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What the French Know About Effective Branding

I’m doing something a little bit weird right now.

I’m reading a French parenting book…which is weird because a) I’m not French and b) I’m not a parent.

A friend of mine was telling me about this book a few weeks ago and it sounded so fascinating that I had to check it out…kids or no kids.

The book is Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting.

The way of the French parent is very, very different to the way we raise kids here in the US. And it has a pretty big effect on the children.

(Picture eloquent little three-year-olds who order foie gras off the menu — “S’il vous plait, monsieur!” — and sleep through the night after two months.)

I came across a story in the book that teaches an incredibly important lesson about copywriting and branding, so I just had to share…

I’ll admit I also have an ulterior motive in making this video. Because there’s one sticking point in my copywriting projects where clients sometimes give me a little pushback.

This story shows why I insist on working through that sticking point…because you can’t write good copy without it.

There’s a chapter in Bringing Up Bébé all about how French mothers view themselves. They see themselves as women first, mothers second.

French moms still do their hair and makeup when they go to the park. They keep the passion alive with their partners and aren’t afraid to be romantic in front of the kids. They wear sexy clothes while doing mom stuff like giving baths or playing with blocks…not just during date night or after the kids are tucked in bed.

Although they have (and love) their children, a French woman’s life doesn’t revolve around their kids.

One way that trend manifests itself is through breastfeeding.

Before I get into this…I know that breastfeeding is a big source of debate in the mommy wars. I’m sharing the example given in this book because it proves a powerful point — NOT because I’m trying to push certain opinions on anyone. However you choose to feed and raise your bébé is a-okay…for the record. 🙂

In the US, many believe breastfeeding is best for babies.

One of the reasons it’s seen as “better” than formula is that some studies have shown that breastfeeding leads to a higher IQ, something American moms are very interested in.

Popular sentiment in the US is that we want to use the early years to give kids a leg up in life. You see this play out all the time, when parents start to teach their child to read (or play piano or speak a second language or kick a soccer ball) as early as possible.

Americans want their children to develop quickly and strongly. So if breastfeeding helps moms do that, they’re all about it.

In France, they view these early years very differently. French mothers care more about simplicity, balance (or equilibre), and pleasure.

They’re very into the idea of letting children have fun and experience life, rather than rushing their development. Kids have plenty of time to work later in life, so French parents are more interested in letting their children enjoy childhood than push any skills on them. (Most French children don’t learn to read until age 6!)

Learning about pleasure is an important part of the French childhood experience — much more so than gaining a few extra IQ points.

The effective American argument (breastfeeding as a way to improve a child’s IQ) doesn’t appeal to French mothers in the slightest. In addition to being a big commitment that complicates the parenting process, it also removes some of the feminine mystique of their bodies — something they care a lot about.

As a result, many French moms choose not to breastfeed their babies.

That is, until they hear another argument…

Dr. Bitoun, a French doctor and breastfeeding advocate, started to gain traction with French mothers by focusing on what they do care about.

French mothers aren’t won over by health arguments involving IQ points. But they are persuaded by pleasure. When they hear that both they and the baby will enjoy breastfeeding, they’re very open to trying it.

When you bring the mother’s pleasure and the baby’s pleasure — two of French moms’ primary concerns — into the breastfeeding message, it suddenly becomes not just palatable but persuasive.

Why am I blogging about breastfeeding? Because it’s exactly the same reason you need to know whom you’re speaking to when writing your copy.

There are so many ways to position your product, service, or offering. There are different features you can highlight. Different benefits you can play up. Different problems and pain points you can agitate.

But unless you know the person you’re speaking to — unless you really understand their problems, their wants, their dreams, their struggles — you can’t know the most effective way to talk to them.

How would we sell breastfeeding to mothers? First…by getting clear on which mother we’re talking to.

You won’t sell breastfeeding to American moms by focusing on pleasure and you won’t sell breastfeeding to French moms by focusing on IQ points.

That’s why it’s so dang important to get clear on who your ideal customer is. It’s why I — along with my other copywriter friends — require clients to define their audience before we write a lick of copy.

I get some pushback from clients on this issue. And I get it, because most of them a) are super busy and b) want to get straight to the exciting part: the writing. But defining who you’re speaking to is an absolutely vital first step of the process.

I hope this story shows you why.

I could write the most compelling, most persuasive piece on breastfeeding and IQ and enhancing child development. But if a French mom is the one reading it? That copy’s not gonna do nothin’.

If you’re not sure who your ideal customer is, I have a free workbook to help you get started.

My Audience and Brand Clarity workbook is what I use with my one-on-one clients at the start of every project to make sure we’re creating copy that speaks to the right person.

It’s designed to be completed next to a cuppa coffee or a glass of wine. Set a timer for an hour and do your best to answer the questions. Don’t be afraid to flex your creative muscles — you might not know the answer to every single question, so just brainstorm what you feel your dream customer would do.

I promise you, this exercise is 110% worth the time you put into it. I’ve had clients get so much clarity once they really think through who they’re selling to. And it truly can make or break your copy — as the French mother story shows.

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Be honest: have you properly defined your ideal customer? Or are you going around with a vague kinda-sorta idea of who she is?

Can you see why defining this person is SO important? And how you’d never sell breastfeeding to French moms if you used the American argument?

If you’re a parent, what do you think of these ideas? Are you gungho on giving your child a strong start in life? Or is the slow, simple, pleasure-centered way of life more your speed?

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© Whitney Ryan LLC

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