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Hello Georges-Henri, please tell us about your journey from being an Assistant Account Manager at Publicis, to Co-Founder & Chairman at Sofo Labs and Sondz?

Georges

I started my career in communications, then quickly moved to the related yet distinct topic of marketing. Although I love (and still often practice) communications as they involve a lot of creative work, what is most interesting with marketing is that it effectively blends creativity with the strategic analysis required to develop any project, product or brand.

After several years of working for companies big and small in a marketing capacity between France, Russia and the UK, I decided to start developing my own projects based out of Paris. I had been working on various business models for some time by that point and felt the urge to put my experience to use and try implementing them.

To date, I started 8 businesses, many of which failed… but two of them are very much alive and well today (with another one on the way):

1. Sondz, a music information startup inspired by my love of music, which aims at being the entry point for music information on the web (a position currently held by Wikipedia by default). My partners and I started working on the project back in 2013, with the Alpha version finally launching last year 2020. We are now in the process of scaling engagement, and first results are quite encouraging;

2. Sofo Labs, a boutique organization which provides consulting services in the field of digital marketing, i.e. the one I know most about and can therefore most help clients on. We have worked on a number of projects, from workshopping new business models to redesigning online products, to hosting digital events, to scaling digital communication plans… As of late, we have been developing offers specifically catered to personalities, as I believe that personal branding is one of the most promising trends in marketing (especially web-based) today.

What is the most innovative product/service/project you have worked on till now? What has set it apart from the others? 
Georges

Not to sound too self-centered, but the most innovative product I worked on so far has to be Sondz. First off, the idea of a global music information platform in the way IMDB handles films hadn’t been quite tackled by anyone yet in that way. Not that the idea in itself could be considered revolutionary: frankly, I was quite surprised that it didn’t already exist when I started looking for it years ago… so I decided to create it!

Second, the technologies that we use with Sondz are quite sophisticated. Our database is based on Graph technology, which allows for highly customizable data management and search. Then, all the front-end design has been developed to fit the most current trends, especially for mobile usage. Now, we are hard at work implementing new features on the website to improve user experience, all the while working on algorithms (increasingly AI-based) to improve tools like search, and soon recommendation.

What do you think will be the biggest trends in Organic Marketing in the next couple of years?

Georges

That is an interesting question. I believe that any good marketing (today like yesterday) starts with organic, as paid marketing only enhances your actions but cannot alone create traction.

Interestingly, there are both old and new tools that are proving incredibly effective. On the forward-looking side, the ways to improve your online presence keep evolving. For instance, we recently started using JSON-LD with Sondz, a fairly new method which accelerates Google’s ability to index new content (we have nearly 28 million pages on the platform, so it’s key!). SEO has always been about having a well-coded website, that is even more true today…

Meanwhile, on the “old” front, what I find noteworthy is that, with all the Instagrams, TikToks and now Clubhouses getting a lot of the attention when it comes to generating visibility, newsletters actually become more and more relevant today. When done well, they generate significantly more engagement than Instagram posts, let alone paid posts. In other words, e-mail is not dead ☺

You have quite a strong presence on the social media sites like LinkedIn and Twitter. What is your social media management strategy? Do you use automation for social channels, or do you do it manually?
Georges

Also an interesting question. I used tools like Hootsuite for many years, but have now reverted to posting content manually for the most part. This stems from 2 factors:

1) As platforms gradually restricted access to their APIs (Facebook, for instance, no longer allowing third-party apps to post on profiles), the pertinence of automated tools somewhat decreased.

2) As is always the case in marketing, the more specific your content, the better. And no platform is alike: Twitter is about news (and hashtags), Instagram is about photos (and hopefully a nice caption), LinkedIn is more business oriented… Consequently, the type of post and the way to post it differ so much that it is arguably more pertinent to post manually and adapt formats to fit each platform. The exception to that rule being high level, more generic advertising-type content, but then again: the more specific the better…

With your vast experience in various technology roles, what do you think are the top 3 emerging technologies that will shape the MarTech space in the next 5 years?

Georges

1) Obviously, 5G. And by that I mean the fact that mobile is going to keep driving tech even more prominently than it already does. Having an app may not be necessary depending on your business model, but having a responsive website is. And 5G will make sure that is even more true tomorrow.

2) Also quite obviously, AI and everything that comes with it. We already consume significant amounts of AI, whether we are aware of it or not (in search algorithms, content recommendations, etc). AI will keep driving innovation, new business models, and potentially shaking older business practices (e.g. traditionally led accounting). Mostly for the better…

3) Last, I would have to say GreenTech. Beyond the strict CSR angle, having sustainable tech is going to be increasingly important in the years to come. We are now reaching the point where business and sustainability collide: with larger amounts of data being created, transferred and consumed (with the help of 5G), companies need to improve the efficacy of their data management. In other words, we are getting into the phase where technology does not simply have to be more, it has to be better

With your vast experience delivering creative marketing solutions, what is that one secret ingredient in Advertising that has always worked for you?
Georges

Simplicity. The more straightforward your message, the better your chances of connecting. If you have a communication plan, make sure you are delivering on 1 idea and 1 idea alone. As soon as you try combining several claims, the message gets confusing — and ultimately lost. Less is more. 

The caveat, of course, is that it is hard to be simple. You always have a host of marketing objectives in mind. You are working with sales, R&D, logistics, finance… and you want to make it all work. Sometimes, the executives themselves may find it hard when having to choose a single direction. Still, in the long run, that is always the stronger strategy…

Lastly, any advice for the marketing enthusiasts, or words of wisdom for our readers?

Georges

This may sound biased, but I truly believe that marketing is essentially a point of view on life, much in the way philosophy or mathematics are. In other words, it is a language that allows you to understand reality better. Obviously, marketing alone is not enough to grasp the full complexity of things, but I find it to be a great entry point to try and tackle most topics…

One more thing: with the advent of the digital age, and marketing people getting rebranded as “content producers” or “social media managers”, some may fear that marketing as a social science is receding. I for one believe that it is merely evolving, with marketing strategies getting ever more sophisticated thanks to technology!

Uzma Abdulla is a Editorial coordinator for The Media Bulletin. Experienced Coordinator with a demonstrated history of working in the marketing industry. Skilled in strong program and project management. Master of Arts (M.A.) in Archaeology and Pursuing Post Graduate Diploma in Counselling. She likes to be on her toes when it comes to facilitating events and collaboration of people.

Posted in Interviews By Uzma Abdulla   Date March 14, 2021

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