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Localisation: How far are you willing to go to win French customers?

Do you have a French website?

How did you create it?

Did you replicate your English website or did you create bespoke content for your French audience?

Did you work with a translator or with a marketing copywriter?

Are they French?

Does your website sound French?

How can you be sure?

And what about your French marketing materials?

Creating a website and some marketing material in French are basic steps to win French-speaking customers. If you do it well you can connect better with the French, reach them quicker and gain their trust.

Like the American giant.

In April 2014 McDonald’s France made another step in the company’s efforts to source from French agriculture: they announced that they were going to use only French apples for their dessert  la p’tite pomme  (sliced apples in a sachet).

McDonald’s France sells nearly 2 million meals everyday. France is their second market in the world. In 2013 they bought nearly two thirds of the food they need for their recipes from French agribusiness.


McDonald's, Paris

McDonald’s, Paris (copyright Véronique Mermaz)

To be more French?

To look healthier?

To demonstrate they understand France’s food culture?

To save money and time?

France is Europe’s second largest producer of apples. Would you ship apples from China or Poland? It makes sense to source locally and work with French farmers and the local food industry.

McDonald’s France website has little to do with their American and British websites. Beyond the menus, emphasis is put on sourcing the ingredients and on quality, on sustainable development strategy and food security.

Foodies and health freaks can download their “Quality Charter 2010-2020” to learn about McDonald’s supply chains and main partners in France. The company creates lots of content in French about what they do, how they do it and what their plan is for the long-term.

They know how to adapt their business, their messages and their menus to French eating habits and culture. They try hard to reassure the French that the Big Mac can compete with le jambon-beurre (overall winner of the fast-food industry in France).

That’s localisation at a large scale. It pays: 4.35 billion euros turnover for McDonald’s France in 2012.

Cross-cultural marketing works both ways

As consumers we have ideas and memories of brands that have an influence on what we buy. It’s personal, long lasting and difficult to change when it goes wrong.

Big brands master communication in many languages. Their brand’s name comes to mind quickly and easily. They win hearts and wallets: people are ready to pay more for their product.

Would you like to know what French customers are looking for? The language is the key.

Online nobody pays attention and nobody has time: when people struggle to understand language they get frustrated. That’s a bad start.

I regularly visit and read e-commerce websites from British companies trading with France. It’s part of my work and I learn a lot from it. Many websites mix English and French: they don’t appear in French search results and the copy is nothing but broken French.

As a French customer I wouldn’t spend 1 euro on such websites.

Create marketing messages the French are comfortable with

There are plenty of resources to help and solutions vary depending on your products, how you sell them and the way you run your business.

Are you used to hiring independent specialists?

Are you used to working online or via Skype?

Would you prefer to work face-to-face with an international agency in the UK?

Have you a network of marketing translators and native French copywriters?

Are they in France or in the UK?

Do you get value for money with packaged translation services?

Would you prefer to go step-by-step with independent marketing translators who craft the copy and the follow-up alongside you?

Who do you trust most? A French marketing translator or an English copywriter with French language skills?

Few companies have the team and the budget of McDonald’s France.

Are your resources limited?

Do less, do better.

In part 2, I’ll discuss how to localise your marketing messages for a French audience. Oh by the way: I don’t fancy McDonald’s food!

Veronique Mermaz

Véronique Mermaz is a native French speaker and a branding and marketing specialist living in East Anglia, UK. Founder of, a French marketing support service for English-speaking businesses, she has 25 years of marketing experience in Paris in large/small agencies and corporate companies. She has promoted some of the biggest brands like Henkel, L’Oréal, Christian Dior, Canal+ and Air France, as well as not-for-profit organisations. She successfully managed a variety of marketing projects from national advertising campaigns to corporate communication, TV commercials, brand design, direct marketing and press coverage.

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