Wednesday, 19 January, 2022

The secrets of marketing success for the “C’est qui le patron” milk brand

“Every day since the beginning, we feel this wave that carries us.” Almost two years after the appearance on the supermarket shelves of the first milk cartons “C’est qui le patron”, its founder, Nicolas Chabanne – who also initiated Le Petit Producer or even Les Gueules cassées – is astonished more of the lucky star that accompanies it. It must be said that when it comes time to take stock, the figures are stunning. 65 million liters sold in 22 months. And if that may seem like a drop (of milk) compared to the 2.2 billion liters purchased by French households in 2017, it is “the product from a new brand that is the best-selling in the history of the food industry. “claims” Who’s the boss? ” And to think that the brand was only hoping for 5 million liters of sales the first year …

A brand that acts as a UFO in the current French landscape because it is designed by and for consumers. The idea is simple: it is the consumers who establish the specifications of the desired product via a questionnaire as well as a price that they declare themselves ready to pay for it. In the background, the idea of ​​a fair trade product that correctly remunerates producers (39 to 41 cents per liter on a selling price of 99 cents). “We have thus realized that the consumer is ready to pay 4 euros more per year for this fair trade milk, without GMOs, etc …” recalls Nicolas Chabanne. And indeed, the milk “C’est qui le patron” has, in less than two years, entered 14% of French households. The laughing-eyed brick also has the highest repurchase rate for 2017 innovations. All without advertising or sales.

18 product families, emulated abroad …

“This success shows that there are opportunities for original approaches and that a brand of this kind can compete with the big brands” estimates Jean-Marc Décaudin, professor specializing in marketing at Toulouse School of Management, who brings up this case. in his classes. Because if C’est qui le patron made himself known through the carton of milk, the cooperative now has 18 families of products, ranging from eggs to minced steaks to apple juice, and new products should appear in the rays in the coming weeks. The initiative has also been emulated in several other countries, in the United States for example under the name Eat’s my choice, and an app was launched at the end of August.

So how do you explain such success? “That’s who the boss is in an area that was not yet invested: the one that makes the consumer a real actor” advance Nicolas Chabanne. “When it is you who creates the product, who relays the brand, who controls compliance with the specifications, you feel involved.” “It is a brand well anchored in its time” adds Jean-Marc Décaudin who considers that it could not have seen the light of day 20 years ago. It is who the boss is indeed benefiting from a wave in favor of fair trade, from a fair price paid to producers at the center of many debates during the General Assembly of Food and discussions around the Food Law which must be voted on this Tuesday by the National Assembly. Intermarché has also launched its “Breeders say thank you” range, claiming to donate half the price of the brick to breeders (44 cents) and Candia has set up “Responsible dairy”, again to better remunerate producers.

Other strong trends: an expectation of the French to know exactly what is on their plates and a distrust of large companies. Only one in two French people think they can trust brands as consumers according to the ObSoCo emerging consumption barometer published in early 2018. This figure even drops to 41% for large companies.

Monoprix labeled milk

And this is where it is who the boss can also slip, providing a “consumer guarantee” to more classic brands. Act 2 of the process Who is the boss? Labeling. For several months, bottles of milk from the Monoprix private label have, for example, displayed the C’est qui le patron logo. “The specifications of our private label are now the same as those of C’est qui le patron” confirms Nicolas Bonnetot, food and beauty director of the Monoprix group, for whom this is part of the responsible supply strategy of the teaches. These specifications are now also controlled by a “trusted third party”, the consumer company at the base of C’est qui le patron. “This control of compliance with the specifications is a sine qua non for the labeling” supports Nicolas Chabanne.

But doesn’t this labeling risk confusing the consumer? With bottles of Monoprix milk bearing the Who’s the boss logo on top alongside bricks Who’s the boss … and a different price from one to another. “These two products coexist perfectly well on the shelves,” nevertheless asserts Nicolas Chabanne. “Whether you buy one or the other, it helps producers,” he explains. An argument also taken up by Nicolas Bonnetot who specifies that the objective is to sell 10 million liters of fair trade milk. A movement that is not about to stop. The release of a “co-branded” apple juice is scheduled for November.

Reinventing communication

“This is who the boss will most certainly push the traditional players to reinvent themselves” judge Jean-Marc Décaudin. Reinvent themselves in the products they offer and in the way of communicating. What did not escape Nicolas Chabanne. Nor to Patrick Mercier, the president of the communication agency Change. Seduced by the approach of C’est qui le patron, Patrick Mercier initially approached this brand to help it free of charge. “Our very small contribution was to tell them not to change anything in their way of doing things,” he recalls. But the rapprochement between the two men now takes on a whole new dimension: they have created a structure to help brands integrate consumers into product design, and even in the communication that results from it.

“Traditional brand communication is coming up against consumer mistrust, we are going to look at how to bring about more co-construction” explains Nicolas Chabanne. “There are three phases in what we are proposing” explains Patrick Mercier. “First an audit to see if the company that comes to see us is really ready to transform.” Second axis: replicate the system of consumer participation behind Who is the boss in the company. With the freedom to develop a product linked to the consumers’ brand or not. “Finally, we can also help the company to radically transform the way it communicates”, by relying much more on consumers and the participatory aspect, concludes Patrick Mercier. Two cases have already been initiated …

If the scale taken by the Who’s Who Boss is currently bubbling up, could it fall back as quickly as it rose? Hard to say. But for Jean-Marc Décaudin, it “is not a question of a fashion phenomenon but of an in-depth movement.” As for its existence and its weight in twenty years, that will also depend a lot on the reaction of the big brands, he notes all the same. In the meantime, C’est qui le patron never stops swarming on supermarket shelves… and elsewhere. A radio and television show should even see the light of day in late 2018 or early 2019.