‘Made in France’ Underpants

Le Slip Français, purveyors of men’s and women’s undergarments, have parlayed old-world manufacturing and award-winning digital marketing into an under-the-radar success. Here’s how.

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Signature undies

by Mary B. Adams @ladymissmba

Le Slip Français is a modest company with a discreet product and humble beginnings. In 2011 founder Guillaume Gibault was fresh out of business school when a friend bet him that quality underwear could no longer be manufactured in modern France. Gibault set out to prove him wrong, and did.

Today Le Slip Français manufactures upscale unmentionables at nine workshops across France and sells them almost exclusively through e-commerce. The signature blue-white-and-red undies are priced between 25 and 35 euros apiece. Revenues in 2013 exceeded 900,000 euros, more than tripling those from the previous year. Ninety percent of the company’s sales are from France, and a third of them are from the Paris region. The company’s tagline, Made in France 3.0, sums up the brand’s key strengths: leveraging modern communication tools to build a compelling heritage brand out of an otherwise basic commoditya pair of drawers.

Digital Marketing a Key Success Factor

Born and raised on the Internet, Le Slip Français understands the importance of relevant, valuable content. Effective storytelling feeds social networks, boosts brand recognition and gets the e-shoppers e-shopping. The retro-sleek aesthetic of Le Slip Français’ website (in French and English) mixes schoolboy geekiness and “Mad Men” sophistication. A generous portion of the website focuses on Francis, the hunky model depicted in—you guessed it—a pair of briefs.

Francis, the company mascot

Thousands of fans and customers follow Francis around the world on Facebook. He pops up in endless postcard settings—beaches, fields, mountaintops—like the gnome in Amelie Poulin. On the Instagram feed, behind-the-scenes glimpses of office life are among the more popular posts. Pinterest is a storehouse of “Inspiration” for the brand, with historic boxing posters and vintage black-and-white photos of Alain Delon, Jane Birkin, Brigitte Bardot and – perhaps to demonstrate that inspiration can also come from beyond the borders of France – Mohammed Ali.

In addition to photos, videos are powerful communication tools used to showcase “the unique savoir-faire” of traditional French manufacturing or to poke fun at political campaigns. The socialist party’s slogan during the 2012 presidential elections, “Change is Now,” became “Change Your Underwear Now” in a promotional video that generated loads of buzz and press for the brand. The “Chef’s Surprise,” a 1960s throwback comparing Le Slip Français undies to those of brand x, concludes that men who appreciate elegance and comfort insist on Le Slip Français. This video is close to reaching a million views on YouTube.

A MyMajorCompany crowdfunding campaign launched in March 2013 further illustrates Le Slip Français’ digital marketing prowess. The company needed €10,000 to develop and launch an innovative concept: scented skivvies for men. They collected €22,252 from more than 500 investors, blowing the pants off their goal. By summertime, the low-rise fragranced briefs had already gone to market.

In October 2014 Le Slip Français received a Digital Marketing of the Year trophy for using digital technologies in transformative ways. In a phone interview, Guillaume Gibault explains where he gets ideas for marketing campaigns:

“I get inspiration from all kinds of sources, traditional and modern. I spend loads of time on social media networks and blogs. Reading novels and magazines also provides inspiration.”

Expansion via Brick-and-Mortar and Partnerships

Le Slip Français recently burst out of its online britches, opening its first boutique in the Marais, a trendy shopping district in Paris. “In our business, if we want to build credibility in the export market, particularly with our partners in Japan, Korea, etc, it is important to have a storefront in Paris…even if we are very internet-oriented,” Gibault explains. The company is also experimenting with a pop-up shop in Hong Kong, the first of several standalone points of sale in Asia, aimed to build trust and brand recognition among Asian consumers.

The firm is quite big on partnerships and counts Princesse Tam.Tam, Balibaris, Kulte and Monette among them. A strategic partnership with Agnès B, the iconic Parisian fashion brand, also helped open door into the Asian market. “Associating ourselves with solid brands like these boosts our visibility and helps us come up with fresh new products,” Gibault adds. He also notes that a collaboration with heritage footwear maker Aigle is in the works.

This year the company plans to open two new boutiques, add four employees to its staff and grow its export business (today representing 10% of total revenues). Championing the revival of French manufacturing has no doubt contributed to Le Slip Français’ success at home. Just how big the sales potential is for these little briefs proudly displaying the “Made in France” pedigree on an international scale remains to be seen…

6 Steps to Turn Contrary Customers into Brand Champions

by Mary B. Adams @LadyMissMBA

Adieu, customer call centres and online feedback forms. Hello, social media. More and more, customers are turning to Facebook and Twitter to register complaints or customer service issues. As these are on display for the world to see, it is more important than ever that companies handle these issues promptly and professionally. What are the risks for companies that ignore or mishandle opportunities to engage with grumpy customers?

Research shows that some 50% of consumers give a brand only one week to respond to a question before they stop doing business with them, while some 89% of consumers took their business elsewhere  following a poor customer experience. Avoid alienating your customer and sending her running towards the competition. Instead try these easy steps to turn unhappy customers into your biggest fans.

  1. Don’t lose your cool. Remain calm and professional at all times. The last thing you want to do is pick a fight or lash out in any way, even if you are tempted to do so. No matter how accusatory or insulting the customer may sound, remember, this is not a personal attack. So stay zen.
  2. Don’t ignore it. It was never a good idea to turn a blind eye to negative feedback, even if it was easier for companies to get away with before the days of social media. Yet some still think they can ignore negative online feedback. This makes things worse. Brands like Gap, Walmart and United Airlines learned the hard way. Remember the famous United Breaks Guitars video that got 14 million views? How much business could United Airlines have salvaged by addressing this situation before it went viral? Probably lots. So take all negative comments seriously. Acknowledge them promptly. Show empathy. Set appropriate expectations so that your customer knows what to expect and when. For example: “Thank you, Sandra, for letting us know you still haven’t received your package. Our customer care team is looking into it and will get back to you within 24 hours.” Don’t forget to follow through to make sure that customer service responds within the deadline.
  3. Start a private conversation, if appropriate. Online retailer Asos, for example, routinely invites its customers to discuss the matter via private messaging. You could also propose to continue over email or over the phone. This is a precautionary measure to keep a potentially volatile situation from erupting under the public eye. If customers prefer to post in public on your Facebook wall or on Twitter, don’t insist, just continue the exchange via their preferred method.
  4. Prepare for the worst. An online onslaught could happen to anyone at anytime, so get organized today. Consider using a listening tool like Google alerts so that you can be instantly notified when your company name, product or designated keywords pop up online. Dust off that organizational chart so that everyone knows what steps to take when faced with a potential PR disaster. Do team members have scripts for addressing angry customers? Do they know exactly what steps to take in case they need to escalate the issue? What member of management or 3rd party needs to be alerted and how (via sms, email, a call on the home phone if it happens to be a weekend)?
  5. Apologize and take responsibility. Nobody is perfect. Nor is any company. When things go wrong, be honest, offer a sincere apology for your mistake and fix it. This applies whether you think the customer is right or not. Clothing and accessories retailer, Zara, recently came under attack from consumers who claimed one of their t-shirts resembled the uniform worn by Jewish prisoners during the second world war. The retailer quickly responded, begging their pardon in several different languages across its social media platforms. Crisis averted. (See Forbes’ Fast Fashion Chain Zara Faces Backlash For ‘Holocaust Uniform’ Shirt.)Hardly the case for Airbnb,who suffered a public relations mess in 2011 when a customer described in detail on her blog how her apartment had been vandalized by a guest, and how numerous attempts to reach AirBnB in the wake of the incident were unsuccessful. Her story took off like wildfire across the internet. One month later, the CEO made a statement of apology. He explained what steps had been taken to address the problem, including insurance coverage for hosts, a 24-hour hotline and more. The company seems to have recovered from this costly mishap, as it continues to experience impressive growth.
  6. Keep your Friends Close and your Critics Closer. For every complainer, there are likely many more customers who experienced the same issue but never bothered to complain. So don’t hesitate to let the complainer know how grateful you are that he or she helped you resolve a problem. You may offer a coupon or a gift, or simply say how thankful you are. Set a calendar reminder to reach out to this person on a monthly or quarterly basis to continue to build the relationship. Ask if she is still happy with your service or whether there is anything you can do to make it better. Invite her to upcoming events, sample shows, new product test drives, etc. She may take part and get her friends to join, too.

By the way, if you are tired of complex social dashboards to manage customer relations, you might want to try Sleek. Designed by Tigerlily, this real-time, unified social inbox is super simple to use. Sleek is currently looking for beta testers. Sign up or find out more here: http://sleekapp.io/.

German Banking Network Monitor and Respond to Conversations at Scale

In the banking industry, reputation is paramount. After all, customers need to know a bank will be consistently reliable, convenient and secure before they entrust their savings to it.

The Organization

Sparkassen-Finanzgruppe (The German Savings Banks Finance Group) runs 417 savings banks under the Sparkasse brand in Germany. Each savings bank is independently run and managed, and concentrates its business activities on local clientèle. Rather than operating from the top down, this is a bottom-up kind of business.

The Challenge

When Sparkassen-Finanzgruppe approached social media monitoring firm Brandwatch for a single social media monitoring solution for its 350+ locally managed banks, Brandwatch knew they had their work cut out for them. In addition to needing a way to deliver robust yet relevant data to each of its branches, other priority goals for Sparkassen-Finanzgruppe included:

1. Topic monitoring to identify emerging themes and trends
2. Intelligent listening for potential crises
3. Reputation management

“The conversations on the social web have immense value. If a Sparkassen ATM is broken, for example, we often get quicker feedback from our social media monitoring than from the technical department” – Alexander Hauser, Head of Online Marketing

The Solution

Brandwatch provided a highly customizable platform designed to help Sparkassen achieve the following:

  • Improve customer service through real-time monitoring
  • Facilitate faster responses to prevent or manage PR crises
  • Allow employees easy access to data and help them better understand social media
  • Provide tailored reports to different departments throughout the organization and over 350 regional branches
  • Have a flexibility tool that could adapt to its changing needs

The full case study awaits you here.

Brands that Rock Vine, Instagram, YouTube

Some companies and brands are successfully using videos and photo sharing platforms to market and promote their wares.

Which brands are having a major impact and how?

Students took turns telling us about platforms like Vine, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube as well as showing us some creative campaigns.

Examples included:

For further reading, please check out:

6 OF THE BEST, BOLDEST USES OF VINE IN MARKETING

16 Ways Businesses Are Using Twitter Vine

Why is Konbini so successful?

konbini

Konbini.com is the blog run by the advertising agency of the same name. It began in 2008 and now gets more than 1,000 000 hits per month. French advertiser David Creuzot started it after he sold his digital creation agency. Konbini is a pure-player media and its main advantage comes from the agency’s success in conceiving creative contents and managing projects launched all over the world.

A blog in the heart of social networks

80% of its audience comes from social networks, mainly Facebook. Community management is therefore an essential part of the blog’s strategy. It has 131,000 likes on Facebook and 15 to 20 articles are published a day. The blog concerning creativity and pop culture is targeted at social networks and aims to go viral. Therefore, the writing style is colloquial and editorially, it tries to be “cool.” A large team of amateur contributors with a keen eye for trending topics on the internet ensure the blog is up to date with the latest online crazes.

Nevertheless, Konbini is not the only one who tries to do this: its main competitor is Brain Magazine, although many other lifestyle websites targeting city dwellers between 20 and 35 are also competitors.

A great success…but stuck at the French border?

With 35,805 unique visitors a day, Konbini.com is now one of the great French online success stories and is now better known than the agency itself!

Its success has been such that that the creators recently decided to launch an English version of the blog, with the collaboration of foreign fans. Unfortunately, success a word one could use to describe the new English version, mainly due to its poorly translated articles.

If you English speakers haven’t done so already, you better learn French so that you can enjoy this website and be aware of the going-ons in the world of pop culture!

By Claire Sarfati, Pauline Legrand and Jeanne Billau

Coca-Cola Conversations

I would like to talk about the blog « Coca-Cola Conversations ». This is a blog released by the Coca-Cola brand in order to open a discussion about the brand and the mythic drink with its customers. This will to generate conversation is represented by the wall of tweets that appears on the right of the screen.But this blog is also a place to deal with the origins of Coca-Cola, a place to publish texts and pictures from the archives of the brand. 

The team in charge of this blog is composed of people specialised in archive management and in social and digital communication. They publish articles about the archives of the Coca-Cola brand but also personal stories. The aim seems to be to show how Coca fits into American culture. We can quote one example from an article published by one of the blog’s writter that talks about how his son likes to drink cocola eating pie on the « pie-day ». 

coke-and-apple-pie

This blog seems to be a very effective way to produce a kind of « digital storytelling » which is going to support the brand marketing strategy. However the success of this blog is relative: there only 5 500 fans on the Facebook page of the Coca-Cola archives linked to this blog.  

Camille Paplorey