I was born in a small town in the south of the Netherlands. As long as I can remember, I dreamt of travelling the world and discovering other cultures, just like in the Jules Verne adventure novel ‘Around the world in 80 days’. In the story the main character travels by train, on ships, in hot air balloons and on the back of an elephant through faraway countries. And I was determined to do the same when I grew up.
I couldn’t wait to finish high school, move to Amsterdam and go to university. I choose to study Anthropology and Communication, because that would prepare me for my trip around the world. The one thing about the course was that it consisted of reading books about other cultures and books written by other people who had travelled, not me. So I hurried to finish my degree so I could start doing the same.
I became a partner at an internet research company, where my job was to promote a research tool called The Internet Monitor, worldwide. I travelled the world all right, but I stayed one day in New York, one day in Milan and if I was lucky two days in Stockholm. All I did, was doing presentations, staying in business hotels and getting up early to get to the next airport in time. The only culture I experienced was dinner in local restaurants.
So I decided to start a new company and create my own around-the-world project. Since 2002, I have been interviewing brands around the world and publishing their stories in print in CoolBrands books and online on the website coolbrandshouse.com. I was traveling the world, listening to brand creators, but also taking the time to immerse myself in different cultures. I could finally call myself a brand anthropologist!
In recent years, I have noticed that the stories have changed as a growing number of brands told us their story following the triple bottom line; People, Planet, Profit. The good thing about PPP is that it goes way beyond Corporate Social Responsibilty. It takes the issues of sustainability and puts them at the heart of the company. People and planet are integrated in the core business, so profi t depends on them. One can’t survive without the other, how perfect is that?
Following the triple bottom line gives a brand a better way to measure its real success along the three axes: economic, ecological, and social. While I was looking for these so-called ‘meaningful’ brands, I found some really good stories. Brands that understood that they should have a purpose in society. Increasingly, what differentiates brands from their competitors is purpose. In the long run, a brand without a purpose will have a tough time surviving. People buy into these brands not for what they do and make, but for why they do it and make it. The purpose of my trip around the world is to look for brands with a purpose and share their story.