#ConfinedComDirectors Series #INTERVIEW7

The #ConfinedComDirectors series continues…

The #ConfinedComDirectors by Epresspack series & COM-ENT continues beyond confinement. Because the health crisis is putting the communication industry in a complicated economic context, Epresspack surveys the communication and marketing professionals whom it supports daily in France and in Europe. This week, Sylvie Noulette, Director of Brands and Trade Marketing for the Haier group in France is ready for the exercise.

"We learned faster in two months than in the past three years."

Sylvie NoumetteDirector of Brands and Trade Marketing for the Haier group


Guaranteeing the strategy and positioning of 4 major household appliance brands in France - Candy, Hoover, Rosières, Haier - has been the mission of Sylvie Noulette, Brand and Trade Marketing Director for the Haier group for just one year. Surrounded by a dozen collaborators, she oversees the communications, marketing, digital, PR, social media, and trade marketing of the world number 1 household appliance established in France since 2005. Graduated with a Master's in international business, Sylvie (46) has spent a large part of her career building brands as Marketing Director for Lenovo, Jawbone, Acer, and Logitech.

1 / The health crisis is hindering trade all over the world. How is Haier doing in France?

As for all the market, our business suffered from the sudden closure of distributors and physical outlets like Darty and Boulanger. But most importantly, we were forced to think differently to support e-commerce, which continued to sell. We have made huge progress in the way we work and think digital. So yes, we lost turnover but we learned faster in two months than in the last three years.

2 / Have the French changed their consumption habits during the confinement?

During the crisis, the market for refrigeration and washing machines remained active. Freezers sales have boomed as many consumers have sought additional storage for their food. Vacuums were also used a lot, but rather in the second half of confinement. In terms of uses, the data for our connected products indicates a 24% increase in the use of dishwashers and an acceleration of high-temperature washing programs ensuring better disinfection of clothes. The use of our products is basically an open book on people's lives.

3 / With the crisis, the French are waiting for brands to support change and act for the common good. What is Haier's response?

The group’s commitment first manifested itself towards its employees, their health, and their well-being. The distribution of masks, partial unemployment, and teleworking until the end of May were in order and we are meticulously following government recommendations. In fact, the first 15 days were mainly aimed at re-establishing the internal communication circuits. Little has been said, but we have also donated 12,000 masks to the regional health association (ARS) and some EPhad around our head office in St Denis.

4 / Have the communication and marketing strategy and actions changed with the crisis?

We have been very pragmatic. We have accelerated our investments in retail media, retargeting, and search directly with our commercial partners like Fnac Darty, Boulanger and Cdiscount, and by relying on Criteo's offers. We have also increased our speaking engagements in PR on topics related to the expectations of confined consumers. With our chef Rosières, Philippe Rogé, we gave culinary advice and tips like the very simple recipe for household bread, which we really liked. We also talked about hygiene and housekeeping and food preservation and got great coverage in the mainstream media. Besides that, we didn’t stop trying things. We decided to invest in Linkedin with a real employer branded content program, an editorial and speaking outline to recruit, evangelize, and be more visible. 

5 / Advertisers who regret the reluctance of brands towards investing in TV, what do they think about it?

We must not get the debate wrong. It was not the desire to invest that we missed, but the economic reality that imposes choices. When investments are linked to commercial performance, how can we keep our brands alive and stay close to consumers? how to ensure the sustainability of the business? These are the real questions. Why a TV campaign, when the distributors are closed and the products unavailable? We had to think differently and be smart. Our role is to help consumers find the right product at the right price, even if the crisis has forced us to step aside for a few weeks ...

6 / Consumers are torn between maintaining their ways of consumption and the need to protect the planet. How does the Haier group solve the dilemma?

Environmental protection is an important issue at Haier. Our strategy is based on zero distance between the brand and the consumer. We want to be close to the expectations and needs of our customers and this is what guides us in our choices of industrial location up to our service strategy. We have also extended the availability of our spare parts for all our major appliance products to 10 years. And then we are convinced that IoT and connectivity, which allow better use of our products, work towards their sustainability. Now from a personal point of view, repairability and durability are good, I totally agree, but it should not be at the expense of technological advances. If this prevents industrialists from making innovations that positively transform our lives, such as looking for more economical and less polluting batteries, that poses a problem. As with everything, you have to find the right balance. Innovation can bring good things ... look at 3D printers, they save lives by making masks!

7 / Relations between China and the rest of the world are very tense, we see looming aspirations for economic protectionism. How do you see this new deal? Being a Chinese group, does it impact sales?

Europe has always looked at Asian companies with a mixed and not always benevolent eye, much like GAFA today. But what does that mean in 2020? Companies like Haier are global and international and to be closer to consumers, they often bought national and local companies while retaining the know-how and the teams. Now, the "made in France" tag is only valid for certain industries. In ours, it is more complicated, spare parts are produced elsewhere and know-how is dispersed, hence the concept of a global company. Now I agree, there are short circuits to restore, it is a good thing, even if the reality of purchasing power and access to products remain a constraint.

8 / How do you live these particular times?

Without demagoguery, you are nothing without your team. I get up in the morning and my first motivation is to make my team feel good. It’s my role as a manager to support them so that I can write the rest with them. And then what feels good is to see that my job has become more important in the business. It provides solutions, energizes processes and it shows even more today. I loved living this excitement, it was and it is still very exciting to get out of your comfort zone. Everyone is in the same boat and everyone challenges themselves and each other. 

9 / A wish for the next world?

I can't wait to see how the distribution will rebound. The consumer has changed, they have gone more digital and the distributor will have to reinvent itself. What will the store experience look like? Will it reduce the workspace, transform it into a showroom? How is it going to manage omnichannel? My wish is that something concrete and real takes place, it is no longer a question of theorizing but of acting, and it will be exciting.

About Haier group

Founded in 1984 by world-renowned entrepreneur Zhang Ruimin from a small, collective refrigerator manufacturing business in northeast China, Haier has been the world's number one for over a decade in appliance-production and in the TOP 100 of the most famous global brands (source: BrandZ 2019). Haier produces and markets the whole range of household equipment, but its specialty is household appliances, especially cold. Its flagship brands are Candy, Hoover, Haier, GE in the US, and Aqua in Japan. Present in 160 countries, the group employs 78,000 people and manages 122 factories, 11 R&D centers, and 106 marketing centers. While its global market share stands at 15.7%, the group aims to integrate the TOP 3 in Europe. Listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange ('Dow Jones China 88 index), the group generates a global turnover of 39 billion dollars.