Some time ago, a friend of mine convinced me to watch a Korean TV programme entitled ‘Abnormal Summit’. Eleven ‘abnormal’ representatives from different countries, excluding that of Korea, discuss agendas that vary per episode to decide on the ‘abnormality’ of the agenda presented. On the fourth episode of the programme, the topic about which fashion is better was brought up between the representatives of France and Italy. The Italian representative, Alberto Mondi, argued that Italy has better wine and fashion, and that French companies are buying out Italian brands. However, Alberto admitted to one strength that the French has over the Italians, and that is marketing. This got me curious, is French marketing really that good? If so, what makes them good?
To assess the efficiency of French marketing, let us first of all look into the existing rules important to marketing and advertising in France. One of those rules is on the language. French must be used for all advertisements. Other languages can only be used with accompanying French translations. This is the most important and established rule in French advertising. The establishment of one and only one language for advertisement within a country is very important in reaching out to the target market and creating brand awareness. The existence of this rule also ensures that everyone understands and are made aware of the brand. Another rule–not exclusive to France–that affects French marketing is cultural and political sensitivity. France is notorious for rather extreme demonstrations which reflects the sensitivity of French people to sociopolitical issues. As in other countries, advertisements deemed offensive may be taken down in France. Another important thing to note as rule of thumb in French marketing is that word-of-mouth is more revered by French consumers, and this is the most uncontrollable aspect of marketing in France.
Having presented rules to remember in French marketing, it is time to examine the characteristics of French marketing itself. According to Simon Silvester, the French are natural marketers even before the term ‘marketing’ was coined. To the French, marketing is a conceptual art, and like how they treat any form of art, French people put great value in its authenticity. Their brands, such as Champagne and Roquefort, do not seem like brands at all. Unlike that of American brands that use catchy–and even funny–names for their brands, the French stick to how the product has been called upon its creation. This gives French products history and origin to attest to its authenticity, which, in turn, leads to the people treating these brands as premium. Another thing we might notice about famous French products is that most of them are feminine. This is because French marketers acknowledge the fact that 80% of brand consumers are women and that the ones who love shopping are the gatherers–not the hunters. As a part of the female population, I would not deny my craving for a bottle of Dior, nor would my mother hold back in spending thousands for a Louis Vuitton. The secret to the female rave on French brands is how French marketers are so much in touch with their feminine side. Despite all these, French marketers take lots of risk. They are not hindered by populism and the fear of their brands being seen as elitist. This results to extravagant brand values and highly committed customers which now characterize many French brands. Another thing French marketers are not afraid of is irrationality. French marketers knew that their consumers dream, and thus marketed these dreams. They chose to focus on the wants instead of the needs of their customers, and listened to the wishes like “I want to look younger” from their customers instead of telling them “you need to look younger”. Nationalism also plays a major role in French Marketing–they knew being French alone is already marketable. As how Simon Silvester put it, “France is the biggest showroom in the world”. France herself is already known for her rich culture and history, and the luxury goods she provides the world. Also, the French protect their intellectual property well. You cannot call it Champagne if it’s not from Champagne, you cannot call it Roquefort if it’s not from Roquefort. The police will reprimand you if the bag you own imitations of French brands.
Going back to the ‘Abnormal Summit’, Alberto Mondi was right in saying that the French are good in marketing. However, it is not only marketing that the French are good at. Upon examining French marketing, it is revealed that France is good in many other fields which they utilized to succeed in marketing. To be honest, I was surprised at how marketing styles actually differ among countries. Indeed, there is much to learn from examining cultures that are foreign to ours. I believe that the Philippines has great potential in marketing–that I will repeatedly say. I wish Filipino marketers would learn from the ways, not just of French marketers, but also of marketers from other cultures. However, I am not urging Filipino marketers to copy foreign styles, on the contrary, I wish to see the day that Filipino marketing has its own mark and identity that the whole world recognizes.