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Creating Value with Lonsdale | An Interview with Olivier Guillet

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Transmitting exceptional values, MiND had an inspiring conversation with Lonsdale’s Executive Business Director –Olivier Guillet. Graduating from the ESCP European Master, Olivier started his career as Product Marketing Manager for L’OREAL. Going from CEO of Bonobo Jeans to Marketing and Collections Director at Promod, Olivier is now leading the architecture and retail team at Lonsdale. He immerses himself in his job, helping brands and retailers to grow and create cohesive experiences.

Defining himself as a brand and business manager, Olivier Guillet started the conversation by underlining the opportunities he had to work for several brands and in different sectors since the beginning, building up his career like a puzzle.

Lonsdale Design Agency.

“What has always been really exciting for me is the way brands can attract people and how people can be attracted by the brand itself, its story and its DNA.”

After taking up some strategic and operational functions within different business sectors, Olivier said that the combination of brand and business has been the main line of his career.

After 7 years working as Product Marketing Manager for L’OREAL Cosmétique Active, where he designed and ran development and operational marketing activities for various products within skin care, he started working for Mondadori Group as Chief Marketing Officer. First within the media sector and then within the luxury sector, Olivier became the Chief Marketing Officer at Montblanc in France. Afterwards, he had some great experiences in retail. In fact, in December 2006, he created and launched Bonobo , the very 1st jeans retail brand in the Groupe Beaumanoir, running the company for 2 years and opening more than 150 stores in France. “My idea was to offer jeans wearers a strong emotional value at an affordable price.” As CMO for Promod–a French retail group within fashion– he ran the transformation strategy for the brand–called “PROMOD Boutique Française”.

Olivier Guillet’s architecture & retail team. Photo by Cecile Gabriel.

Now, he is in charge of Lonsdale’s Retail & Architecture Division and during our conversation he confirmed that the agency approached him and not the opposite. “In an ever-changing industry, we have to reinvent the value-creation between design agencies and clients. Lonsdale approached me probably because I have a strong retail expertise, I was coming from the clients’ world and I knew what kind of expectations they have towards a design agency. Also, the fact that I’ve been working in the cosmetics, luxury, and fashion sectors is helpful for a design agency.”

“Strategic thinking plus operational thinking is a good combination for designing solutions for clients.”

In particular, Lonsdale’s mission is to design innovative solutions –both for products and for the space where the products will be displayed– to create new customer experiences by encompassing graphics and identity, architecture and interiors, exhibitions and installations, websites and digital experiences. His belief is that this mission is crucial for the market because along with having good strategies, it is important to realize them in reality. Rethinking and re-challenging brand strategies, Lonsdale gives concrete solutions at the same time.

Lonsdale for Citroën. Photo by Jacques Giral.

“Exploring new customer experiences and helping companies to bridge the gaps between them is what makes the difference.”

From there, our conversation went deeper into the stores’ major shift to online and Olivier’s view of this phenomenon. “I would say it is more of an opportunity because, at the end of the day, the most important thing is to create a strong relation between a brand and a customer. With the digital transformation, this relation is easily established. In a certain way, together with the physical store experience, the digital transformation is another opportunity for brands to bridge the gap they may have with their customers.”

One of his projects was to renew the entire customer experience across all physical touchpoints of Citroën and the PSA Group in general. This project covered points of sale, indoor and outdoor exhibitions, trade shows and city locations. Now they have developed 35 retail boutiques all around the world.

Lonsdale for the ‘Citroën House’. Photo by Monique Dupont Sagorin.

“That one was a really interesting project. We’ve worked for Citroën –a company of more than 100 years old– for 10 years now. The brand’s image was declining but Lonsdale’s belief was that Citroën had a strong DNA. Not only a French DNA, but a ‘family DNA’. In fact, Citroën is connected to several family stories. In France, grandparents remember when they were going on holiday driving a Citroën car. Everyone has a story related to the 2CV – ‘Deux Chevaux’– which became a bestseller in the 50s. However, there was an image-related problem to solve. There were already very nice advertisements about Citroën created by the best advertising agencies in France. Lonsdale didn’t need to create another advertising campaign but rather thought to create a place, one connected to Citroën’s beloved family stories –a house. We created the Citroën house, which is every nice thing you can think of related to your childhood and family life. The very house that holds all these secrets. In terms of design, the iconic logo is like the roof of the house, and below it you are in the protected world of your house listening to old but true stories about Citroën. This project worked really well because, in addition to reinforcing the image of the brand, it also helped to build a new story.”

“We wanted to create a space connected to Citroën’s family stories –in short– a house.”

Talking about the automotive sector, Olivier said it is changing a lot, especially people’s consideration of having a car. Using the car has become more important than the ownership of the car itself. Lonsdale’s mission towards the automotive sector is helping them to get stronger in designing retail boutiques, where people can find those new services they are looking for. From designing solutions for the Mondial de l’Auto –which is the main car show in France–, to creating new solutions for the automotive showroom in Frankfurt, Olivier explained that the car industry needs to present an experience to their customers other than simply owning cars.

Lonsdale for Orange. Photo by Jacques Giral.

"Lonsdale's mission is to create value in an ever-changing market.”

When we asked his opinion about the biggest challenge for smaller brands in the retail world, Olivier, said that 20 or 30 years ago, he would have answered the biggest challenge is to create brand awareness. Today, he has a very different view because that is not the best solution for brands who are trying to make their mark. “Every kind of company must have solid value behind your brand’s mission and stick to it. They need to be specialized enough to be recognized as experts. Only when you are recognized as an expert, you can start the process of brand awareness.”

As he did for Citroën, Olivier explained several other projects he worked on. With more than 50 clients, as far as the retail division is concerned, his team –which is composed of 70 people now– is working on more than 100 projects. Not only did they win a prize –JANUS– in 2018 for the best cosmetic concept for Sisley, but they developed the Orange flagship store in Paris, as well as various works for PSA Group, CarrefourSociété Générale and many more.

Lonsdale for Sisley.

Motivation plays an important role in Olivier’s life, considering that his goal is to understand his clients’ problems and to help them to find new solutions.

We at MiND really appreciated the opportunity to talk to Olivier and we look forward to seeing him in Paris in the future.

By: Lisa Zanon