about finding the balance. On the one hand, I’m running a global business, building brands. And on the other hand I have to reconnect with nature and do my yoga surrounded by plants and trees.”
“When I Googled you I saw that you have a Korean background, a U.S. education and you worked for companies in France and Brazil. That makes you kind of a global citizen,” I say.
And I have a Japanese husband,” Heela adds with a smile. “I love the different cultures in me. It allows me to have a better understanding of what drives people. Which is again very helpful in branding and marketing.”
“Most of your investments and consulting is in cosmetics,” I say. “How come?”
“What fascinates me is the psychology behind it. The way the female mind works, consciously and unconsciously when sitting in front of a mirror. Do you know how many products a woman applies to her face on a daily basis? Seven or more!” she says, without waiting for our answer.
“What is going on in a woman’s head when she looks in the mirror? What does she see? What does she feel?
Do you know how many times a woman brushes her eyelashes when she’s applies mascara? Seventy!
It’s psychology more than anything else.
Branding and marketing cosmetics is a totally different game. And it’s a game I love to play.”
We’re heading over to the Hermitage Museum in Amsterdam to meet with Katja Rogova, a Russian brand consultant who we met last year at the launch of our latest book Around the World in 80 Brands. At the time she asked us why no Russian brands were featured in the book and we got talking about the transformation of the Russian market in the last decade.
Now as we’re about to launch our NextWorld Storytelling project, we got back in touch with her and asked whether she’d be our curator for Russia.
Katja is waiting for us outside the Hermitage, looking out over the canal and the bridges. “I like this spot,” she says. “Even though it’s totally different, it reminds me of my hometown St. Petersburg with the nice views of the water and the bridges… But let’s go and see the museum, I read there’s a great exhibition about Peter the Great. Do you want to go and check it out?”
“Sure,” says Anouk. “As long as you also tell us more about the Russia of today and its culture and brands!”
As we pass through the exhibition spaces, I ask Katja what she thinks of our Amsterdam Hermitage. “Well,” she says with a little frown, “I guess the exhibition is quite interesting, but the building is nothing like the real thing. I think you’ll have to come to St Petersburg with me soon so you can I understand what I mean.”
“Oh I think you could convince us quite easily,” Anouk says as we head to the garden café for coffee and cake.
“So Katja,” I say after we’ve settled in a shady corner of the garden, “we met briefly last year, but tell us again about your background. How did you end up in branding and what brought you to Amsterdam?”
“Well,” says Katja, “I was born in a family of doctors, so everyone expected me to study medicine, but I had this passion for travelling, learning about new cultures and meeting interesting people.”
“Ok,” I say, “and where did the interest for branding come in?”
“Brands intrigue me,” says Katja, “I wanted to understand how they work and how they trigger such loyalty in people. So I studied psychology in St. Petersburg and then moved to the Netherlands to study branding and understand why people choose to belong to a certain group by buying particular brands… How brands can become a religion.”
“And how did you like studying in Amsterdam?”
“I enjoyed the international environment, but I heard a lot of stereotypes about Russia,” says Katja. “Some were funny, but often they made me sad. So that’s when I decided that I wanted to work on changing stereotypes of countries. Now I’m building my career in two markets: Russia and the Netherlands.”
“Impressive!” I say. “You’re really building bridges and breaking down walls! What would you say to becoming our NextWorld Storytelling curator for Russia? Finding interesting Russian people and brands and telling their story as part of our project, hopefully also improving Russia’s current image…”
“Sounds great,” says Katja. “I’d love to be a part of it!”
It’s 10 a.m. on Wednesday morning and we’re heading to Ipanema to attend the launch of a new product line that is being presented by the cosmetics brand Phebo.
We’ve been invited by Nazish Munchenbach, the marketing and sales director at Granado, a well-established Brazilian cosmetics company.
“Hang on,” says Maarten, as we walk down Barao de Jaguaripe street. “I thought Nazish worked for Phebo. What’s the relation to Granado?”
“They’re basically sister brands,” I explain. “Granado is the main company that has existed since 1870 in Rio de Janeiro. It has a very solid, reliable reputation as an official supplier to the Brazilian Imperial Family – it’s used a lot by mothers. The younger sister, Phebo, was established in the early 20th century in Belem, in the Amazon, with lovely soaps, deodorant, talcum powder… And from today, make-up!”
“Ok, I see,” says Maarten. “So both brands have the same owner?”
“Yes, the company was bought years ago by Mr. Christopher Freeman, a Brit,” I say as we enter the beauty parlour in Ipanema where the launch is being held.
Nazish spots us immediately and comes over to greet us. “I’m so glad you could make it!” she says. “Please come further.”
As we wander through the collection, Nazish tells us a bit about her background: born to Indian parents, lived in Pakistan, the States, Germany and France. “And then I landed in Rio thirteen years ago,” she says with a smile.“You know, until I came here I always felt different, I never felt I belonged. But then I came to Brazil and here everyone is different, and so it meant I finally felt at home.” Nazish now lives here with her French husband and two children and has been working at Granado for 9 years.
“I still love it,” she says as she looks around. “And I love what we have built – what we are still building.”
“Tell us more about that,” Anouk says. “Granado was a well-established brand since the 19th century wasn’t it? What did you build?”
Nazish smiles. “Well, you’re right that it existed since 1870, but over time, it had become just a product, a talcum powder, not a brand. That was the challenge: building a brand out of a product that was perceived as good, but old-fashioned.”
“I see, so the quality was already there, you just had to improve the image?” I ask. “Upgrading the brand as it were…”
“Exactly,” says Nazish. “And I took on that challenge; I had a background in cosmetics, working with top brands like L’Oreal, Shiseido and SC Johnson, but this was different because it was a family business.”
“That must have been quite a change after working for transnational corporations!” says Anouk.
“It really was, but I immediately loved it and today I feel part of the family. It wasn’t easy in the beginning, but we worked hard. I teamed up with Mr. Freeman’s daughter, Sissi, who also had a background in marketing to build a strong basis and generate continuity for the brand.”
“Kind of like bridging the generational gap?” I ask. “Building on the original values and strengthening them, but then also rejuvenating the brand to meet the expectations of today’s customers,” I say as I pick up one of the samples.
“That’s exactly right,” says Nazish. “That was one aspect. But we also expanded Phebo, with a new ‘all Brazilian’ make-up product line: no fragrance, no faces, but the Brazilian flower, bromelia, for brand recognition.”
“Okay,” says Anouk. “And how did that strengthen the brand?”
“By building the Granado and Phebo brands, I believe we contributed to an important shift in people’s attitudes,” says Nazish. “Ten years ago, people here only wanted international brands. Those were the ones that represented quality, style and status. Of course the Brazilian products existed, but no one cared about them. People bought them, but not with pride.
“Today, that has changed. Brazil is a state of mind, people want to be here, they are proud to be Brazilian,” she says as she looks around the store. “This is something we are very proud of. And we believe Granado and Phebo contributed to it as well.”
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Tags: Coolbrands, Coolbrands Around the World in 80 Brands, Brands with a Purpose, Storytelling, Global Storytelling Campaign, third party storytelling, Meeting Nazish Munchenbach, Nazish Munchenbach, Nazish, Phebo, Granado, cosmetic brands Brazil, marketing and sales director at Granado
“Why don’t you meet me at Ibirapuera Park?” Cristiana had said when I spoke to her on the phone. “We can enjoy the greenery and talk at the same time. When I’m in Sao Paulo I want to stay in touch with nature as much as possible.
“Sounds great,” I told her. After I hung up, I took my iPad to look up directions to the park. And at the same time, I thought, I could quickly Google Cristiana to learn more about her work.
But as soon as the search results appear, I see that “quickly” learning more about Cristiana won’t be possible: as a super successful businesswoman who started her career in the 1980s, she has launched a variety of cosmetic companies and brands and become one of Brazil’s most popular media personalities focused on beauty and well-being. She appears regularly on TV and radio and has published several books on health and beauty.
“This is going to be an interesting meeting,” I think as I get to the park and head for the Museu de Arte Moderna where we have arranged to meet. Cristiana is waiting for me on a bench, an elegantly dressed woman. “Nice to meet you,” she says with a radiant smile. “Let’s walk to the lake, that way.” As we stroll along, Cristiana tells me about her work.
“Even though I trained as a dentist, beauty was always my passion,” she says, “the different companies and businesses I established all focused on beauty and cosmetics.”
“I was reading a little about your work online, I tell her, “it seemed to me that sustainability and environmental awareness have often been an underlying themes in the products and brands you have created – is that right?”
“Those are definitely themes I care a lot about. Over time, I have focused on many aspects: recycling, environmental protection…” She stops to look out over the lake and then continues: “And the products I have developed use natural ingredients, more recently also organics. I think you can say there’s a holistic aspect to my vision on beauty and I’ve always tried to integrate health consciousness into my beauty products. Beauty is not only about looks and the exterior, it’s also about inner beauty and wellbeing.”
“Right, I noticed that, especially in your latest brand line: beauty’In,” I say as we cross a bow bridge over the lake.
“Exactly,” Cristiana says with a proud smile. “Beauty’In is a unique innovation, combining the pleasure of food, the healthy aspects of vitamins, and new cosmetic technologies. So far, we’ve launched seven product lines including drinks, candy bars, tea and chocolate, which all contain unique ingredients that have cosmetic and health benefits.”
“I’d love to try it! Where can I get the products?” I ask.
Cristiana laughs. “Well, all over Brazil. And it’s also been launched in the UK at Selfridges.”
“Great!” I say, “so you are going international, are you?”
“That’s my new challenge!” says Cristiana with a determined smile, “building a successful global beauty company from within the brand. The products are a big success, now it is time to turn the product fans into brand fans and expand.”
After our meeting, I take a taxi back to my address in Morumbi, where a parcel has been delivered for me with the beauty’In® logo on it. I quickly open the bag and find a selection of beauty drinks, bars and even a slab of chocobeauty. I open the attached note: “Enjoy! Let me know what think! Abraco, Cristiana.”
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We met Clara Chinwe Okoro in Cannes during the Lions Awards Festival.
“I’m from Nigeria,” she said. “I love the landscapes, the untouched virgin spaces and the almost invincible way of life that defines my country.” We were having a coffee at the Mocca, opposite the Palais des Festivals when she said: “If you are looking for a true definition of the word ‘chaos’, you need look no further than the way we live. But the chaos has steeled my spirit.”
As to our question what she was doing at an advertising festival in Cannes, she answered: “I’m the founder of a company called Brandworld Media, which was set up to preach the gospel of branding to Africa. I am here to listen to and interview people with an interesting vision on branding. I can then share those stories back home with my audience.”
“Interesting,” I said. “What was your vision on brands and branding when you set up Brandworld Media?”
“My belief was that brands were the new wealth creator in any modern economy and my assignment was to use the media as a tool for bringing prosperity to Africa. Twelve years on and the dream is still soaring, despite the scars and sometimes even nightmares.
“Actually, speaking of the people I am interviewing,” Clara continued, “why don’t I interview you for Brandworld Media here in Cannes. When you come to Nigeria for your project Around the World in 80 Brands, you can then interview me for your book.”
“That sounds like a plan,” I said.
And here we are, in Lagos, Nigeria, six weeks after our first meeting in Cannes. The meeting is set on the campus of the University of Lagos, bordering the Lagoon. “I love this place,” Clara says. “It’s like an oasis in this huge city. I come here quite often and just sit by the waterfront overlooking the lagoon.” We look at the large surface of water, which is cut in half by the Third Mainland Bridge that connects the mainland to Victoria Island, aka VI.
“Another reason why I like it here is being in the presence of young people. Not too long ago I started ICE, a platform for trend forecasting on how youths consume brands.”
“Interesting,” I say. “What does ICE stand for? I’m curious to know what this word inspires in a tropical country.”
Clara laughs: “ICE is an acronym for Intelligence, Culture and Evolution,” she says. “Through ICE Magazine our role is to provide the market intelligence for brands on one side and define and safeguard the cultural context on the other.
“I am determined to use the ICE medium to transform the thinking process of the Nigerian youth,” Clara continues. “I want them to understand that the power to create the future they desire is theirs.”
“That’s cool,” I say. “What’s cooler than cool?” Clara asks. “ICE cool!” we say at the same time.
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We’re in Aline Santos Farhat’s office at the Unilever headquarters, a light and airy suite with a view over São Paolo. We’re lucky to be in town at the same time as Aline: as OMO’s Global Senior Vice President, she seems to be constantly on the move.
“It’s part of the job, since OMO is present in more than 70 countries,” she says as we sit down at a large round table. “I have to liaise with all the local marketing departments and make sure that the brand messaging is in tune across the board so that the brand potential is truly unleashed.”
“And what is that message?” I ask. “Last time we met you told us briefly about OMO’s Dirt is Good campaign, but how do you develop such a concept to suit your widely diverse markets across the globe?”
A truly global brand
“This is exactly the question Unilever faced back in 2002,” Aline says with a smile. “We had a product with over 40 different brand names worldwide, all with their own packaging, positioning and advertising.”
She pulls up a set of slides on her iPad and shows us the different brand campaigns from the early 2000s. It is immediately clear that OMO’s message in Brazil was quite different from the brand image of Surf in India, Skip in France or Breeze in Thailand, which in turn seemed to have little to do with the brand positioning of Persil in the UK, Ala in Argentina or Rinso in Indonesia.
“Wow,” says Maarten, “talk about a challenge! I see what you mean: the brands were very diverse in their messaging.” “Yes and no,” says Aline as she shuts down the presentation and turns back to us. “Yes, because the messages were so out of tune with each other that there was no global positioning – no strong single message.”
The threat of commoditisation
“But on another level, OMO and its sister brands were just detergents telling the same old story that dirt is bad, with nothing to distinguish OMO from the rest of the market. OMO was sending out more or less the same message as everyone else, using the same language and the same images. That is a great danger in this market: the threat of commoditisation.”
As Aline explains this, I try to think of recent detergent campaigns and realise that I can’t clearly remember a single one – they all seem to blend into a single ad about micro particles deeply penetrating fibres and lifting away stains, and mothers hanging bright white sheets on clotheslines.
“You’re right,” says Maarten, “if you think about it, all the detergent brands’ messages were the same, promising ‘stain removal’, ‘best ever results’, etcetera… it was all totally forgettable.”
Brand with a purpose
“Exactly,” says Aline. “Unilever realised that we needed to take a different approach: we needed a purpose. We didn’t want to just be talking about ketchup stains anymore; we wanted to ladder up from a product to a human idea. We needed a relevant message that mothers would remember even after the laundry was folded away in the cupboard. Brands without a greater purpose have no future in today’s competitive market.”
“And this is where Dirt is Good comes in!” I say. “I’m starting to see the genius of this strategy. Dirt is Good conveys a radically different message and instantly distinguishes you from the rest of the market. It is an intriguing message from a detergent brand, so it grabs consumers’ attention.”
“That’s right, but it’s only one part of it,” says Aline with a confident smile. “Cleaning children’s clothes was nothing new, and if we just celebrated the enjoyment of getting dirty, the brand would never have become so successful. Instead, we started promoting the idea that there is some deeper benefit to be had from getting dirty. We conducted global research directly with mums to help us really understand their concerns, so we knew this idea would resonate with them. With a line that ‘There’s no Learning without Stains’, OMO started to show how getting dirty is an integral part of children’s development.”
The right to play
“We are encouraging mothers to let their kids play, explore and discover. Let them dig into the sand and the mud, make paintings, climb in trees, play football – anything that will stimulate their minds and help them grow mentally and physically. The message to mothers is: ‘You take care of your child’s development, we will take care of the laundry.’”
“Very cool,” says Maarten, “from being ‘just another detergent’, you are now taking a stand for children’s rights and really engaging in a global debate.”
“It has been a huge challenge, but also a great success that has resonated globally in all the very diverse markets we operate in.”
“Yeah, so tell us how you translated this core concept into advertising campaigns in different markets,” I say.
Aline immediately opens up another set of slides on her iPad. “In Africa and some parts of Latin America, we showed children overcoming their fears and getting dirty in the process.
“In Vietnam, the brand has such an iconic status that we managed to influence the government and change the school curriculum with our Dirt is Good campaign. Now kids in Vietnam get recess during the school day, and therefore time to play and develop,” says Aline.
“In the UK, our PR film featured a little girl baking a cake. She gets her clothes all sticky in the process, but she is thrilled to be mixing the ingredients and decorating the cake all on her own.
“By telling these small personal stories in local contexts, we really struck a chord with mothers and built up huge brand loyalty at a global level. Obviously, this great brand purpose has to be supported by a great detergent,” Aline concludes, as she shuts down the presentation.
Child development okay, but what about the profit?
“So what has this meant for sales?” Maarten asks. “Does engaging in a deeper purpose like child development actually translate into tangible growth?”
“Absolutely, all you have to do is look at the figures: in less than a decade OMO has seen double-digit growth year on year, from less than $400 million to over $3 billion. It has become one of the biggest Unilever brands.”
“Wow,” I say as I look at Maarten and then back at Aline, “the ultimate proof, if we still needed it, that dirt really is good!”
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