In our Brandification interview, we talked to Marie Demont, Head of Brand at Omio, about creating and nurturing lasting brands, the importance of data in brand management and why some brand experiences can be downright magical….
Marie Demont, thank you so much for being with us today! Why don’t you start by telling us a bit about yourself?
My name is Marie, I am a Marketing and Brand expert with about 15 years of experience shaping brands with impact. I’ve helped create, launch or grow local as well as global brands across multiple industries including luxury goods, beauty care, online food delivery and travel tech. In my current role, I am responsible for the Brand Strategy at Omio, a global online transportation booking platform that powers millions of consumers whether they travel by bus, train, plane or ferry.
Wonderful, thank you very much for the little introduction! Here at Brandification everything revolves around Brand Tech. You have been supporting tech firms with their brand strategy. What are your most important learnings in this area?
Switching from FMCG to working at Delivery Hero, a tech scale up at the time, was by far the most drastic career change I made. I was hired as a Head of Brand to revamp the brand and launch a new one internally and externally as their biggest 360 campaign less than 6 months later. I literally had to hit the ground running a) recruiting a new team that would have to work in sync b) understand how marketing was executed and measured in this space while c) setting the foundations of a revamped brand strategy and d) co-creating a massive brand awareness campaign off the ground and launching it internally and externally. My experience with tech firms in berlin since, is that most of them initially start of as product-centered organisations which at some point are forced to become more customer-centric because they hit a ceiling after an initial high-growth phase. This usually comes either when an initial point of differentiation in the market becomes a point of parity, with entry barriers being low and technology being relatively easy to copy, or when the returns of performance marketing start to decrease. This is usually when the call for a reset of their brand strategy is made and I come in ^_^.
How do large multinational companies differ from smaller ventures when it comes to brand management?
Brand management at large companies is about creating and nurturing lasting brands. Brand is seen as a long-term investment. In comparison, smaller tech ventures are geared towards short term high growth. Marketing investment usually priorises performance marketing vs. long-term brand building activities. This is because targeted performance Marketing campaigns allow for immediately available and trackable KPIs. Another difference is that large multinational companies tend to be more customer-centric organisations, while tech start ups are more product-driven organisations. At FMCG companies I worked at, Beiersdorf and Henkel, a significant share of revenue is dedicated towards research to gain deep understanding of the consumers, respond to their needs and use consumer insights as innovation force to launch successful products. Being Brand manager there means working very closely with the R&D, Consumer Research institutes, scanning data, etc. I used to spend a good portion of my time going on home-visits, accompanied shopping trips, attending live product testing etc. and getting direct customer feedback which would then spark the next product concept, targeted ad campaign. Tech companies on the other hand, tend to have a greater focus on quantitative customer research (A/B features or campaign testing) and less on qualitative research. As a marketeer at these firms, I’ve learned to make decisions relying mostly on “data”.
Which relevance does the brand have for Omio in particular?
The travel sector is very competitive and dominated by large established brands, whether we think of strong national champions like Deutsche Bahn and Air France, or global platforms like Expedia. No company however had ever taken the challenge that Omio set for itself to make global transportation seamless for the end user. The primary challenge for Omio is to build awareness. It needs people to discover that such a simple solution for comparing and booking tickets across multiple countries and transportation modes exists. Then, as booking travel does not happen as often as ordering a pizza for dinner for instance, it needs a strong emotional bond with the consumer, to create brand preference so next time they think about traveling, they think of Omio.
In which ways has (or hasn’t) the pandemic changed how you approach brand management at Omio?
It did change very much since the first wave of the pandemic. Internally, it forced the brand team to expand their views and created more synergies among departments. The brand team, along other colleagues, initially stepped in to support the customer service agents to handle the flow of inbound calls from desperate travelers. It forced the organisation to grow empathy for our customers while bringing the different teams closer. This created bridges we could then use to further collaboration and roll-out or brand strategy among other key strategic projects. Externally, despite cutting communication budgets, we continued the conversation with our target audience, keeping their interests and safety first. Omio took the rather brave approach of encouraging travelers to stay home and rapidly created a central hub, a single source of truth called the Omio Open Travel Index gathering all latest updates about covid restrictions, border regulations and travel companies’ policies. We then transitioned to a more human approach encouraging consumers to keep dreaming of travel in our organic communications and finally when travel came back during summer 2021 we launched our first 360 “be moved” brand awareness campaign since the brand relaunch (Omio was called GoEuro until 2019) in one of our core markets, Italy.
What are in your opinion the most important factors that help turn employees into ambassadors of their own brand?
It comes down to two things really: first, having a clear and compelling vision that employees rally behind and understand how they can contribute to it, second: creating and enforcing a company culture that is lived authentically across the firm, regardless of hierarchy levels.
Which was your favorite brand in your childhood and why? And which one is it now?
Surely Disney – I recall countless afternoons spent in front of TV watching my favorite Disney cartoons. My younger sister and I knew all the lyrics of Arielle, the Lion King, Mary Poppins etc by heart. I grew up in a small village about 30km away from Paris and was 8 years old when Disney’s first Amusement park in Europe opened only a few kilometers away from my hometown! People living nearby got free entrance tickets. That first day I went in with my sister remains one of the most magical experiences I ever had. That’s all Disney is about – “magical experiences abound”. As a grown up they still hold up to that. I am a mother of 3, and this year we have introduced “Kino” as our Sunday evening ritual. This consists of watching (part of) a Disney cartoon every Sunday night with the kids. We make popcorn and the five of us sit on the couch. Every time the film starts with the intro screen where you see the pink castle and the shooting star going around it, I feel a great mix of contentment and excitation about watching again these childhood cartoons. And I can’t wait to surprise my kids some day soon with a family trip to EuroDisney. It’s gonna be absolutely ma-gi-cal!!!!