NELLY RODI – Q&A WITH LUC- DOMINIQUE DEMETTRE

25 March 2015

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The Paris-based Nelly Rodi agency, one of the busiest think thanks in the world, boasts 30 years of experience and an extensive networking system spanning 20 countries. In 1993 it underwent a major transformation, developing and patenting the Marketing-Style® methodology, which combines not only trend forecasting, but also observation of consumer behavior and research specific for advertising industry. In 2001, Pierre-François Le Louët joined the agency and now serves as its director. He was kind enough to facilitate the interview with Nelly Rodi’s International Manager, Luc-Dominique Demettre, regarding the workings of the office.

TRENDSPOT – How did Nelly Rodi start?

Luc-Dominique Demettre – The agency was launched in 1985. Its founder, Nelly Rodi, is an incredible individual in the textile industry. She’s gained her experience while serving as the director at Comité de Coordination des Industries de la Mode, the first agency dealing with fashion forecasting, that was founded in the 50s.

What areas exactly is the company active in? What services does it offer?

We’re constantly evolving. Recently, we’ve been trying to focus on strategy, and not only on trend forecasting, as it’s not enough these days. Our work involves blending information on consumers, market research and traditional research concerning the direction of changes in the industries we’re dealing with. It’s all based on a continuous brainstorm. We have a team of creative people, who are able to pick up the most important tendencies despite the ever-growing pace of changes. It’s worth stressing that the introduction of innovations at a company is driven not only by the mere need for change, but also the quickly evolving market. It’s easy to miss the boat. Our job is to translate the rules governing the today’s world, as well as the complex networks and relations, into a language understandable to all kinds of businessmen.

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What exactly is the consultancy that you offer to brands based on? Also, what is the Marketing-Style® methodology you developed about?

We develop a new work methodology with every client. We aren’t using templates. The spectrum of brands that we provide advice to is wide. Our services are used by chain stores, brands selling their products at supermarkets, but also luxury goods brands. Surprisingly, the needs of these brands aren’t that different. Obviously, those oriented toward large-scale sales want to know how to create cheaper products, but at the same time stay in accordance with market requirements. When it comes to the mid-market and luxury goods, though, the things look a little different. With such companies, we’re discussing not only trends, but are also developing branding and the strategy of the brand’s presence in the market. Today, the most important aspect of building a brand is creating a strong DNA. Only then we start to develop other actions. Trends are ‘tailor-made’. Basically, each project is unique and requires us to conduct an in-depth market analysis. Once, these aspects were handled by different companies, today, we combine the two because a great product can’t exist without marketing and communication. A coherent image can be built only through mixing operations in a variety of fields. If this is dealt with by a single team, you can be almost sure that the concept will be consistent. Trends are only one of the ingredients of the recipe for success.

What traits should a trendwatcher display? What experience is Nelly Rodi looking for when hiring?

Personality is the most important thing. We’re looking for people interested in everything. And I’m serious in saying ‘everything’. A great trendwatcher is interested in art, social changes, design, fashion, politics, new technologies and generally keeps his ear to the streets. It’s not a 9 to 5 job. It’s all about constant observation and the ability to link seemingly unrelated phenomena. One of the basic tasks of a person dealing with trend forecasting is cross-referencing the information coming from different sectors. Sheer knowledge is not enough, you need to have good intuition. It may not sound very professional, but formulating forecasts is a risky business. That’s why we always work in teams dedicated to specific tasks. This way we confirm our findings and are able to develop the most objective direction of changes. Working with a particular client, we don’t offer him ready-made solutions. Such cooperation is a fusion of our expertise, the information provided by the brand specialists and the results of our joint brainstorm. It was different in the past – first came consultations and work on new trends. Today, it reminds me more of workshops – a creative exchange of information. This is the only way to create a new and competitive value in the market these days. We’re no longer here to just tell brands what to do, but rather to consider together how to come up with a better product that will meet the current expectations of clients.

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Are there any requirements that a brand has to meet in order to achieve success? What is the role of trends in this?

This depends on the brand’s DNA. I’m talking about brand culture. It has to be solid. If you take a look at brands that have achieved success, then there’s always strong brand culture responsible for this. Think Chanel or Apple. The way their retail stores, online boutiques and all other operations look like is strongly related to the product. If you lose this ‘personality’ chasing the latest trends, your clients may become disappointed in you, and winning back their trust may take years. Most importantly, you need to know who you are and where you and your clients are headed. Mainstream trends aren’t always the best way to go. There are brands that go against the grain and are good at it because they focus on their niche and the real needs of their audiences. This is what makes clients come back. When a brand loses its strong footing, then analyzing the reasons, we try to dig down to what was its essence and heart, and what it has lost along the way. You always have to define three most important values, which constitute three to four pillars supporting the brand’s presence in the market. All the operations related to the product and promotion should always stay close to these values.

A question from our readers – are forecasters sometimes tempted to include in a trendbook something that completely deviates from test results? Just to see if the market will embrace it.

Never! Seasonal trends arise only as a result of teamwork. We always bounce back off each other our points of view and publish only the stuff that we strongly believe in. Our work always starts with analyzing social behavior. Only then we go on to build particular directions of development, and thus shapes, forms and colors. We would never include in a trendbook something, which isn’t verified or we don’t believe in! That’s not what our work is about. We would’ve lost the trust of our clients. This isn’t a game (laughs).

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And what about short-lived fads, that we aren’t able to foresee?

We usually work on long-term forecasts. Working with short-term forecasts is totally different. Let’s say Beyonce does something out-of-the-box, which may affect the market. All of a sudden people want to wear what she had on. This is a short-term trend. As you said, it can’t be predicted. A fad always disappears as fast as it appeared. The only way to deal with such phenomena is to monitor the Internet and especially the social media. You need to pick up what consumers are looking for, what are they liking and sharing. You can’t fit this kind of observations into a trendbook. What we’re dealing with are publications containing forecasts for up to eighteen months ahead. The pace of everything speeds up these days but clients are still looking for long-term information, because only that kind of information can ensure the continuity of building a collection and image. Today, it’s all based on mixing this knowledge with observations gathered while researching what’s happening here and now. You can’t focus only on short-lived fads because you can easily lose the brand’s DNA and discourage the client. There’s only a handful of people out there, who can do it well.

And how many of them work for Nelly Rodi?

I can’t tell you that (laughs).

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Could you please tell the blog readers about a trend that will play an important role in 2015?

I’ve got three directions for you and your readers. The first one is something we’ve been looking at along with the Nelly Rodi team for some time now – the casual food trend. We’re seeing a comeback of traditional tastes. Pop culture starts to take over the less popular stuff and so, luxury goods start to become available to masses, also in terms of prices. This often concerns your childhood goodies, which have been forgotten and are now coming back in a new form and packaging. Food fests are also becoming increasingly popular.

The next direction of change is strongly connected with the previous one. The art of cooking rushes into society’s upper echelons. We’ll keep seeing a merger of food and fashion, and not only during showcases. You can expect food sections at clothing stores.

The third trend is strictly related to the new role of man in the modern society. Women’s emancipation has forced us to redefine ourselves because the old patterns are outdated and no longer solve current problems. Thus, the fashion industry starts to intensify its focus on men. New clothing brands aimed solely at gents keep popping up all over the place, and those which used to have an extensive female collections and modest male ones will strive to balance out the proportions.

Photos: press releases