The Strategist

French strategies to stay on top of top of the range

06/02/2017 - 16:57

French power has never been as effective as a marketing strategy in China but as of now. In almost all of the major cities in this economic power house, the French touch is everywhere to be seen. The number of brands that use French names, boasting of sophistication and refinement, is testimony to the fact. Starting with the most famous luxury to fashion and cosmetics and even car brands adorn the city shopping streets. And this marketing of the ‘French touch’ has caught the fancy of the Chinese consumers.

c / IngImage
c / IngImage
While global French brands like L’Oréal, doing business in China since 1997, representing an image of a high-end brand with impeccable quality, oozing from its French legacy, “Made in France” seems to have become the marketing catch line for French brands in the country. So much so that brands from other countries, such as the Japanese brand Uniqlo, which partnered with Ines de la Fressange for the Chinese market, are hurrying to tie up with French brands.

This French element or the French brand is one that many a French firm is proudly taking advantage of to gain competitive advantage and market leverage. The millennial consumers attach great importance to the country of origin of a product or service as it delivers positive perceptions about quality, trust and deliverability, claims a report by FutureBrand, which has created a new index called Country Branding the Country Brand Index (CBI), and which measures and ranks countries on the strength and power of their nation’s brand.

This has made the now formidable ‘French Touch’ as a powerful tool for French companies to gain advantage from and to enhance its brand strength, story and differentiation. “What counts is not so much the identity of the manufacturer. Rather, it is its ability to capture, understand and value the customer's identity country! However, it is true that the "French touch", the reputation of good taste of French as the prestige attached to the expertise of a secular business are probably not entirely foreign to the success of Oberthur Fiduciaire,” says Thomas Savare, CEO of the French firm Oberthur Fiduciaire, riding among the world leaders in banknote printing.

So what does this ‘French Touch” entail as a brand?

“France is a strong place brand with a well established reputation,” says Christophe Alaux, Deputy Director of the Public Management Institute at Aix-Marseille University in Southern France.

The common traits of all products and services with a French touch have a certain cultural specificity and a philosophy of good taste and refinement which is presented in a resolutely sophisticated version. The French prefer luxuriant abundance and do not hesitate to indulge in aesthetic opulence.

The legacy of the French Touch is perhaps best exemplified by the Louis Vuitton brand. Founded in Paris in 1854, its LV monogram exudes French touch even at the time when it became the world's most valuable luxury brand. This high end luxury French brand had some $9.4 billion in revenue as of 2013 and more than 460 stores worldwide.

The French watch industry, while somewhat subdued by the technological precision of their Swiss counterparts, has created a niche for their design, artistry, looks and aesthetics – the typical French touch attributes. French watch industry carries subtle shades of French identity which perpetuates the heritage of the successive generations. The Leroy brand is an example which has been successful in establishing the French identity in its products since the 18th century. And Cartier, despite the fact it being owned by the Swiss based Richemont group and was founded on South African capital, has always maintained and still carries quintessential French traits and values of being a French company. Its watches and pens are the epitome of French style.

Engaged in the business of banknote printing, French currency printer Oberthur Fiduciaire carries with it this French legacy wherever it goes. In fact, the firm, a global leader in designing and printing of currencies and working for numerous central banks, flaunts its 175 years-old French inheritance that gives it an acute sense of aesthetics, style and designing ability coupled with state of the art high end technology. These combine to churn out products that are of the best quality and aesthetic appeal. “Since banknotes convey many symbols that must contribute to the influence of the institution and of the entire country as well. So French aesthetics and design are also key issues for us,” says Savare of Oberthur Fiduciaire.

And who can deny the impeccable French perfumes. Males or females, whenever one talks about perfumes, it’s French.

Scent or perfume is something that helps make a statement about your personality – and expresses who you are, believes Luca Turin, biophysicist and co-author of ‘Perfumes: the A-Z Guide’. “Perfume is not smell. It’s a message in a bottle,” Turin says.

And this is what is delivered by French perfumes – a personal touch for everyone. Since the artistry of French perfume making has been passed down generations, which cannot be replicated of copied, French supremacy in perfumes have remained unchallenged.

An Air France message for its customers aptly describes the French Touch. “Visual identity, publishing, cabin harmony, architecture and design exhibitions and agencies, signage, uniforms, websites and digital design applications… all brand expressions are orchestrated to affirm the unique personality of the brand.” To leverage the French Touch and appeal, writer and researcher J.-N. Kapferer, also a marketing professor at HEC Paris aptly advises: “build a Brand France with strong and distinctive values, capable of catalyzing the sale of high-end products, services, and culture both at home and abroad.”

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