The United States is the home of marketing -
that’s what all the textbooks say.
The US is where Coca-Cola was invented,
where TV commercials were first seen, and
where modern detergents first promised whiter
France, on the other hand, is the country of
medieval farmhouses, of foie gras and of four
Few would think of France as the home of
But perhaps the world’s marketers ought to look
more closely at France.
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And wonder why so many New Yorkers insist on
drinking French mineral water.
Or why the kind of Tokyo woman who would never
buy a foreign food or electrical item always seems to
carry a $2000 French handbag.
Or why hard-nosed Chinese businessmen celebrate
deals with fine French wines and cognac.
French marketing is very different to American
marketing – but it is often more effective.
In the cut-throat world of the 21st Century, every
marketer needs to understand it.
know how to
and built in
They realized that there was an unmet need opening
And so they created a much more expensive drink:
i. THE FRENCH HAVE ALWAYS BEEN Manchester’s mill owners flocked to it. Within a few
MARKETERS years, the world was buying many more bottles at
much higher prices.
Back in the 1840s, the world’s richest city was its first Not the first time
industrial city - Manchester, England. This wasn’t the first time that a French producer
And at the top of the Manchester social ladder were made a smart, conceptual marketing move.
its cotton mill owners. The French were working in this way back in the
At their dinner parties, the mill owners liked to show 1750s.
off their wealth. The French weren’t just marketing before America
So they served wine instead of beer. invented the term ‘marketing’ in 1960.
And the wealthier mill owners served champagne. The French were marketing before
But for the richest mill owners, there was still a America.
In a world where all their peers could afford
champagne, how could they show off? Blue denim: Invented
in the 1800s in Nîmes,
The solution France.
In 1842, French marketers solved their problem.
ii. FRENCH MARKETING IS PURE
When an American or British marketer (The English-
speaking nations are known in the rest of the world
as ‘Anglo-Saxons’) sets out to differentiate a brand,
they usually start with what makes their product
Anglo-Saxon brands are thus based on ‘10% more
fibre’, or an active ingredient.
If they can’t identify a strong, sustainable advantage,
quite often an Anglo-Saxon marketer will not enter a
Not so in France
French marketing is much purer. The French can
Where there is a strong need, argue French create global
brands out of
marketers, there can be a strong brand. water.
Thus French marketers can create strong, global,
premium brands out of materials as simple as water.
And because they are more focussed on consumer
needs, they can then make inspired leaps. iii. FRENCH BRANDS DON’T LOOK
Like range-extending a water brand into skincare. LIKE BRANDS
Or extending skincare to appeal to women in their
sixties. ‘This isn’t a brand’ say Anglo-Saxon marketers studying
Or promoting a wellness resort by branding the purity the label of a bottle of St. Emilion.
of its air. ‘It’s a vineyard.’
In most countries, marketing is just about spending They just don’t get it.
a budget. The best French brands are so authentic, they don’t
In France, it is a conceptual art. look like brands.
And because they don’t look like brands,
people prefer them and pay a premium for
• Would people like Roquefort if it was
• Would people value Champagne if it
Just because it looks
was called Fizzo? home-made doesn’t
stop it being a brand.
People like to know things are authentic.
They like them to have a history and an origin.
And if they do, they value them above brands that
Marketers in other countries need to learn to cherish
authenticity in their brands.
Too many of their brand names come from brand
consultancies, and thereby somehow signal to the
consumer that they have been created by marketing
and aren’t really real.
better when it
iv. THE FRENCH THINK FEMALE
When it comes to tech gadgets and cars, the key
purchasers are men.
But with 80% of markets, the key purchasers are
It’s therefore puzzling that English-language marketing
always talks in male jargon about ‘campaigns’, ‘targets’
Not so in France
The French spend much more time understanding
women, and developing insights into female
‘Some women eat chocolate when they are
sad,’ observes one famous French designer. get enough
‘And others buy clothes’. of French
‘In the hunter-gatherer era, men hunted and
women gathered,’ observes another. ‘And that
mentality is hardwired into our brains.
That’s why today men draw satisfaction from sport
and videogames, and women draw theirs more from
Understanding the female soul
is central to French marketing. ‘A woman is v. THE FRENCH DON’T LIE
But marketers in other countries
can’t follow on: not born, but Anglo-Saxon countries industrialized rapidly.
‘You can’t talk about seduction Cities like London grew so fast that fresh food supplies
and l’amour fou in an Anglo- made.’ into them were inadequate for decades.
Saxon company’, says a French And so their inhabitants started to eat preserved
marketing manager. ‘They are SIMONE foods – like pies, sausages and tinned stews.
too politically correct.’ DE BEAUVOIR These junk foods then became the traditional foods
Meanwhile, French companies of Anglo-Saxon countries.
have worked out how to get Manufacturers suffered too
inside a woman’s head and charge her $300 for a Rapid industrialization had an appalling effect on
scent. Anglo-Saxon food manufacturing too.
And $400 for a skin cream. In the 1840s, British food manufacturers thought
Marketers in other countries need to get in touch nothing of dropping copper salts into tinned
with their feminine side. vegetables to make them look a little greener.
Or grinding up a vat of food by rolling a giant lead
ball around it.
Regulation has changed things And they end up with much higher returns on capital
Today, regulation has changed Anglo-Saxon food. than any processed food manufacturer.
But the attitude is still there amongst some Anglo- That’s the thing about consumers today.
Saxon marketers. They are looking for healthier food. ‘As far as
‘Research shows that consumers like ready meals Not unhealthy food with nicer
better if we pour a little more palm oil into them’ healthy eating
say Anglo-Saxon food researchers.
Or unhealthy food with rustic
‘And let’s up the sugar content.’ advertising. America is an
Not so in France In Britain,
But the genuine, real thing. emerging market.’
France industrialized much more slowly, and French actually FRENCH MARKETING
food culture remains as strong as it was before the eat these. DIRECTOR
French marketers’ instinct is to be
honest with their customers.
And as the world worries more and more about
And their customers are loyal to them because of it.
its health, the French attitude towards food is the
future. Marketers in other countries could learn from this.
So whilst Anglo-Saxon food companies spend
their time shaving the calorie count of processed
foods, French food producers have a very different
They simply produce healthy products in the first
Water. Yoghurt. Fresh fruit.
The French may eat a
lot of cheese, but they
never surrender their
marketing principles. vi. THE FRENCH KNOW EQUALITY
ONLY GOES SO FAR
In America, a premium brand is one that costs ten
percent more than an average brand.
Luxury means a little gold on the label.
No one likes to produce something that is way out of
the reach of the ordinary American.
There is something very ‘of the people and for the
people’ about American marketing.
And indeed the biggest successes of American
marketing have been mass marketing:
• The Model T Ford: the car for the ordinary
• KFC: the restaurant everyone can afford.
Not so in France
A sense of populism has never hindered French
Puritan roots and guilt don’t prevent them from
behaving in unashamedly elitist ways and producing
items that no ordinary person will ever be able to
A perfume for $1,000?
A Hermès Birkin bag for $15,000?
It doesn’t mix well with egalité and fraternité. But it
does lead to high margin, sustainable brands.
And rich, rich brand values.
And hugely committed consumers.
Marketers in other countries could do more for their
• In some countries, consumer incomes have risen
50% over the past ten years. Few
brands have raised their promises Ho Chi Minh City may be
and prices in line. Does your Communist, but it has a
huge Louis Vuitton store.
marketing plan leave your customers’ money The leading
on the table? emerging
• Does your company keep its superpremium markets is not
brands for the developed world? In emerging
markets, supermarkets are creating their
own superpremium private-label brands,
because Western fmcg companies aren’t
meeting local demand for luxury food.
• Indeed is your company cutting the quality of its
products as it expands into emerging markets?
The French don’t think this way. For decades,
French cognac houses have been producing
superpremium, ultra-expensive grades of cognac
and putting them on sale only in Asia.
French wines are very successful
in China - because of marketing
rather than their quality.
Many Mainland Chinese mix their
$50 claret with Sprite before they
France’s advantage is that it knows exactly what it
Marketers in other countries need to think more
vii. THE FRENCH KNOW FRANCE IS AN about the place they come from:
AD • Romania needs to market itself harder as a provider
of natural goods and as a tourist destination. It
40 million people visit the United States each year. has a language that much of the richer half of
Over 75 million visit France. Europe can read without problem, and unspoilt
countryside to die for.
France is the biggest lifestyle showroom in the
world. • If you want your country to take off, look for a
snowball effect: The atmosphere of Mexican
And the image of France sells wine, cheese and
restaurants sells the idea of holidays in Mexico,
luxury goods across the world.
which leave visitors with a taste for tequila, which
Most countries struggle with their national image: sells more Mexican food, and which in turn makes
• Britain isn’t sure whether it is a museum, or Tony them want to go back to Mexico.
Blair’s ‘cool Britannia’. • Want your country to project sophistication
• Poland isn’t sure whether it’s a rural idyll, or an as well as good old craftsmen and peasants? You
industrial powerhouse. need two brands. When French marketers want
• Over sixty years after world war two, German to project urban sophistication, they don’t use
companies still struggle when someone France. They use a separate subbrand
suggests they market themselves using called ‘Paris’.
German values. a first lady who
THE BRANDED WEALTH OF NATIONS OF BRAND FRANCE
Foreign perceptions of a nation A brand, like Coke and Nike, that 100 German ‘05
Canadian '06 French '07
can build its export and its has reached the top right hand Argentine '05 Australian '06 Czech '05 Russian '05
tourism industries. corner is a leading, iconic brand. Austrian '06
Or they can kill them. A brand that has fallen into American '07 Uruguayan '05 Spanish '07
the bottom right quadrant has
DIFFERENTIATION AND RELEVANCE
That’s why Y&R has been Portuguese '00
eroded. Swiss '07
studying the international Polish '07
Mexican '08 Thai '07
images of nations in its global Around the world, brands Japanese '07
BrandAsset Valuator study. typically fall in these positions: Italian '07
BrandAsset Valuator is the British '06
Nike • • Coke Greek '05
world’s largest brand database. • iPod
Guatemalan '05 Malaysian '01
Since 1993, it has interviewed • Zara Puerto Rican '01
Visa • Hungarian '06
over 500,000 consumers 50
about over 38,000 brands in 48 Indian '06 Chinese '07
countries, studying the health of
brands as diverse as Nike, HSBC banks
BrandAsset Valuator plots all Brand France occupies a very Emirati '06
brands on the same space, the Peruvian ‘04
strong position around the Turkish '07
PowerGrid. world, indeed stronger than
A brand in the bottom left most other nation brands, which
corner of the PowerGrid is in its tend to lie lower down the Saudi '06
undefined, launch phase. PowerGrid. Brazilian '07
One in the top left quadrant is in 0
its up and coming growth phase. 0 50 100
ESTEEM AND KNOWLEDGE
It follows a theory called Value Innovation from
Professors Renée Maubourgne and Chan Kim of the
Insead business school in Fontainebleau.
It allows you to differentiate your brand, whilst at the
viii. THE FRENCH KNOW LESS CAN BE same time cutting costs.
Marketers in other countries could do more by doing
When Anglo-Saxons develop brands, they invariably
• Take one thing out of the mix, and it often frees
go for additional features at an additional cost.
up another. Low cost airlines have discovered
But a brand doesn’t have to do more to be strong. It that if they don’t serve their passengers food,
can also do less. the passengers don’t need the toilet as often. So
Go to the French hotel chain Formula 1 and you will they’ve taken out some of the toilets, and have
find no restaurant, no pool, no fax machine and no replaced them with extra seats.
minibar. • The less-is-more strategy works in the US too. Back
You make your booking on a computer at home. The in the 1950s, Ray Kroc took the waiters, cutlery and
code that you print out opens the front gate to the tablecloths out of restaurants. The result was
hotel and your hotel room door. McDonalds.
The rooms contain just a bed. The TV is screwed to
the wall, and the remote is screwed to the bed.
But you can stay in Formula 1 for just 30 Euros a
night. Survey after survey shows that most
international executives would prefer to
And Formula 1 is very successful. live in France.
And when they consume, people put their money
not where their head is, but where their heart is.
So marketers in most countries may sell a
woman $2 of shampoo a month to fix her
ix. THE FRENCH AREN’T AFRAID TO But they will miss out on the other $100 With computers, the
DREAM she spends on her hair in a salon. secret ingredient is
Meanwhile in France In some French
Marketers in most countries express their marketing French marketers are not so focussed on companies, the
in unambiguous, clear, rational words. secret ingredient is
rational promises. They are more interested ‘Other nationalities
They can thus fix the consumer’s rational needs. in the higher margins available by selling inside’.
The problem though is that the consumer is not dreams.
rational. They are thus focussed on much bigger consumer
The consumer spends her days dreaming: concerns than marketers in other countries.
• No one buys a lottery ticket accepting that they Like ‘I don’t want to look old.’
have a greater chance of being killed by a car on And ‘I don’t want my partner to leave me.’
their way to the shop than they have of winning The result is marketing that touches the consumer
the jackpot. at a much deeper level than Anglo-Saxon problem-
• No entrepreneur sits in their office accepting the solution marketing.
rational fact that eighty percent of businesses fail
within their first two years.
Marketers in other countries need to appeal to their
• Most younger consumers cannot even plan for consumers’ dreams rather than just their needs:
the possibility that someday they may get old.
• In the end, marketing has to ask itself what’s the
real need? – reducing wrinkles or looking thirty
when you’re forty? French marketing gets to the
fundamentals of consumer need.
• Marketers in many countries struggle to sell
pensions because getting old is a depressing
rational proposition. So why not present pensions
as the enabler of dreams - like the hundred things
you should do before you die?
Is it rational to
spend $600 on a
pair of shoes?
x. THE FRENCH PROTECT THEIR OWN
Travel through Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport with
fake designer luggage in tow, and the first time you
do it, you get a police warning.
The third time you do it, you go to jail.
French marketers protect their intellectual property
• If it doesn’t come from Roquefort, you can’t call it
Roquefort in most of the world.
• If it doesn’t come from Champagne, you can’t call
Sure, in China, French goods are ripped off
But the French hold out, knowing that it is
not in the nature of young Chinese women No young East
Asian woman wants
to choose fake accessories. to carry a fake
And that as soon as they can afford to do so, they will By:
buy the real thing. Simon Silvester
Marketers in other countries need to learn to protect For new business enquiries, please contact:
what’s theirs. firstname.lastname@example.org
tel: +27 11 797 6314
But in today’s digital world, working out what matters
isn’t easy. Marcella Donovan
In 1982, IBM thought the software rights to their new tel: +44 20 7611 6565
Personal Computer were worthless.
For press enquiries, please contact:
So they left them to a small company called Bernard Barnett
tel: +44 20 7611 6425
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