On October 9, PRIME and Jin hosted a workshop in New York on Strategy Marketing when launching a product in France. If you you attended the workshop and need a reminder, or you missed the presentation and would like a snapshot of the topics addressed, this article is for you!

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If you’re looking to launch on the European market, there is a lot to be said for France as the place to start. The economy is booming, technology is moving fast, infrastructures are top notch, and there is no question where you should get started. Expanding to France is a great idea but marketers beware: there are a few best practices to know about before jumping in feet first. Without further adue, en avant!

Dubious translations on this Reese pack

Americans often have an endearing and romantic view of the French. I like to joke that the only beret I’ve ever worn was given to me by my American mother-in-law… and I only wear it when she is around. There is of course a lot more to French culture than the stereotypes conveyed by Hollywood and the media. Whilst that might sound obvious to most marketers, the reality is that culturally-insensitive campaigns with visuals that don’t look or feel French and poorly translated English copy abounds in the French ad and web landscape.

Translations on website creation platform Wix aren’t bad, but the look’n feel isn’t local

Get the basics right

The French are proud of their language. Spelling mistakes or approximations will result in the assumption that your offer is unreliable. Google offers sound marketing advice in that regard:

A web presence that is in tune with France’s culture will make your customers feel well disposed to you, and give them confidence in doing business with you.

It is oftentimes easier said than done, because when it comes to punctuation, date formats and spelling, the devil is in the details. Here are a few examples of dates, times and measurements in the U.S. system and their French equivalent.

Another aspect which frequently bemuses non-French nationals is the informal second person of plural “vous” vs the formal second person of singular “tu”, to address an individual. To put it simply, by default you’ll always want to use “vous” unless you’re targeting teenagers.

Finally, make sure your promotions are relevant in the French context. The Soldes d’été (summer sales) are a big deal in France, unlike Boxing Day which isn’t really a thing!

Fast food giant McDonald’s Is known for their “glocal” approach to marketing, and they have been particularly successful in France. The current homepage is a great illustration:

  1. The use of “vous” despite their target audience being rather young
  2. The rebranding into “McDo”, as the French like to call the brand
  3. The naming of the Crousties based on “croustillant” (French for crunchy), instead of “hashbrown bites” or “tater tots” which simply would not have cut it.

Figuring this out on your own isn’t easy. Many marketers will want to use a French agency to localize their content to make it appealing to French consumers.

Understand the culture

Cultural cues are a broad topic for any nationality and they are an undepletable source of inspiration for online content. This 2011 article from the International Business Times is a good example. The issue is, while one may be able to conceive cultural differences in theory, actually understanding them is difficult without any real exposure. In his hugely successful Youtube series WTF France, British comedian and Paris dweller Paul Taylor offers a great example of a foreign national slowly figuring out French culture, in a hilarious yet finely observed streak of episodes.

 

So what is the secret? We won’t pretend to have the definite answer, but this may be a start. In an interview for business magazine Capital last year (in French), ad man Georges-Mohammed Chérif said sincerity and empathy were the key to French consumers’ heart. A great example is the highly successful 2017 ad for supermarket chain Intermarché.

 

Share new ideas

The French love new ideas. Thought leadership is a proven marketing and PR tactic, but it makes the most sense in France where learning about and debating ideas is a popular way to spend one’s time. In 2016, KPMG released Hello Open World, an online platform where digital innovation leaders from all sectors exchange ideas in long form interviews, articles and videos. The website has become an influential community with thousands of members and highly qualitative content. More than a mere media site or a resource for digital transformation content, HOW has become a source of new business opportunities for all parties involved in the content creation.

Hello Open World homepage

Be social

Just like everywhere else, social media has been booming in France for the last few years. Being on top of things. 84% of the French below 40 y.o. use social networks, and while nearly half of French nationals are on Facebook, the adoption of Instagram (11.9M users) and LinkedIn (9.0M users) is growing fast.

But being on social media isn’t a strategy in itself. To really connect with your audience, it is key to stay on top of the trend and share timely content, using a tone that will resonate with your audience. Here is an example of a recent tweet by Chipotle, subtly taking on their local competitor, which went viral for a day and resulted in hundreds of thousands of organic impressions and great positive feedback from the French fans of the brand.

Know the media

Finally, a launch wouldn’t be truly successful without some good coverage. While you will certainly want the support of a local PR agency, knowing which media outlets to target can give you a head start. Below, we have listed the most popular media in a number of sectors, and what would be consider their equivalent in the US:

 


Eliott Maidenberg is a Marketing Specialist. He is Managing Director & Partner at Jin, a Public Relation and Digital Influence Agency with offices in Paris, London, Hamburg and New-York.

 

Are you considering a launch in France? Get in touch with PRIME for a marketing consultation with Jin– no commitment and free of charge. In the meantime, let us wish you a warm bienvenue en France!