12 Questions With Laurent François

by • March 23, 2016 • Experts Talk, InterviewsComments Off on 12 Questions With Laurent François4402

Social media and the campaigns that drive brand success, are nothing without the people who make things happen!

Each week we profile one innovative industry executive and get them to answer 12 questions. Then, we share their insight with you.

#BeatTheBuzz: The world’s greatest agencies and most exciting brands gather in London, on April 14th. Book your place now!

This week I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Executive Creative Strategist & founder of London agency RE-UP , Laurent François. Laurent will also be joining us for our “Beat the Buzz” event on April 14! You don’t want to miss it! So without further ado…

Hello Laurent!

Hello! As Linleigh said, I am Laurent, and I drive the creative strategies and digital developments here at RE-UP. Prior to that, I led the first 360° Digital Influence department in Europe for Ogilvy Group (now called Social@Ogilvy), working for clients like Lenovo, Nestlé, Louis Vuitton, IBM and Grazia.

Following that, I joined a European media group to build up their social business division, introducing a new business model with a cross-team made of journalists, bloggers, advertising teams and external talents. In 2012, I came back to London as a freelancer in leading positions for network-agencies like JWT and Havas.

It wasn’t until 2014 that my business partner and I created Re-Up; a creative army of misfits, helping brands to achieve their advertising and communications objectives, with social media at the very core of their creative developments. In 2015, I was presented with the YDLA award in the Young Leader category here in London. Since, I continue to drive strategy here at Re-Up, while also contributing to various magazines (Social Media Today, L’Express Styles, M&M etc.) and happily playing the role of visiting lecturer for a range of business and arts schools.

Great! That said, let’s get to the interview!

About Social Media In General

1. Which is your favorite social media platform? (please briefly explain why)

I’m a big fan of Instagram. I find it the most inspiring platform in terms of cultural discoveries when you start digging, and I also really love Reddit. I mean I still spend hours just browsing on both.

2. Which social platform is used most by your brand/agency?

There are 3 main platforms we use for our clients here at Re-Up; Facebook, Instagram & Twitter. Facebook for us used to be a place where we could build social brands. However, it’s progressively turning into an e-commerce amplifier. Therefore, we use it more as a sort of giant CRM to build up different social layers depending on how engaged the fans are, and then redirect them to deeper experience. Secondly, we use Instagram a lot. While its very new for most of our clients, there is a bit of an obligation to make sense of what’s going on there, as well as shape ties in the cultural cues that people have on it. When well-executed, Instagram has been a bit of a champion for us in the past two years. We also do quite a bit of Twitter, but because of our European DNA, we tend to use Twitter more for customer service rather than advertising or anything crazy. Often because we found that people chat less than they used to on Twitter, so they are using more informal or “dark social” channels.

So, in essence we take fractions of each channel, to bring people back to the brand’s relevant properties or experience. At Re-Up, we do like to do a lot of stuff in real life, to build the relationships of not only a brand and its users, but also in a group effort, to get the users meeting, discussing and just enjoying time together with their common interests. That is where the real social interactions can build a strong social brand, and when the brand becomes a connector among potentially like-minded people.

Brands need to start to realise, that social channels are no longer 2 dimensional, but rather more “3 dimensional” – a cultural territory that can be explored. Social media channels allow an alternative expression of real life that is becoming more and more “real”, allowing people to engage beyond public conversation, and be creative with their interactions. People fall in love before physically meeting, “feel” the sentiment of another individual through a certain way of chatting; it’s a very extimate territory to tap into for a brand.

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3. In your opinion, what is the future of social media, and which platforms do you think will lead the way?
I think brands need to first consider what social media is first. Before, we considered it to be people talking to other people via technology, however that is only partly true, because talking to someone requires skills, active behaviour, awareness, and a purpose. Therefore, at Re-Up we consider that social media are more than people willingly talking to each other: it actually embraces all direct or indirect interactions generated willingly or not, by people who are going to generate change among one or more individuals. Think about the footprint you’ve left by running while your Nike+ is working: the itinerary is going to influence the suggested paths for other users. So social media now plays with suggestion and prescription powers.,

The more interesting channel, is actually the “tangible” world: walls, streets, roads are also social channels per se. We used to analyse how a city works through its urbanism; in a sense, social media is more and more similar to a job of an architect, dealing with the mayor of London!

Thus, in the short term, as digital impacts the whole public domain, people are really interested in more private networks and people really want to own their privacy. Providing more secret platforms, conversations etc, dramatically affects the relationship with brands, and the way we target specific audiences. In a sense, it’s very good news that ad-blockers are on the rise: it makes us re-think our value proposition as marketers, and how we can associate hostile consumers with a more mutually beneficial relationship. In a sense, the same users of ad-blockers also use apps like Nike+. It’s not schizophrenia: it’s simply expressing common sense; I want a return on investment for the attention I give to a third-party.

This leads us to an additional interesting point. Social media isn’t what drives a campaign. The most effective campaign is a combination of all the things you do in a more “invisible” way (i.e. direct sales, chit-chat on Google Hangouts, a conversation on Skype, and real life connection). Social media aren’t the ONLY way to get your consumers talking, as only a fraction of word-of-mouth leaves a public digital footprint; social media is more an interface. Therefore we must tackle marketers who only use social channels as a billboard, and drive them to their real usages. People, in real life, are more similar to the way they present themselves on a Tinder profile than on a “demographics” marketing report. We must be as curious as people are, and get rid of our moral preconceptions.

About Great Social Media Campaigns

4. Please tell us about the one social media campaign you liked the most this year.

To be fair, I have been a bit disappointed this year, because we have seen many viral things, we have seen lots of cause-related stuff, which is great… But I haven’t seen something that wowed me. Personally, I would like a more “real-time” approach to a campaign, but nothing has really peaked my interest this year We’re only in March though, so who knows what the rest of the year might bring…

5. What about the latest campaign your brand or agency was involved in?

One of our most exciting and most ethical clients at the moment is Shiseido, a Japanese cosmetics brand. They are currently undergoing many changes, both at the brand level and in the digital sphere. What is super interesting about them, is that they are a century-old brand (actually older) that is definitely bringing some traction among a younger audience, translating their vision of beauty into a strong digital approach globally. They are one of the few brands tapping into the so-called “3 H” as defined by Google.

So, for instance there is a “hero content” video that everybody has seen, presenting a Japanese high school with only girls… then the camera stops and it’s actually only boys! Within this hero video, there are tons of little perks and signs which can incite people to re-watch it again and again. The video, initially launched in Japan, has spread all over the globe. It brings up the issues surrounding gender, and gender fluidity in a very open way. People are invited to interpret this video with their own understanding. We’ve also pushed forward a great social media experience – a “hub content”, using 360° features on Facebook and YouTube, with a great partnership with Kevin Rolland, one of the most amazing extreme sports talent in the world. Shiseido explored new ways to talk about beauty among a very passionate community of men and women who are fond of free-riding.

Because, at the end of the day, “beauty” brands don’t generally define “what beauty is” but instead tailor it to their personal agenda. What we do for Shiseido on digital and social specifically, is to little by little qualify people’s very own definition of beauty. The response is so far quite good, with a skyrocketing engagement rate. Hygiene content and “daily telling” is split within a system, which aims to create a sense of belonging within the community, some rituals, and also possibilities to make people decide themselves what they want to see on social channels.

Actually, this case study is the proof that when brands consider people the real shareholders of their reputation, they can even give them missions and explore territories they could not reach on their own. Another client is Rachel Khoo and her amazing gang, who we help for the launch of Khoollect.

Khoollect aims to find and highlight inspiration in unlikely places. The team at Khollect represents a wide diversity of talents: photographers, food writers, curators etc. With their “smile” attitude, they not only produce good content but also create a lot of social experience that gives us a glimpse of what an entertainment program will look like in the future. Inspired by freemium models, Khoollect is a media for the current generations of social media users: it’s more sophisticated than “buzz hives” and more accessible than a high-end publication.

It basically represents all the values of RE-UP regarding content production, community involvement, and original ways of working with brands. The Khoollect community has been built up for the last couple of months, fully organically; the webzine has only been released in a beta version few weeks ago, and it’s already becoming a great hub for food lovers. But not only: on Khoollect, different personas can enjoy different kinds of experiences; since day one, the Khoollect team has asked every new reader what they want to do, how they could get involved, what they’re ready to do. Basically, Khoollect becomes an enabler for a wide diversity of people to access experience, ideas, fun and communities that they wouldn’t get otherwise. Brands should probably have a look at this startup, as the value they might get by working with them is far bigger than any classic digital campaign.

6. What is the most important thing brands and agencies must keep in mind, in order to build a successful social media campaign?

I think one of the things brands in Europe often forget is that especially in Europe, it is not natural to talk to a brand. This concept was actually brought to life via TNS’s Digital Life Survey which actually showcased Europe as being one of the toughest markets to tap into… because of the ad blockers. We need to go back to a bit more of a humble approach, and ask ourselves “How does asking for attention from people benefit them?” Brands really need to become obsessed with the question, “Am I really delivering value?”

And that’s why I think this notion of value in social is sometimes a bit misunderstood. For example, if I am a consumer looking for an insurance company, I don’t want to be entertained. I just want my insurance company to provide a state of the art service. My expectations really start there. And what I have personally noticed as both a consumer and a professional, is that most brands consider social to be the hub of “buzz” and that is what they aim to provide, rather than a sort of value to their consumers. It all comes back to the social design of the brand, and what it can deliver in terms of service.

The third thing is to definitely understand the social channel you are using, from a cultural perspective. There are trends, and there are habits that users took time to shape; it’s important to understand their genesis, to detect why suddenly a “hashtag” is used to describe a certain type of content or feeling. Observing subcultures should be a top priority for brands, otherwise they only stick to average marketing based on average demographics analysed through average indicators. We as consumers don’t want to be average..

7. In your opinion, which is the most important KPI to watch during a social media campaign?

While there is a million I could list, the most important KPI, is to regroup KPIs, and create a sort of marketing funnel. You need to actually consolidate a few KPIs, to create one that actually makes sense. A fan for a fan, no one really cares. It’s not worth it… but knowing that some unique visitors came back three times, that is a value, because most often they come from your social channels. Think about “brand love”: it’s a concept which should actually regroup a wide diversity of KPIs, both quantitative and qualitative.

The second thing is e-commerce. It is kind of like a “sell or else” principle. E-commerce is a good measure of the effect of the empathy between a brand and people. What’s really interesting as you start to gain more experience, is that you actually start to see the sales increase in stages, and start to realise the organics, or reasons behind the dips or increases based on the stages of sales. The real skill is generating organic traffic without any ad-push, and it does take time to develop that.

About The Future Of Social Media Marketing

8. What will be the role of social media in the marketing mix of the future?

I think there’s going to be a mix between transaction cost and social media value of the product or service more and more. Uber is a great example of how the attention value is better than getting a normal black taxi. In a sense, you can have the same service for a cheaper price, on Kabbee. However, the social interactions that occur on Uber seem to be stronger than on other platforms;  a driver who says hello, a bottle of water, a cheeky rating feature that is hidden in the “help” part of the app… all these elements are astonishing in terms of social design.

Also, there will be more and more passive contributions to social interactions, because you are not even aware of most of the interaction and most of the influence you generate as an individual. For example, you have been to x restaurant and have left a review. While that may be a bit conscious, you never expected it to be read by the management. Therefore, there is going to be a bit of a tricky situation, where 99% of the influence is going to be generated unwillingly through private companies providing public platforms, that have a business purpose.

9. What would you say is the biggest obstacle within the field of social media marketing?

Access to the internet… definitely. You can’t provide people with proper social interactions without proper access to the internet. The second thing is the relationship aspect of social media. Similar to a real time relationship, just because we meet, I won’t give you everything there and then. It really needs to be staged. The brand should build and grow with its consumers, and that’s not currently the case. Most of the amazing social experiences built in 2007 or 2008 have been destroyed: not so many brands have big archives; as a consumer, I’m disappointed to have lost track of most of the crazy Louis Vuitton experiences they provided 10 years ago. It’s as if brands are removing 90% of their history, because they’re focusing only on “now”. People are not only interested in the now at all.

It all comes down to the misunderstanding that “brands still talk about ‘audiences’, whereas they should talk about ‘people’.

10. If you had to give one piece of advice to someone who has just started out in the industry, what would it be?

Be curious, and keep the curiosity. With social media ever-changing, what you learn with experience may be a few fundamentals, but you are constantly learning. Another thing is to never put any moral judgments on what people are actually doing online. It really is one of the biggest mistakes. Always remember you are not paid to give your opinion on a product, service or campaign, but rather deliver a rationale or strategy.

While you want to sell stuff ultimately, you have to remember that for the consumer it is just the beginning of the journey, so you always need to consider that journey. There is a certain notion of dreaminess that brands develop with their consumers as well, so try and find that sweet-spot that can make people slightly dream and achieve those dreams.

11. In your opinion, which is the “ad format of the future”?
The future ad format isn’t an ad format at all. It will probably be more a sort of shared citizenship, a “deal” you make with a brand as a political system.

Fun Fact

12. Finally, tell us one thing someone would NOT be able to find about you from looking at your social media profiles.

My dinner. You won’t see food. I don’t post photos of food. I don’t know how to shoot it, so therefore I don’t post it! Haha. I do however love black and white photography!

Amazing! Thank you Laurent!

If you liked Laurent’s interview, join us at #BeatTheBuzz on April 14th! For more information on the event click here!

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