Under the radar: Are some French companies hiding?

Somehow, the conversation always ends up on which Silicon Valley companies are MIA in France.

A week or two ago, Deezer’s Jonathan Benassaya posted this comment on Twitter:

Opentable actually launched in France in 2008 and ironically their product didn’t take off – so I am told. French restaurants were too traditional to go electronic with their reservations at the time.

I agree. But apparently the situation has changed since 2008 and there are actually a few French companies in this space already: LaFourchette, Restopolitan and TableOnline.

Aside from OpenTable, another name that gets brought up frequently as potentially MIA in France is Mint. But guess what – ISWIGO is doing a pretty good job of covering that domain locally.

So why were these names under the radar?

Ok, perhaps some of it is Silicon Valley’s sexy name that seems to dwarf foreign competitors. But French companies may also have different communications strategies than American companies. I noticed, for example, that La Fourchette and ISWIGO are absent from Twitter (PLEASE correct me if I am wrong!). I’m probably starting to sound like Robert Scoble but Twitter is free and makes lots of noise – I don’t really see the point in saying no.

Wait, it gets worse…

Worse than not having a Twitter account, however, is not having a press kit available on a website. Restopolitan happily offers me a subscription to their newsletter when I sign onto their site but doesn’t have a press section? Don’t get me started on the other info missing from the website. The same goes for ISWIGO and La Fourchette isn’t really that much better.

Good noise, bad noise.

Are French companies somewhat more conservative, as a whole, when it comes to communication? Is this due to the fact that mess-ups and blunders are less tolerated in France than in the US? Do US start-ups differentiate less between good noise and bad noise? How would a French company have handled the release of Beacon? Or the Kevin Smith incident with SouthWest on Twitter?

All eyes on the SNCF et the RATP.

If there is one group that consistently takes a lot of flack from angry customers, it’s the French public transporation groups – the national SNCF and the Paris RATP. These two organizations have teamed up and done a fabulous job with Blogencommun – a blog that keeps commuters updated and responds to concerns and complains about strikes, construction, problems, etc. Blogencommun is also on Twitter (@blogencommun). I think this is one terrific example of a French group taking the web 2.0 wheel to help control and communicate regarding mess-ups.

Now all they have to do is release an English translation for the poor tourists…

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2 thoughts on “Under the radar: Are some French companies hiding?

  1. Hi Roxanne,

    (I am not French)

    I think you’re slightly off track – your’re trying to assess French marketing tactics within a generic marketing framework like creating buzz, being on Twitter, PR etc… that’s precisely what they call in France “marketing a l’Americaine” and some (but not all) avoid as first step altogether.

    I’ve learnt that there is a large part of marketing activity in France that is precisely under the radar screen and has to do with meeting and receiving support from politicians or public sector companies, distributing through corporate employee associations, street marketing in famous disco clubs, dinners with celebrities… It’s a different frame. You can sense a top-down approach in a lot of this as well as a tendency to avoid generic mass communication – at least until a business is large enough to afford the big thing – TV, soccer teams…

  2. Ohhh…good point. But my point is specific to web-based companies. How do they expect to get mass reach without any PR? But I agree with you, for non-web companies it’s a different ball game.

    That being said, Restopolitan DOES have a Twitter.

    But regardless of Twitter and whathave you I think all companies should have at least the minimum corporate info on their site, no? Well, unless they have no intent of acquiring customers via their website…my 2 cents.

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