Great to hear from Francky David, an experienced global marketing professional who has specialised in sensory, consumers & Healthcare professionals insights, strategy and innovation over a 25 year career, both on the agency & client side. He is also a proud dad of 2 children, and this is where he finds some of his inspiration for the Nestlé infant nutrition categories, which he is currently working on. He recently won the prestigious Peter Cooper Award for the best qualitative paper of the year, that he was able to present at latest Esomar conference with his partner agency LoveBrands on the transformational journey of motherhood.
So, how did you get into the industry, and take us through how you got to this point?
I always had since my teenager years a passion for economics and marketing, And while I was finishing my post grade studies in an international French & British business school, I had the chance to get aware of the creation of the first Master Degree for Quantitative & Qualitative research techniques in Grenoble in France. At the time in 1997, It was a breakthrough educational innovation on the market, probably internationally as well. So, I immediately applied and was very happy to be selected amongst a happy few. The Programme director was very visionary as he saw back at the time the increased demand for Insights professionals on the client side as well as the agency side.
Before I got qualified, I was having already several company proposals for a first job, but I decided to work first on the agency side to get immersed on the research basics, as well as the variety of processes and techniques. I still remember having spent some short time as an interviewer to better understand how to run a questionnaire and better draft them. After a while, I decided to move to the client side working in innovation, R&D and sensory analysis for Philip Morris for several years, and then 15 years ago to Nestlé to immerse myself in more strategic decisions linked to Marketing & Brand stewardship, as well as Global communication, Equity and Innovation
Greatest career moment so far?
It is actually a mix of great little moments and a big recognition achievement. For the great little moments, they can happen anytime and are related to the sparks you notice in the eyes of the marketeers when they realize you helped them to get some significant actionable insights for their brand, or when you bring facts to a topic that everybody had a subjective opinion about.
I am not a person obsessed by having a career, and seeing these little recognitions frequently enough are for me the engine to my work satisfaction & well being.
Regarding the bigger recognition achievement, this is certainly the prestigious 2023 Esomar Peter Cooper award for the best Qualitative paper we have created with Nathalie Coste from LoveBrand agency: “Growing-up together: Redefining Motherhood as a transformational journey, not a role” . It was very important for me to get that recognition from the Insights peers and being able at the same time to speak for a cause and in this case for the respect of every motherhood style. There are 134 million babies born every year, and there are 134 million ways to be a good mom. Stop judging them.
Bring to life your perfect work week?
It is mostly to be able to listen and to discover new things, to be able to be always on, ie always be connected to your consumers. Whether you are at work or during your WE or family time, you will have everyday of the week an opportunity to learn something new from your consumers. Observe people everywhere, observe what they do, how they do it, and then try to figure out why they do it. This is a truly fascinating job and you have to be curious. I am not sure there are perfect weeks but I am sure there are perfect moments, especially when you get to these “Ahah moments” when you are able to reveal the insights behind the behaviour.
On top, to preserve this “always on” connection, you also need sometimes to disconnect “physically” and this is what I do through some adventure racing (orienteering, running, mountainbiking, kayaking), which I love to do with my team, the “PowerBar Swiss Explorers” where I had the chance to travel across the world and go to really wild places.
Career paths are rarely without challenges. Can you share an honest moment from your career when things didn’t go quite according to plan, but the lessons remain with you to this day?
Ahah this is a good question. One of the big lesson I learned over my career is that “common sense is not common”. I have seen -to simplify- 2 types of professionals being successful in their career: 1 type who are relying on facts, having the right strategy, having the right development model, and 1 type who are able to shout loud enough their vision or opinion, so loud and with charism they are able to convince their peers, even if it is not supported by facts. You have to navigate between these 2 models to be really successful, and take time to sell yourself. That would be the advice I would give to the young marketeers & insights professionals.
What two things should junior researchers focus on as they progress in their careers?
First, Curiosity for technology because no one will survive in this industry without embracing and adopting the technological challenge, and specifically AI nowadays.And second, Networking. We are a small and big community at the same time. There is a tremendous advantage to learn from and connect with different people who work in this industry from the client or agency side, and you will probably cross their paths multiple times over your career.
Do you have any advice for our sector?
The insights industry is growing very healthily, especially with its Analytics component. So the sector is in a good state. A revolution is however already in motion with AI, so we need to take this as an opportunity to make our industry even more efficient and powerful.
And do you have anyone who has helped your career so far that you’d like to acknowledge and say thanks or give a shout out to?
There are actually 2 people who marked my career and were very inspirational:
Jean-Claude Schneider from Philip Morris who was my first boss when joining the client side after some time within an agency. I had a lot of pleasure working with him and for him, until I took his role when he changed assignments.
Laurent Chastain from Nestlé who is a marketing guru with an excellent flair in communication. What he shared with Jean-Claude was his excellent understanding of the Human truths, and both were inspirational Leaders able to unleash the best in their teams by trusting them and giving them a lot of freedom in their job. Not all Directors or Managers have this natural talent, so I wish the junior researchers to have the chance to meet & work with these type of profile one day.