All posts by maartenschafer

Meeting Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan

“Welcome to Masdar City,” Sheikh Mohammed starts. “Today, the world is facing serious challenges, finding scalable sources of clean energy, providing fresh water and battling climate change. In the spirit of global collaboration, it is a pleasure to welcome you all to discuss ways to find an effective international response.” He pauses for a moment and looks into the audience.

Meeting Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan - CoolBrands Around the World in 80 Brands
Meeting Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan 

“The United Arab Emirates have made a long-term commitment to invest in renewable energy and sustainable technologies. The UAE is giving a high priority to sustainable development as a key driver in improving the lives of future generations.”

“Masdar City will become a modern Arabian city that, like its forerunners, is in tune with its surroundings. As such, it is a model for sustainable urban development that delivers the highest quality living and working environment with the lowest possible ecological footprint. Masdar City, masdar meaning source in Arabic, aims to become a source of knowledge for renewable energy and sustainable development.”

I take out my iPad, open the Twitter app and start typing a post: “We’re in Abu Dhabi at the World Future Energy Summit, listening to the opening speech of the Crown Prince. Why is the UAE a frontrunner in renewable energy?”

“Why is the UAE committed to invest in renewable energy?” Sheikh Mohammed says, as if he can read my mind. “Abu Dhabi is home to 8% of global crude oil reserves, the Emirate has enough hydrocarbon reserves at current production levels to last another 100 years. So why are we investing billions of dollars to develop Masdar and establish Abu Dhabi as a global centre of excellence in renewable energy and clean technologies?”

I tweet again, knowing my followers around the world will re-tweet my posts. “The answer will be given by Sheikh Mohammed himself in 1 minute. Stay posted!”

“First of all, here in the UAE, we have a heritage tied to life in the harsh and unforgiving desert, where sustainable practices and resource conservation are not just slogans, but are essential to survival. That’s why we understand the tremendous challenges posed by climate change, environmental degradation and the need to find sustainable energy sources.” Sheikh Mohammed pauses and takes a sip of water before continuing.

“Secondly, Abu Dhabi has traditionally played a leading role in global energy markets as a significant hydrocarbon producer. Now Abu Dhabi aspires to be an international hub for renewable energy and sustainable technologies, thereby balancing its already strong position.

“And last but not least, Abu Dhabi has embarked on a two-decade programme called vision 2030 to transform its economy from one based on natural resources to one based on knowledge, innovation and the export of cutting- edge technologies.

“Thank you for your attention,” Sheikh Mohammed says. “If you have further questions, I will be available after the first part of the programme.”

I open my Twitter app again: “Abu Dhabi is transforming its economy from exporting oil and gas to exporting knowledge. AND we have the possibility to speak to Sheikh Mohammed later today. A great opportunity to look into the future!”

Meeting Tom Doctoroff in Shanghai

We exit the metro at Shangcheng Road station and walk along Pudong Road in a southerly direction until we reach a branch of Häagen-Dazs. “Here it is,” I say, pointing at the ice cream parlour. It is busy inside, but we manage to find a free table. It is our second day in Shanghai and Tom Doctoroff has invited us to meet him here. An expert in Chinese consumer behaviour and branding, Tom came to China in 1994 and never quite made it back to the United States. He has just published his insights, gathered over two decades, in a book, What Chinese Want.

Meeting Tom Doctoroff - What Chinese Want - CoolBrands Around the World in 80 Brands
Meeting Tom Doctoroff – What Chinese Want – CoolBrands Around the World in 80 Brands

“That’s an interesting topic,” I said to him over the phone. “Can we meet when we’re in Shanghai?”

Maarten joins the people queuing to order butter pecan or chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. “Not all brands have been so successful,” Tom told me. “As one of the world’s largest and fastest growing economies, China is highly attractive for global brands. But many have failed to win over Chinese consumers. Amazon, for instance, has struggled to compete with local online retailers, and the electronics chain Best Buy has withdrawn from the country altogether.”

“I wonder what the secret to success is for businesses entering the Chinese market,” I say when Maarten comes back with something that looks like mint chip. He doesn’t respond because he is looking over my shoulder at the man making his way towards our table.

“It gets even busier when couples come here at weekends,” Tom says, after introducing himself and sitting down. “In Chinese culture, the family or group is more important than the individual. That’s one of the fundamental differences between China and the West.”

He points out a couple that is taking photos of each other and posting them online. “People like public consumption. They eat ice cream together and share the pictures with friends on Brands that appeal to individualism won’t succeed here.”

“Great,” I think to myself as I make a note on my iPad, “Chinese will spend money on things that provide face.”

“The golden rule of marketing in China is to maximise public consumption,” he continues. “That’s why certain categories, such as cars and luxury goods, are growing so quickly.”

He indicates another couple. “The girl over there is carrying a Louis Vuitton bag, but it’s unlikely she has any luxury goods at home, such as bedding or appliances, because no one can see them. Louis Vuitton and Häagen-Dazs are two Western brands that have succeeded in China because they have understood the importance of maximising public consumption and adapted their business models accordingly.”

“Which is not easy for every brand or product,” I say.

“True,” Tom says, “but what is perhaps even more important for Western brands to realise is that the Chinese will remain Chinese. They will change and modernise, but they won’t become like Westerners – nor do they want to.”

“That sounds like a good thing,” I say. “The world would be a boring place if every culture was the same.”

“I agree,” Tom says. “There are enormous opportunities for Western brands in China – as you can see in this Häagen-Dazs – but it means embracing multiculturalism. That isn’t always easy but it can be exciting.”

“If we wanted to start our storytelling business in China, what would the first step be?” I ask.

Tom thinks for a second, then opens his bag and takes out a copy of his book, What Chinese Want. “The first thing to do would be to read my book,” he says with a big smile while handing me a copy. “Let me know what you think of it.”

© 2012 CoolBrands – Around the World in 80 Brands


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Pepsi - Thirst for Creativity - Richard Lee - Pepsi China  PEPSI CHINA – A THIRST FOR CREATIVITY – RICHARD LEE

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Tags: Global Storytelling Campaign, Anouk Pappers, Maarten Schäfer, Influencers Around the World, Around the World, Around the World in 80 days, CoolBrands Storytelling, Storytelling, CoolBrands, cool storytelling, third party storytelling, creating talk value, storytelling, tom doctoroff, meeting tom doctoroff, jwt, meeting jwt, jwt shanghai, what chinese want, shanghai, public consumption, tom, doctoroff, Anouk, Pappers, Brand anthropologist, people planet profit, brands with a purpose, Influencers, CoolBrands Influencers, What Chinese want,  Influencers Around the World, Around the World,


By Maarten Schäfer – By Maarten Schafer



Meeting Nicolas Foulet in Biarritz

Besides being one of the most important leaders of the brand Quiksilver, French native Nicolas Foulet is also a walking advertisement for the active lifestyle company. Decked out in board shorts, DC sneakers and sporting a messy beach hairstyle, Nicolas embodies the ultimate surfer dude.

His presence has been key to the company’s marketing strategy for years and has an unbelievably clear vision of Quiksilver’s prosperous future. Today, I get to pick his brain about their newest development in the virtual world, the simultaneous launch of 10 retail sites in different countries across Europe.

We’re touring the European headquarters of Quiksilver located in one of the last French cities on the coast before hitting Spain as Nicolas proudly explains the newest developments, “Quiksilver had a very aggressive market expansion strategy and we needed a platform that would allow us to roll out multiple sites across geographies in a fast, efficient way. Equally important was the ability to create distinct brand experiences that we can continuously evolve and enhance for our customers.”

The evolving part is something Quiksilver knows a lot about. Founded by surfing lovers, Quiksilver has known how to keep alive the passion that has been driving it on since it began. The company has always been acutely aware of the need not to alienate its core base. In order to stay true to its origins, Quiksilver remains heavily involved in the sports – surfing, skating and skiing – that put it on the map.
“Quiksilver sells its products in more than 90 countries through multiple channels, including online through other e-commerce sites. Does this mean retail locations are a thing of the past for you?” I ask.

“Certainly not at this point in time.” Nicolas reassures me. “We still enjoy a loyal following that visits our stores weekly and we are absolutely committed to staying true to them as well as our virtual customers. Not to mention we’re also very aware of our relationship with our traditional retailers and how important they are not only to us but to the entire industry.” He adds.

“You already have such a huge name in the active lifestyle industry, what does Quiksilver want to achieve by launching these 10 sites?” I question as we pass by a brainstorming session of 5 employees excitedly bouncing ideas off one another during a game of table tennis.

Nicolas waves at his co-workers and explains, “Our customers are evolving and we want to do it with them. If we continue to create platforms for them, they never have to think about where they can find our products, we will find them.”

We enter the Quiksilver lunchroom and its sprawling view of the Bay of Biscay. It’s the perfect backdrop to Nicolas’s cool Australian-like image. He heads to the bar to get our lunch and I’m left at the table staring out at the Bay where surfers brave the open water with their sun-kissed skin and surf gear.
He returns with baguettes and Brie and follows my gaze. I look at him and ask, “Is that your gear on those guys?”

“It sure is.” He says with a beaming smile at the perfect example of Quiksilver finding their customers. “Now, let’s eat!”

During lunch I think about how the company has stayed true to its roots and retain credibility among a skeptical and hard to impress 12 to 25-year-old key demographic while becoming a real mass-market company. And, they have Nicolas Foulet. He has been the leader in ensuring Quiksilver’s adaptations to the ever-changing market have been smooth and successful.

Yes, the Internet represents a new era and we all have to adapt to it, even brands that focus on being outdoors have to adjust to this development. However, the core values will always remain the same. Quiksilver was started by surfers for surfers and stands for creativity, confidence, adventure and progression both on the water and on the web. It’s Nicolas Foulet who makes sure that everyone is reminded of that.

Nina Schein for CoolBrands

Nina Schein for CoolBrands