“Ladies and gentlemen, tonight we have on our show two people who made a trip around the world in search of cool destinations, visionary people and brands with a purpose. Please welcome the founders of CoolBrands, Anouk Pappers and Maarten Schäfer.”

There is applause and an occasional whoo-hoo.

Maarten Schafer and Anouk Pappers interviewed about CoolBrands Around the World in 80 Brands
Maarten Schafer and Anouk Pappers interviewed about CoolBrands Around the World in 80 Brands

Bob turns to us and looks at his notes before asking his first question. “Anouk, the project is called Around the World in 80 Brands, did you manage to get 80 interesting stories?” “Thank you Bob,” Anouk says, “we talked to many more than 80 brands, maybe 200, but not all the stories are published in our new book or on the online platform.” “Why is that?” Bob asks. “Were they not worth sharing?”

“Some of them, but there are other reasons. Some brands don’t want their story to be told yet. Too early. For some brands the timing is not right. There are also brands that want us to write their story but don’t want to use our distribution method to spread it.”

“You are distributing the book to 25,000 opinion leaders worldwide. Why would a brand not want to use this method to spread its story?” “We ask brands for a participation fee to cover the production costs,” Anouk says. “Some brands still think in terms of return on investment and they can’t invest if we can’t tell them how many extra sales storytelling will generate.” “That sounds a bit outdated as a strategy for modern brand communication,” Bob says. “I know, I know,” Anouk says, ”but some traditional marketers have short- term objectives and for them a commercial on television is more effective. And they have been doing this for years. Change is difficult for people who overestimate the value of what they have – and underestimate the value of what they may gain by changing to something new. Like storytelling. “Then there is this research on the effectiveness of storytelling. A company in New York, 3DAccountability, conducted research showing that by telling a good story about a brand, the so-called net promoter score increases significantly and remains high even six weeks after the story was initially told. This means that storytelling does influence the buying intention and word-of-mouth ‘promotion’ among peers in a positive way. So there’s your proof for ROI.”

The audience applauds. I’m not sure if it’s Anouk’s conclusion or the fact that the audience coordinator has switched on a sign saying ‘applause’ and is making frantic clapping gestures.

“Maarten,” Bob says, turning to me. “Tell me, why should a brand use storytelling?” Even though I know the answer to this question by heart, I wait a few seconds to increase the sense of anticipation among the live audience. But not so long that people take it as hesitation.

“If you Google a brand,” I say, “you’ll find maybe ten results that originate from the brand’s marketing department: the company website, the company blog, a company Facebook page and a few press releases. Besides this, you’ll find 2.5 million results of people talking about the brand. Both positive and negative. So why do marketers focus on only a very small part of what is said about their brand, coming from their own department? Storytelling will get them involved in the bigger conversation.”

“What about information overload? Maybe you can explain to the people watching the show where storytelling comes in,” Bob says, pointing at one of the cameras. “Sure, thanks for asking that question,” I say. “Traditionally, brands are used to top-down communication. Sending without listening. There is a growing mistrust among consumers towards organisations, governments and brands. People don’t want more information.” I pause for a few seconds to let my words sink in, then continue. “People put their trust in friends and peers. Peer- to-peer communication is said to influence more than 75% of all purchase decisions.”

The audience coordinator switches on the applause sign again and people start clapping. “I hope they don’t insert a ‘laugh track’ like they do in comedy shows,” I think to myself.

“Anouk,” Bob says, consulting his cards with questions. “Anouk, can you tell us more about the opinion leaders you are targeting?” “Our communication target group is opinion leaders in the network of the participating brands, the top of the pyramid. A CMO will give a book to, let’s say, a journalist or marketing professional in his network. He will ask him or her to ‘please read my story and tell me what you think. And if you like it, please share the online version on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other social media’.

“By doing so, the reach will grow exponentially from 25,000 opinion leaders to potentially 2.5 million connectors. They will all have access to the stories. We give them a message in the story, which is easy to understand and easy to share with friends and peers.”

“Sophisticated… ,” Bob says, “sophisticated, yet simple. And now that you have finished your trip around the world, what is your next step?” “Go for round two,” I say. “There are so many interesting stories out there. So many people to meet, stories to write and to share. And so little time,” I add. “One last question,” Bob says. “If people want to meet you and share their story, can they contact you?”

“They should post a message on our Facebook page or shoot us an email,” I say. “It is always a pleasure to meet new people, hear new stories and enlarge our network of opinion leaders worldwide.”


© 2012 CoolBrands – Around the World in 80 Brands

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