A truly global social media agency

A truly global social media agency

KRDS, one of the first few European Facebook marketing agencies, eyes the Indian market for growth. Its key weapon: the 1200 social media campaigns it has executed in 30 countries, so far

S. MEERA

In 2007, four young graduates from France planned to start the French Facebook, ‘Cancoon’, just before Zuckerberg’s platform gained worldwide acclaim. And given Facebook’s inevitable entry to the French market, the founders were less inclined to follow through with their initial idea. Instead of launching ‘Cancoon’, the young graduates profited from the opening up of Facebook to developers by launching the ‘Cursus’ application on the Facebook platform. ‘Cursus’ could be used to find primary school classmates, even those whose names had been forgotten, but had filled in their school information. “It was an instant success; by simply sending an e-mail to a year’s batch mates, the application took off and reached over 2,00,000 users in one month,” says Brice Lecompte, managing director, KRDS India. This was a revelation for the co-founders, who decided to offer brands the possibility of cashing in on Facebook’s viral potential and thus KRDS, among the first few agencies to launch Facebook marketing in Europe, came into being in 2008.

A while back in our Lyon office we were going through a lean phase when it came to recruitment of coders, we needed a big idea to tackle this situation and get the attention of potential coder recruits.  We came up with the idea of creating the website http://www.commitstrip.com,  which would publish daily  comic strips – these humourous comic strips were based on the day-to-day happenings in the tech space. And it clicked! Not just with the potential recruits but also with people working in the digital industry in France (today, Commit Strip has over 2,00,000 unique visitors a month.

Eurosport, the leading European sports TV channel, was the first to empanel with the agency to launch a Facebook application called ‘List of 23’ for Euro 2008. In three weeks, the app acquired more than 1,00,000 users without any media spends.

Growing at a fast pace

In the beginning, the co-founders ploughed their savings into the venture, which became self-sufficient very quickly and has remained an independent agency until today. In 2011, AXA Private Equity acquired a 30 per cent stake, allowing the agency to speed up its international plans through organic and inorganic routes. In five years, KRDS has evolved from being a Facebook marketing agency into a leading full-fledged social media agency and aspires to be the leading social media and mobile consulting agency across Europe and Asia.

While KRDS’ first customers were French, it soon built a clientele in Europe, India, Singapore and China and has since worked on over 1,200 campaigns in 30 countries. Asia and Middle East are expected to be the next frontiers for the agency.

Servicing a nascent market

KRDS specialises in social media and mobile consulting, advising brands on the best social media strategy to adopt on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, SinaWeibo or Wechat. The agency’s mission is to collaborate with brands in Europe and Asia and to build, implement and monitor their communication strategy on social networks, be it on desktops, tablets or mobiles. The delivery is measured on fans’ engagement rates and lead generation (which is very often achieved through ‘drive to store’ campaigns).

In a highly competitive market, the agency is taking advantage of its experience in executing 1,200 social media campaigns and over 100 mobile campaigns for over 300 clients, and that too for a client roster that includes some of the world’s leading brands.

KRDS works with big brands on an annual retainer business model. Its clients include leading names from across sectors, from the luxury industry (LVMH, Kenzo, Cavalli, TAG Heuer), to the food industry (McCain’s community management all over Europe), the auto industry (Peugeot or Citroën), the airline industry and the apparel industry (including Converse Singapore and American Swan). In India, it has worked with Air France India, Amplifon, Sonear Ply, the Government of Rajasthan and Lifecell, to name a few. It also offers mobile apps development services on a fixed-cost model. Audacity, innovative ideas and keeping the client’s interests first in mind are the three mantras of success.

Casting a wide net

Most of the agency’s income still comes from its European campaigns even though the market is currently experiencing stagnation. Asian markets, on the other hand, are developing very fast. The Indian market is very mature though the budgets allocated to social media are less important, observes Lecompte. This is something that Lecompte and his team aim to change. “We decided to settle in India as it holds great potential to become the best market for social media marketing, after the United States,” he explains.

KRDS decided to open in Shanghai when it realised how similar SinaWeibo and WeChat were to Twitter and Facebook’s APIs and decided to help Chinese brands benefit from its European expertise. French brands such as Air France, with whom KRDS had been working for years, relied on the agency to improve their presence and create their next global strategy on Chinese social networks.

In India, the agency has set up an office in Chennai and is planning to open offices in Mumbai and Bangalore. Commenting on the Indian market, Lecompte says, “The phase of evangelism is almost over and today, brand managers do not need convincing to be present on social media. This maturity combined with the growth of users will see increasing social media budget allocations in the coming years.”

One of KRDS’ biggest challenges is in convincing clients to work with a specialised agency since many feel more secure by entrusting one agency with their whole digital and communication campaign execution. “Furthermore, at this stage, mobile applications still remain quite expensive and represent an important expense for brands,” Lecompte points out.

These budgets will have to be spent wisely taking into account the diversity of connected devices (desktop, mobiles, tablets, televisions and likely to expand to watches, glasses and fridges in the future), the diversity of platforms and the growing need for real-time marketing.

Lecompte sees the next phase to be one of consolidation in the industry and several social media agencies being acquired by big groups eager to provide a 360° communication service to their clients. Despite this, since social media technologies are in the evolution stage, he expects specialised agencies such as KRDS to be relevant because of their ready expertise.

Investing in India

KRDS has aggressive plans for India and hires local creative teams to be able to respond to the market’s needs in the most pertinent manner. KRDS has established its latest Indian office in Bengaluru to work with major south Indian brands and key e-commerce players.

Investments in public relations and strategic recruitments will help KRDS maintain its creative edge. Mobile marketing is high on KRDS’ agenda. “We will need to convince our partners to invest in this interface which is more and more present in Indians’ daily life,” says Lecompte.

When it comes to hiring, although the company has diverse skill sets from creatives to strategy, it prefers to bring on board individuals with a passion for the digital medium and technology. “We have been pleasantly surprised to discover that Indians are more into new technologies than Europeans,” says Lecompte. Contacting interesting candidates on social networks and conducting hackathons to hire some of India’s best developers have been its two ways of identifying potential recruits.

Finding ways to grow

The agency plans to grow by riding the mobile wave and is likely to acquire a mobile agency. Apart from expanding KRDS’ Mumbai, New Delhi and now Bengaluru offices, it will also be opening offices in the Middle East and in Dubai. “We will also be shortly launching a new online reputation management services for brands,” says Lecompte. In due course, he expects KRDS to have a compelling global presence where it associates with the world’s biggest brands. As for India, KRDS views it as an exciting market with an outstanding potential, as the middle class continues to emerge and the Internet penetration rate is increasing by the minute. “We definitely have big hopes for the development of our activity here,” says Lecompte, on a parting note.


SOCIAL MEDIA, AT YOUR FINGERTIPS 

TO ESTABLISH A BRAND CONNECT

Audit the online reputation of your brand, your products, your competition and the themes related to your company.

Keep in mind latest trends and best practices. To name a few:

Mobile: create content and conversation that can be read and discussed in the train, in front of a TV-set or inside a classroom with a mobile phone

Real-time marketing: react to latest news, this is the norm

Instant-messaging and 1-1 conversation: 1-1 conversational tools like  WeChat or Secret App are gaining popularity. Brands should start connecting one-on-one.