We asked three of our speakers from the “International Roadshow: France Insights” the same four questions. The challenge to avoid stereotypical responses to bold questions, was accepted by Bertrand Beaudichon, CEO and Co-Founder of Mediaplus in France, Alexander Wurz, expert in intercultural management and owner of Open-i-Consulting, and Florence Delobel, Consultant for successful brands like Andros, Bonne Maman and many more.
Here are their answers:


IRSFrance_BeaudichonBertrand Beaudichon
(Session 2 “Today’s French consumer”)

How would you describe „The French way of doing business“?

Let’s start with French people:
Looking at a map, France is at the exact middle between Northern and Southern countries. This simple observation dictates quite well the French way of doing business. Indeed, French businessmen are the perfect mix between northern rationality and southern emotionality. Which means that French are highly analytics and do love concepts and abstractions, which makes French people creative and quite good in innovation and technology. But which means also that human relationship is of a major importance. French are proud, love (long) business lunches, and often think that foreigners consider them as part of declining country. Thus, a love declaration to French products and technology (and not, as always, its wine, cheese, food and cultural or tourism patrimony) is a great idea to start a positive business relationship. Also, as most of southern countries, the average level of foreign languages skill is quite low. And because French are proud, they won’t tell you they don’t understand your English. So, do not hesitate to speak slowly and make sure you’ve been well understood! In terms of business, French consumers are very attractive, do love brands, and consuming is more or more seen as a way to escape from a gloomy economic context.

Now that the partner is described, let’s talk about the playground.

In terms of business, 80% of France is Paris. Which makes it easier than in Germany to start a business in France: A headquarter in Paris will be enough to cover your French business. But this also creates a good opportunity, when a German company talks to a non-parisian company (what we call here quite negatively a “regional company”), to acknowledge what being a regional company means. Regional companies do fight all days to be considered as national actors, even if not Parisian. The German federal model, in this field, helps creating a better community of spirit with such regional companies.

Then, the regulatory environment. France is, and considers itself, as the most complicated system of regulation and tax. And guess what, it is very true. So, do not even think setting up a business in France with a non-national and very skilled set of lawyers and accountants, which will help you decode what is and is not to be done. Finally, they will help you finding your way, and maintain your competitiveness… because, finally, there is always a way!

Is “Made in Germany” a sales point in France or a no-go?

Well, don’t take it wrong, but it highly depends on the industry! For industrial, chemicals, automotive, technology, the German label is definitely a great, great selling point. A label of quality, long-term lasting and reliable technology for manufactured things. For example, a great number of German automotive brands (Audi, Volkswagen, Opel) do claim their german-ity in their advertising…

But if the industry is a more creative one, like fashion, design, or food… let’s be more discrete on your origin, and let’s pretend you’re French or Italian 🙂

How would you describe the French consumer in three words?

Sense seeker, individualist and all-screens addict.

How can brands benefit from the Franco-German friendship?

Franco-German friendship is real, and not only a story of politicians. Thus, a German player claiming doing business in the name of this friendship, especially when competing against other non-french countries will take a good advantage.


IRSFrance_WurzAlexander Wurz
(Session 4 „Do you speak my culture? – The French way of doing business” and guest author)

How would you describe „The French way of doing business“?

French have tendency to put more emphasis on personal relationships and emotions when doing business. It is not enough, to “convince” the other side but also to “seduce”. The French word “séduction” is used very often and is key for successful business in this country!

Which market is more competitive, the French or the German market?

When you look at the official rankings of “World Competitiveness Ranking”, Germany is more competitive. But I don’t think that we should only look at numbers to answer this question. There are many examples where French products are better than German ones. And a French would say: competitiveness is not everything in life. What about nice, good looking, seducing and sexy products…?

Is “Made in Germany” a sales point in France or a no-go?

Yes and no. French recognize and respect definitely the high-quality products coming from Germany, mainly from the technical industry. But on the other hand, I hear them often say that German products are sometimes too perfect, therefore too expensive and often not “sexy” (regarding the design or the presentation).

How would you describe the French consumer in three words?

Higher distrust (than Germans), playful, more intuitive and spontaneous (than Germans)

How would you describe the German consumer in three words?

Facts-oriented and well informed, less flexible, easier to manipulate (than for example the French)

How can brands benefit from the Franco-German friendship?

A lot! Germans and French cultures are a bit like the left side and the right side of our brain. The one with more focus on facts, logical thinking and rational approach and the other one one emotions, abstract thinking, creativity and intuition. Imagine if we put these two sides together! There is no better synergy than these two cultures.


IRSFrance_DelobelFlorence Delobel
(Session 5 “Best Practice from Andros, the leader on a highly competitive FMCG market”)

How would you describe „The French way of doing business“?

I would like to talk about distribution and particularly the relationship between suppliers and buyers. In France the relationship is very harmonious, but often the demands are not clearly expressed. Everyone keeps to his/her role, not disclosing very much. Negotiations can be long, over several meetings before clear needs are expressed. Often tensions can run high and there can often be unpleasant moments before coming to an agreement.

Which market is more competitive, the French or the German market?

Both markets have strengths and weaknesses. If one takes the example of agribusiness, the French are creative gourmets and enjoy inventing different, well-presented, premium products. They are capable of producing things in small quantities for a tailored audience. Prices are often high to reflect this. Whereas the Germans are more competitive with larger production adjusted to their own market. They produce good-quality, well-presented products at lower prices. They don’t, however, offer a wide variety of flavours or different styles/assortments, they keep to standard products.

Is “Made in Germany” a sales point in France or a no-go?

All depends on which sector of activity we are talking about. I would say that in agribusiness it isn’t the most attractive aspect. The image of German products is linked to hard discount such as Lidl and Aldi, which are not always synonymous with quality products. The two nation’s tastes are different too on a wide range of products; it isn’t easy to impose new taste on a country that prides itself for its Gastronomy!

How would you describe the French consumer in three words?

Demanding (they want everything quality/price/service), fickle (they like innovation), well-informed (connected)

How would you describe the German consumer in three words?

I don’t know the market that well, but the words that come to mind are rational, efficient and direct…

How can brands benefit from the Franco-German friendship?

If one combines French and German strengths we would come up with perfect products: good production, competitive pricing, great quality, but also beautiful design, delicious and creative. The best of all worlds!


Serviceplan International Roadshow France InsightsBertrand Beaudichon, Alexander Wurz and Florence Delobel will lecture at the Serviceplan International Roadshow France // 8 June 2016 – 2 pm // House of Communication in Munich.
If you like to join our event and meet our interview partners in person please contact our organisation team at




Carole Harib, CMO Sky Consulting and speaker at Serviceplan International Roadshow France (8 June 2016 – 2 pm // House of Communication in Munich) gives as a guest author an insight into her daily consulting practice with a topic that is close to her heart.

Naturalness or a return to a brand’s roots

As the sun sets on hyperconsumption in a world characterized by a fast pace of life and urbanisation, the need to reconnect with nature is becoming increasingly pressing and a major societal issue. The attitude displayed today by consumers with regard to beauty and cosmetics brands systematically addresses the question of naturalness.

Consumers are drawn to naturalness for several reasons: a desire to avoid aggressive ingredients, a quest for harmlessness (Defence), nutrients, a focus on the driving force of life (Health), and the urge to reveal and enhance this driving force of life via the effectiveness of natural products (Beauty).

Two types of arguments emerge as a result:

  • A first principle which consists in seeking out the driving force of life at its very source (Mother Nature): incorporating and enabling the virtues of the ingredient pass into the body (i.e. I am what I eat, my skin is what I give to it), the end result being beauty and health (consequence of the principle and satisfaction arising from respecting it)
  • A second principle based on the quest for beauty first and foremost (e. I am what I look like, only the result counts): action, repair, remedying a deficiency, and an attitude which implies that health is inherent to results which can be seen (confidence more than health)

These two different registers reveal two paradigms, each revolving around a coherent system of beliefs and representations.:

  • The paradigm of natural nature or complete naturalness (Mother Nature) encompasses everything that is universal and natural as well as essence itself. A “dogmatic” paradigm stemming from faith in a holistic belief, possibly with an underlying hint of guilt, and the concept of having been led astray, and not respecting the dogma.
  • The paradigm of cultural nature and efficiency which encompasses the desired effect, specificity, the “for oneself” factor, beauty, proof, and even science. A “pragmatic” paradigm stemming from faith in a belief that is confirmed, certified, proven, although tinged with the risk of potential disappointment and fallibility.

The complete naturalness paradigm is firmly rooted in a “I Must” stance and efficient naturalness in a “I Need” stance. If the first paradigm, consumer attitudes reveal a level of moral involvement which is more psychological than behavioural, whereas the second is more closely intertwined with the notions of justification and motivation. However, both work together to establish a conviction which combines image of the self and benefit for the self.

Individuals are multifaceted, and even more so today in a context of financial downturn, stress and intense competition. Cosmetics brands thus need to provide reassurance (naturalness) and be convincing (efficiency / proof). It is possible to consider a purchase based on conviction without reassurance, but the opposite seems much more difficult (reassurance without conviction?).

Beyond these broad principles, the promise of naturalness in cosmetics embraces a wide range of territories exploited by brands striving to claim and play this card: harmlessness/safety (nothing nasty, green ingredients…), origins, “sourcing”, selection of ingredients (correlated with an authentic and rare aspect), bio-ethics (affirmation of a societal commitment), biomimetics (combination of science and nature, synergy and symbiosis of active principles with the skin), pharmacopeia, herbalism (therapeutic cosmetics via plants), inspiration sought from ancestral beauty rituals (discovery and benefits in terms of harmony and wellbeing), sensorial nature (experiential benefit of nature), and minimalist nature (simplicity, soberness…) …

Cosmetic brands display five main approaches to nature:

  • “Botanical” approach: respect for the integrity of the ingredient (paradigm of complete naturalness/Mother Nature, mythological approach revolving around the power of nature)
  • Ethical approach: absence of harmful ingredients or a focus on ancestral traditions
  • Technical approach: technological nature enriched with distillates obtained by refining
  • Ethnic approach: nature associated with traditions inherent to other cultures
  • Health approach: therapeutic powers of nature

Although mass market brands or brands with a longstanding commitment to naturalness have been able to lay claim to the fact that naturalness is an integral part of their DNA or have succeeded in incorporating this claim, luxury brands have not yet undergone a “natural” revolution. For the first time, luxury brands have shown signs of a decline on the cosmetics market relative to more “natural oriented” brands, triggering a wave of purchases of natural brands by luxury groups well aware of the potential of naturalness.

This is a real challenge for luxury brands…

How can a luxury brand simultaneously claim the benefits of pleasure, a belief in abundance (no limits) and the benefits of naturalness and/or responsibility without risking accusations of lacking legitimacy and credibility, or even of manipulative temptation?

How can the equation be solved when two worlds are steeped in antagonistic semantics?

In view of the fact that societal, economic, political, and environmental crises have put in question certain values which once structured the purchase of luxury products (ostentation, possession, impulsiveness, costliness…), the trend towards naturalness and sustainable development could be an opportunity for luxury brands to promote what makes the essence of luxury itself.

But how should they embrace naturalness? Which angle should they adopt? Is there a naturalness specific to luxury? Will they take their commitment one step further than the relationship to products or consumers so as to adopt a strong societal approach?

Naturalness is well on the way to becoming one of the main trends in the years to come. Will it be a must for luxury brands too?

How to cultivate partnerships with your French colleagues at a distance.

Germany and France – so close and yet so far. Many German businessmen see the French market as a challenge. The reason is often, that cultural differences are underestimated due to the close geographic location, although the fact is that both cultures possess very different mindsets and work ethics. Once this is understood you can not only find outstanding synergies, but can also have a lot of fun while working together (and you don’t have to hide in the cellar to have a good laugh, as often found in Germany… ).

The following is a small contribution to a topic that we are often asked about in our seminars: managing at a distance.

If you have established a good working relationship with one or more French colleagues, you have “capital” that you should under no circumstances neglect. Not only do you have a pleasant working relationship, but you also have a local confidant that can keep you up to date about news, strategic decisions and “Scoops”. You can also confidently test your own ideas according to his feedback. Here are a few hints for cultivating such relationships:

  1. Invest in relationship efficiency

According to German criterion, everything needs to offer a clear use. It is for this reason that you should view contact cultivation as a very important indirect advantage:

The time you invest in it always pays out in full in the end. Your colleague will warn you about the backgrounds for the behaviour of other co workers, get something done for you, warn you when something is going to be risky for you or your company, and so on! He will not do it for the cause, but for you!

  1. Always keep in contact

One of the most important tools for this is the telephone. It is widely used in France to exchange information or cultivate contacts. It is for this reason that telephone bills in French branch offices are often significantly higher than in German ones.

You should “keep a finger on the pulse” (“prendre la température”) at least once a week if possible by picking up the phone and speaking the magic words “Alors quoi de neuf?“ (“Hey, what’s new?“).

Most French conversation partners will reply to this by telling you what keeps them busy at the moment, how they are doing or what recent event has made a big impression on them. In this way, a game of ping-pong begins: Both expect the other side to pick up on the ball and return it. Because the other side is busy or under stress, you may receive a short answer, in which case you call back later.

  1. Just send a personal E-mail now and then

Surprise your French co workers by sending an email that contains nothing “official”. For example a personal joke or a hard riddle. The more often you laugh together and exchange social topics, the more you will profit from the positive sides of French culture. As a positive side effect you will have lots of fun working together!

  1. Stay authentic

This type of contact cultivation may not, particularly in business, be for everyone. Especially since you are more used to staying “businesslike” in Germany. It is therefore very important not to play-act but to stay authentic, otherwise this is not likely to work.

  1. Arrive a night early

Never miss the opportunity to offer a dinner the night before a meeting or after an official appointment to exchange pleasantries… There is no need to have a guilty conscience as a positive usage is often the result and it’s also a lot of fun!

  1. “Send the Elevator back”

“Renvoyer l’ascenseur” (“Quid pro quo”, or “you scratch my back I scratch yours”): This very popular turn of phrase in France means nothing else but to repay a favour that was done for you. If one of your French colleagues has problems, maybe you can offer him advice or show sympathy. If he gives you information, you should repay the gesture later if not immediately. This works especially well in France as it shows prestige and power to be the first informed (“Scoops).


About our guest author: Alexander Wurz is expert in intercultural management and the owner of Open-i-Consulting. He has devised and managed a large number of intercultural consulting and training projects worldwide for multinational companies. Alexander worked on several M&A consulting projects on the ‘human side of integration’. Besides being a teacher of intercultural management at several European universities, he is a well-known keynote speaker and consults at international conferences. This article is an excerpt from the book „Deutsch-französische Geschäftsbeziehungen erfolgreich managen“ (GABLER)


Serviceplan International Roadshow France Insights

Serviceplan International invites you to take a joint look at the French market, broaching the issues of current developments and business opportunities as well as diving deeper into the consumer landscape and the French way of doing marketing. Serviceplan International Roadshow France // 8 June 2016 – 2 pm // House of Communication in Munich – If you like to join our event please contact our organisation team at


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