By Jeffrey Sterken

I have met Maarten Schäfer and Anouk Pappers last year at a bloggers event we hosted at the ‘Mood Over West lifestyle pop-up store’ in Amsterdam. Passionate people with great interest in the stories behind brands. They live storytelling and in this way they make the stories of the brands come alive. We met again last week in Amsterdam, where they launched their new book ‘Around the World in 80 Brands’. I wanted to ask Maarten and Anouk about their inspiration for this new project and their vision on brands.

Anouk Pappers - Around the World in 80 Brands
Anouk Pappers – Around the World in 80 Brands

What was the inspiration for ‘Around the World in 80 Brands’?

Anouk: “For several years now we have done storytelling for international brands. A year ago we decided to combine the brand stories in a narrative context, a trip around the world. In this trip we discover cool destinations, meet visionary people and encounter brands with a purpose.”

Why are there only 80 brands ?

Maarten: “The ultimate adventure story is the book of Jules Verne, ‘Around the World in 80 Days’. We wanted to use this image of adventure and discovery, so that’s why we opted for 80 brands in the name. Of course this is not the definitive number of brands. ‘Around the World in 80 Brands’ is a project in which we will continue our quest for cool brand stories.”

Are there only global brands in the new project?

Anouk: “The really global brands are mostly from Europe, North America and Asia. Limiting ourselves to global brands would mean excluding Africa and Latin America. And exactly in those areas are the most challenging markets, like Brazil, Nigeria, South Africa…”

Why is it important for global brands, telling and sharing their stories?

Maarten: “In this world of information overload, people do not want more information. They want a story they can relate to. Stories are easy to understand and easy to share with friends via social media. By telling a good story with a wow-factor and sharing it through a third party, the brand message is no longer top-down, but becomes horizontal, peer to peer.

What is the definition of a good brand?

Maarten: “There is a big difference between how good a brand actually is and how a brand is perceived. The first depends on factors like product, service and corporate social responsibility. The second, the brand perception, depends for a large part on the stories people tell about the brand. In a Google search for a brand, the first few results are from the brand itself, the next million hits are from people talking about the brand. Third party storytelling can influence the brand perception, on the condition that the stories are genuine.

Is the world dominated by brands? And how does this affect life on a daily basis?

Anouk: “I’m a true believer in the fact that brands can change the world for the better, more than governments can. Brands should use their business entity as a vehicle for delivering stakeholder value and not just for maximising shareholder profit. Consumers are not only interested in the products of a brand, they also want to know what role the brand plays in their lives. So, as a brand, you better get your purpose and your story right.”

Who are the global ‘brand’ players from the Netherlands that dominate in certain areas?

Anouk: “I could of course mention brands like DSM or KLM who play a leading role in sustainabilty, Rabobank in the financial sector, but there are lots of smaller brands who are in the forefront of the creative industry. The names that pop up in my mind are Tjep, Rem Koolhaas, Moooi, Droog Design….”

Are the ‘emerging’ markets becoming more and more relevant for these global players?

Maarten: “Probably yes, if you’re talking about shareholder interest and turnover potential. But, if you ask me, bigger is not always better.”

Are there great differences between online and offline brands nowadays ?

Maarten: “Does that still exist, offline brands? The combination online-offline is crucial in today’s society. The project ‘Around the World in 80 Brands’ starts with a book which is distributed to 25.000 opinion leaders worldwide. We ask the opinion leaders to share the stories they like best in their social networks. This adds a potential 2.5M readers for the brand stories.”

“Also the ‘real world’ university roadshow that we organize and where we reach thousands of university students, finds its multiplier online. As you know,students are the most connected generation ever.”

Original interview:

Great stories in a great book, CoolBrands presents ‘Around the World in 80 Brands’. Now available in exclusive bookstores, or online: or

By Jeffrey Sterken

Tags: Maarten Schafer, Anouk Pappers, CoolBrands, Around the World in 80 Brands, Schäfer, Maarten, Jeffrey Sterken