This week's interview was with Michael Aidan. At the time of our conversation, he was transitioning between his role as Chief Digital Officer at Danone, to joining a relatively newer organization as the Chief Marketing and Business Development Officer of DxO. Michael has incredible entrepreneurial tendencies, he's a true intrapreneur. This comes through so clearly in the interview, I'm really excited for you to hear it.
These are just a few of the highlights from the interview:
- To get his first international job in marketing, he had to get permission from the French government to go work in New York in lieu of his military service. He got rejected seven times and escalated his case to the French Foreign Minister. If it didn't work out he would have been shipped to Germany to serve in the army.
- While at Cato Gobé and Associates, he helped design the Gillette Series razor that is still in stores today even though it was designed in 1991. What he took away from that experience was if you put different minds around the table, you will create something much richer and more sustainable.
- While he had great mentors, they never officially had that title, or had a conversation where they said "Michael, let me be your mentor". These people were simply people at his company that inspired him. He spent time with them, observed their work and learned a lot from them in that fashion.
- In situations where he had a bad boss, it was important for him to step back and spend time with peers in your network or mentors elsewhere in the organization to help him take a step back and focus on your own path.
- To de-stress Michael goes on hour long runs, especially leading up to stressful or important meetings. He notices a significant difference in his performance when he runs versus when he doesn't.
- He values spending time at conferences, and tries to attend one at least once every month or two. He finds delivering talks at these conferences to be really helpful as it helps him put his work in a broader perspective by thinking through how it could be valuable for others.
- When looking back at his P&G classmates, he found the successful ones fit into one of two buckets. One group were those who you might consider the "perfect P&G employee" in the sense that they followed every rule and lived every value of the organization which helped them rise to the top at the company. The other group were those who approached their time at P&G as a learning opportunity, but had their own way of thinking and found success in adjacent industries. Those who fell in the middle of these groups found less success.
- His approach to problem solving is Do, Think, Do, which he finds valuable as he's doing things twice and getting a lot of information from running more tests.
- Trust is incredibly important in building teams. If you don't have trust, you have nothing. In those situations, employees often question if they are even capable at their jobs.
- His advice If you're ever in a situation where you're working for a manager where trust doesn't exist is to take a step back and focus on areas where you've been successful before (whether at work, or in your hobbies) and use that to rebuild your the confidence.
- Michael's biggest failure came when his team created a new type of Evian water bottle, which passed consumer research tests, but failed when they actually got the product in their hands. The issue was that they had pushed go on producing 400 Million bottles, which was about half of their overall supply.
- While he set the Guinness World Record for online views with the Roller Babies Campaign, a few months before he launched a similar initiative with Volvic that completely flopped and got ~30 views. There is a lot of trial an error before you can find success.
- Even though he wouldn't change any thing about his life, his advice to his younger self would be to learn equally from the bad and the good moments in your life. You need to have room for both in your life.
- He decided to leave Danone to join DxO as it gets him closer to the Do, Think, Do mentality that he enjoys so much. He felt he accomplished his major objectives at Danone and wanted a new challenge.
Hope you enjoy listening.
Ray Cao is the CEO of Exact Media. We’re transforming the world of direct mail by enabling advertisers like P&G and Pepsico to distribute product samples and coupons through a vast network of e-commerce and omichannel retailers.
Daniel: Today on Connections.
Michael: We have 16 lines of production. Four hundred million bottles were going to be developed based on that design. And we get some letters. We got 180 letters, emails, phone calls, whatever you want to call them, from people in the first two countries that were hit, which were France and Germany, that said I have a problem with that bottle. I cannot believe you're doing something like this. It's terrible. I am spilling water all over. This is like a cheap bottle. I am buying Avian brand because it's a premium brand, and now it looks cheaper than the most cheapest brand, I'm not going to buy it anymore.
Daniel: My name is Daniel Rodic, and I'm your host at Connections. Brought to you by Exact Media. We created this podcast because we realized that a lot of people we spent time with in our day to day work, brand managers, marketers, those who are trying to rise quickly in their careers, could benefit from hearing the stories of the leaders they look up to in their industry. In every episode, we cover the stories that you've never heard of. Where did they grow up? How did they get their first job? What were their successes and failures in their career, and how do they recover from them? My hope is that you will take away some interesting tidbits and tactics that will help you accelerate your careers.
I don't wanna spend too much time talking about us, but so you have context on how we're involved in the industry. At Exact Media, we work specifically with marketers to help them sample their products through the parcels of online retailers. For example, if you bought running shoes online, we might give you a sample of a healthy granola bar in that parcel. If that interests you at all, visit us at www.exactmedia.io.
Today's guest is Michael Aidan, the former chief digital officer at Danone and a true innovator in the marketing industry. Michael's start in the industry is quite interesting. Unlike most people who easily applied for a job out of school, Michael actually had to petition the French government to let him take a marketing job in New York, which if it didn't work out meant he would have to serve in the army instead.
Many years later, Michael was part of the team that set what was at the time the Guinness World Record for the most viewed online advertising campaign with the Evian Roller Babies campaign. Later on, he out innovated Amazon by helping launch the Evian drop button, which delivered a case of Evian to your door in France and the UK at the push of a button. It was essentially the Amazon dash button, two or three years before the concept ever existed. This interview was a really, really fun one. So here is my interview with Michael Aidan.
I just wanted to say, Michael, thank you so much for joining us.
Michael: My pleasure really.
Daniel: You were just on vacation. Where did you go?
Michael: I am near Bourdeaux, where you can expect to find great wine. And a bit of a relaxing time away from any noise. I hope any noise, because if you hear a noise, it's not good for the podcast. In a very relaxing place where I am just enjoying time doing nothing with my family, which I guess is not doing nothing.
Daniel: There is so much I want to go through with you. I just wanted to start by just briefly covering what your most recent role was at Danone just get some context on what you just did.
Michael: Okay, if you allow me just before, because you have been reading my resume or actually making it very appealing, more appealing than I thought it was, but there is one little piece that was missing, and I think it is an important one, which is for three years after working at P&G, I actually worked in a packaging design firm in New York, in New York City, which became my favorite city in the world. And there I was really learning marketing but from an agency angle as opposed to a client angle. And I think it taught me an awful lot. I don't think it was the right job for me, but I did take a lot of lessons that I used over the years that I have been working in marketing, hindsight, afterwards.
But anyway that being said, on my latest role at Danone. my job until last week was chief digital officer, which can mean a variety of things. To be honest, even in my case over the course of four years, it has meant a variety of different things as well. You pointed out in your introduction that it was training the marketeers at Danone to digital marketeers and, to be honest at the beginning it was truly dark, but now it's become much whiter.
There was a change of management couple of years ago at Danone. And the new CEO, Emmanuel Faber, asked us to look at digital, not only there the lens of marketing and how to invent the way we dialogue with our consumers, the way we set up products, the way we listen to consumers thanks to e-listening and all of that. But he wanted to get us to go beyond and think of what it meant for all the functions of the company, whether it's HR, Operations, Supply Chain, Finance, and see how digital could, had, or would impact their way of working in the near future.
And that was the second leg to the digital project of the company. And then there was a third leg added to that one, which was how the digital transform the company. And by saying the company, we mean how each and every individual collaborates to the mission of the company. And I found that these two parts can be useful, and to be honest, the third one, the latter, was literally fascinating. Because if you take it personally, then you do not have to go too far back in time to realize that 10 years ago, maybe 20 years ago now, your first computer, your first mobile phone, your first broadband Internet line was given to you by your company. So the company was ahead. And now every individual has apps or devices that the company does not allow, so individuals are now ahead. Individuals are turning to their IT departments, and they're saying, "Could you please put that app on my office computer?" or, "Is there any way that I can get such a device at work? And the answer very often is no. Because it is not secure, or it cannot be extended to 100,000 people in the company.
And you realize that the paradigm has completely shifted from companies are ahead, and people within the company are benefiting from that to people are ahead and the company needs to catch up with that. And so we made some very significant brainstorming sessions and all that to understand what it meant for the company to catch up. And within that we thought well, need to find tools, that are the tool that people are used to using in their normal life now and bring them to the company world so that in fact people can operate the way they do in their normal life. And if we can do that then we will completely change the way people collaborate within the company.
Daniel: One thing that you said in the beginning that I wanted to hit on. Going back 10, 20 years, you mentioned your switch to the agency world. You spent about a year at Proctor and Gamble and then you joined the packaging design company. Did you come into more of about what was the thought process behind that decision?
Michael: It's a strange one. You know in France we have this system where you have the time to serve the army. You have to do the military service. And after a while it was decided, the government decided that, instead of serving the army, which at the time was thought not to be needed. At least not in large numbers, that's may change today. Instead of serving the army, to work with French firms abroad, if you were graduates of certain schools. Because it helps the French commerce abroad to have these graduate students within French companies at a low cost outside of different years. And so I looked at that system and it was obviously very interested in that. I wanted to work... I figured that I wanted to work in marketing in New York. Go figure. I don't think it had anything to do with Mad Man at the time because Mad Man did not exist. But for whatever reason, I was fascinated by marketing and for me, the cradle of that whole business was actually in New York. So I wanted to work there. So I looked at every single company that looked like a French firm in New York to see if they could accept me within my military service. It called [foreign language 00:10:27] col-be-achon. They could accept me within the scope of my core service. So at a low cost and ready to serve as much as I could. And I looked, and looked, and looked and looked.
And after almost a year of search I actually found that packaging design firm called Cato Gobé and Associates, which was French own, or mostly French-owned would belong to a design group called "The Group Associates." And they said yes. When they said yes they didn't know anything about that army thing that I told you about. No one could understand anything. So that they said figure it out. Figure out the administrative part and yes we are ready to take you for a pittance, working for us for the next year and a half. And I actually found a way to make it happen. It was actually almost a job in itself because the French army could not understand what design had to do with them.
Besides the other thing that was something interesting was that most of these people that were doing their [foreign language 00:11:35] col-be-achon working with French firms abroad were the sort of fields of the top French firms who were basically traveling at the expense of their companies. They were farther up and were not really doing a lot of work over there. They were coming back saying oh yeah, I did that but I'll never work in a firm like that again. So the French army rejected my dossier seven times and seven-time I said no I won't take no for an answer. I want to understand why my dossier which is for a French firm abroad. A firm that cannot afford to have a graduate student there etc. etc., why it doesn't work? And no one could give me an answer and eventually one day they called me and they said. "Listen the case is lost, your dossier has been rejected, so you have to go and serve." When you are missing that you have to serve in the army, but literally in Nuremberg, in Germany, with a rifle and everything else for 16 months, was the way it was built. So if you are failing to find a company to send you. You have to come back and do the standard army thing but for a longer period of time. Because you basically have tried for to get something that you couldn't get. And when they sent me that note and called me to say you have to go to Germany. I wrote a letter to the minister.
To the French Foreign Minister whom I didn't know at all. Found his name in a newspaper. And I wrote him that the whole system of the [foreign language 00:13:07] col-be-achon was right because it was using graduate students to do something that was in needed for France at that time. And that I thought the whole system had gone wrong because in fact it wasn't used for that and the people that were sent there were only interested in knowing where the next party was going to be. And not really trying to develop the business of the small firm that were working for. By the way, they were not working with small firms, they were working with Credit Dumas and all the big groups so that had literally nothing to do with the intent of that law. I wrote that letter, it was a seven-page long letter. Thinking its dead. But you never know. I got a phone call two days later from a guy who was the Chief of Staff of that Minister. He said the minister had read my letter and thought it was very interesting and he actually asked people from the French American Chamber of Commerce in New York to go and check the company that I was working with and see whether it fitted the intent of the law. They came after a week they decided it was just spot on. And they decided that I was actually going to serve the army. Reality was I had been working a year already at Cato Gobé and Associates and I having a lot of fun. That allowed me to do a year plus a year and a half, roughly three years over there and so the intent was exactly that. During my military service and using it the best that I could. Learning new things about marketing from a different angle and different take on the world.
Daniel: I'm curious what your parents thought about that whole year of trying?
Michael: You know this is a very moving question because my father actually passed away a month ago. Less than a month ago now. So it's very emotional topic but to be very honest my parents were all behind it. Actually my father...I started my career at P&G as you mentioned and I was working at P&G as a full time employee even though I hadn't done my military service. So P&G accepted to hire me knowing that at some point I would have to go and do that thing. And I remember trying to solve that thing with New York. My job in New York, where the company had accepted me but the army hadn't. And I was wondering how to solve that from where I was in Paris while working for P&G. And at some point, I shared that with my father and he said you know, what it's not solved but just go. Just go and you solve it. And I took that as a license just to start my contract with P&G, take my suitcase and leave. Literally, I arrived in New York with a company that wanted to hire me but didn't know how it was going to work from an administrative standpoint. I left at the time my job at P&G, which was well paid for a job that wasn't well paid at all. In a city where I didn't have my parents flat to sleep. I left everything else, girlfriend and you name it. And I think hadn't my father told me, just go. I would probably not have done that. So they've been instrumental.
In fact my father was very much the kind of person that would write a letter to the president when he thought what was said or done was not right. He didn't always get what he wanted. He didn't always get them to change their functions completely but he recently he got a letter from François Hollande a few months ago because he wrote him about the economic policy that he thought was completely wrong and he got an answer. I'm not saying it's better but its, I think it's a whole frame of mind. Think that even though you won't change the world you can try. You can contribute.
Daniel: I totally agree. I think that the story you tell that your father reminds me of my dad. It's actually next week he is going to be turning 70. It's a big milestone for him that he can, he took kind of the same path when he came to this country. He was working for the German Merchant Navy and landed in Montreal actually where I am calling you from right now and he knew he wanted to be in Canada so he got off the ship. Got onto a bus in Montreal and landed in Toronto. He had $35 dollars in his pocket and landed in the middle of winter and so for anyone not in Canada. Winter in Canada is not fun. And he learned that on his first day ever in this country. And he actually called up a friend. Found a bed to sleep in and the next day he went into a Chinese restaurant and they served free tea. And spent all day there trying to look for his first job. And so that's the story of my dad reminds me of what you were just telling me how you got started in marketing.
Michael: I think that is the only way to start. And you know one of the anecdotes in addition to the one I mentioned about New York is when I got to New York I couldn't work there because the army hadn't accepted it. So I didn't have a proper Visa and the company I was working with Cato Gobé, got me what was called a H1 special skills Visa. My only special skill was that I could speak French. So that was the way to get me accepted. But that Visa costed at the time $3500 to get from paying the lawyer and all that thing. The day I arrived at my new job where I left everything behind I find this bill on my desk that say a total cost of around $3500. And I went to see the general manager of that company, Mr. Gobé and I said what, I assume you want me to sign it. And he goes to hiring department and says no I intend you to pay it. To pay for it. And I said you cannot be serious. No, I'm serious. It cost us money to get you so you need to pay that money. I said you know how much you are paying me per month. This is never going to cover. I am going to take months before I can pay that. For that, I don't even know how I can pay for an apartment there. He says well maybe we can lend you some money. I said that is not going to change anything because if you lend me some money, I'm going to have to pay back. Which means that I probably have to find another job from 6 pm to 10 pm to cover for that cost and I will be less efficient at the job you hired me for. And he said, "Well listen, put it aside and we will figure it out as you go." And we never talked about it again after that. Mark Gobé, a fabulous guy he actually passed away a few months ago but he was kind that had created his own company and started the hard way. So he didn't want anyone to have an easy start. When he recognized that I was bring some value he actually settled that and never mentioned it again.
Daniel: You mentioned that at the start there were key things that you learned from you three years there. What are some of the things that stuck out to you that sounds like they still stick with you today.
Michael: I would say the number one thing, and it's not related to the job I had. It was absolutely fascinating is never to take no as an answer. I really took that as a lesson. If you feel that you are right, or your following the rule and it hasn't been understood by others. I really took that lesson that it means you need to tell the story differently. You need to tell it to someone else. To find, if there is a will there is a way. And so I never took no for an answer. Which makes me a bit of a pain in the neck as well because sometimes my bosses further along the way would have wish I could have said no sometimes. That's the story anyways but that's one major, major lesson.
The other lessons were about learning, they were more about the business I was in. I was in a design firm and within that design firm I was coming from the client side. And it was a completely new way of thinking. I was working all of a sudden with creative people without the filter of the account executives. I was the account executive. And I realized how these people could bring enormous value if you were putting them in the right frame of mind. If you were giving them the right information which was not a twenty page brief with a lot words because that has absolutely no meaning for them. So it taught me lots of things about how creative minds operate. And what makes them good or not so good. And I think what I learned there has been useful for the rest of my career. And then there are lots of other things I could tell you twenty anecdotes and each one and every one of them had an impact with...
One that I remember for a long time was one of my major clients, my biggest client was Gillette. And at the time it wasn't part of P&G it was a Gillette based in Boston at the Prudential tower. And over there I was in charge, they had just launched the sensor razor and what they wanted to launch after that was some products. They didn't know exactly what. They thought the needed to launch a full range for men that would be within the category of grooming. So they wanted deodorants, aftershaves you know shampoos and lots of things. And we had to work with them in a very different way. Because they were a Boston based company but they were operating worldwide. And what we did at the time is we put creative mines from France from the UK, we even had a few in Tokyo and a lot in New York. And all these teams were working on the same brief. And what was really interesting is when we were presenting to Gillette at the Prudential Tower. We never told them what was coming out of where. Never and then they would be playing as say oh, we loved that actuator that you put on the shave foam here and would like to put it on the deodorant or whatever. And eventually, we ended with something that was not meant to be global, sorry that was meant to be global but was designed with global sensitivity.
What I mean by that is the minds that had been contributing to that was coming from all over world. The inspiration was coming from all over the world. And eventually the product was a combination I couldn't even identify. It was impossible to say that was 50% French and 20% US or whatever. But it made that line which was called Gillette Series which is still in the stores now even though it was launched in 1991, I think. That line is still relevant and still out there in the market place. There has been a few changes here and there but it's pretty much what was designed at the time. And I think that one big lesson from the business standpoint that if you put different minds around the table, and different minds meaning diversity from different countries and cultures. What you will get something much richer and something more sustainable then if you think whatever you develop from this market will work for everyone else.
Daniel: When you talk about the creative minds that you worked with, do you notice looking back there is a difference between a strong great creative person and a not so good. What were some of the specific traits or examples of, what is a good creative person? What should I look for as a marketer in identifying am I working with a good creative partner or not?
Michael: To be honest at the time I was young and very inexperienced so I couldn't really tell a brilliant creative mind from a not so brilliant creative mind. But what is clear is that the people that infected me the most of the time where the people that where not like the others. I remember explaining hours of my time at Cato Gobé, staring at a guy working on a computer. I know it sounds ridiculous but at the time it was new. This guy was an aircraft designer that had done, he had designed airplanes for the army. And what he was doing on the type CADD machine was designing for the actuator of shave foam. Something pretty ridiculous for him. But what he was bringing to the party when he was doing that was just thunderous. Because it was not I've been doing shave foams actuators for the past ten years and I am just going to add a little something to it. It was I'm coming from a completely different place and I am going to try and take what I bring from that different place to the question that is being asked of me. And I am probably going to create something that does not exist.
To me that is kind of the one of the big lessons of working with an agency. And that design firm in New York at the time. It's the lateral thinking part. There is often when you work at the client you are working on one brand. One category. I kind of call that vertical. As you are going to go deeper and deeper and deeper on the one question, one issue, one topic, one brand. And lateral thinking is actually what creative minds are able to do. It's about looking at the question that is being asked and putting it in perspective of twenty different questions you've been asked in different markets, different categories, different brands, different countries and different everything. And finding ideas that will actually help you solve the question. Not because they are the only ideas that have been used within that category but because they have worked in other fields. And sometimes you can take the idea literally and sometimes you have to adapt it. But I think that's what agencies can and should bring to the party. When the agency is too close to the client and has only been working with one client then it becomes a bit stale. So that is kind of my take on good creative minds. It's not so good it's more on the good ones are able to think laterally.
Daniel: It sounds like you had so much fun working there, what ultimately made you decide to switch back to the client side or the brand world?
Michael: It was funny because I realized I was twenty-five at the end of Cato Gobé and I was heading the account management department and the visual research department, whatever that meant and I think my title was something like marketing director. Now the truth of the matter is when I was having my meetings with Gillette every Friday at the Prudential Tower. I was just an account exec and that account exec was talking to Peter Hoffman at the time who was the Vice President of Marketing for Gillette Worldwide and I was realizing every time I was opening that what he really cared for and very logically so, was not what I was going to say. But how this packaging I was bringing was going to be revolutionary or better than what he was interested in was listening to the designer's work. Listening to the insights of the creative mind that had brought something to life. And I thought to myself at the time. I am twenty five. I have one year of marketing at P&G and three years of marketing at a company that doesn't do marketing. Why would he be interested in what I am saying? If marketing is really what I am interested in and what I want to be doing in the future. I probably need to learn the hard way. And go back maybe to school. I know it's a very classic student type of thinking. I felt that I was not legitimate to speak about marketing not having done more than I had done. So I wanted to go back to the client side to learn and I thought maybe at some point I reenlist for my marketing accommodations. But that would be for later. And my company Cato Gobé and Associates could not train me in that field because I had not, I was the marketing boss. So my boss was Mark Gobé and he was a fabulous guy and I learned an awful lot from him. But he couldn't teach me or train me in marketing. That was the reason.
I looked and the first thing that appeared was in fact going back to P&G because they allowed me to do that. But what happened my marketing VP from P&G the one that had hired me in the first place. Had moved to another job as Global VP of Marketing for Yves Saint Laurent Perfumes. And so she was at Yves Saint Laurent so P&G offered me to come back to P&G and she offered me to join her in her new position at YSL. She basically told me you have been working for so long at P&G and after three years in New York being free ect ect. Working on so many markets its probably better if you join me where I am. You will be freer to do things that haven't done before. And I joined her. And she, I mentioned Mark Duvet as the fabulous person that I worked for. Her name was Patricia Patrolia. Patricia Patrolia was, again it's very sad but she passed away a few year ago, very young. She was the person that made me love marketing I think. First hiring me at P&G then hiring me again YSL perfume. And teaching me and showing me what marketing was about. So it, yeah. She was very important in my career.
Daniel: It sounds like both her and Mark and looking at others elsewhere in your career. You've been able to find a lot of mentors or coaches. What are some of the things that you did to find these mentors and have them support you and train you in the way they have?
Michael: The very funny thing I think is that they have never been called mentors, and they were never, oh I'm going to, I mean, son, just follow me I'm going to show you the way and tell you what you need to do. It was never like that. It probably like mentors quite sometime after I left them. Or after I left the company I was working with them. So they were people I was working that were inspiring me the way they were doing things. And by looking at them, by thinking their way, or by actually having interactions with them I learned a lot. I can tell you one thing though they were always people that believed that the people that reported to them were their future and they were always these people that thought that if they had the greatest people with them, they would be greater. They were never the kind of boss that tried to diminish what you were doing or lower the impact of what you were doing to show you that you were not good. They always trying to push you further. They were always thinking that if you could be going even further than they could have been it would make them grow. And I think that was something important. But again it's kind of post rationalization, if you ask me because they never presented themselves as I'm going to be your mentor.
Daniel: I'm curious about the Gobé example whether you had this experience or you give advice to people who are working under someone who doesn't have that view. What would you, if you're talking to someone who is in their late 20s early 30s who is working for a boss that doesn't give them that kind of support or have that vision for them. What do you recommend they do?
Michael: Well, to be honest, I have had that kind of situation a couple of times because happens. It's called life. I think you are learning from that. You have to learn to deal with it. You have to learn to remain yourself. Even though the person that is your boss is not going to try to make you grow and is more interested in what he can take out of that than anything that can happen to you. So I think learning through that, learning to actually cope with it. And I think coping is a very important word because you could ignore and say you know what I am going to do it my way punch him. Forget it. I don't care. Or you can go the other way.
I'm sorry there is a bit of noise around. I'm in the garden.
You can go the other way which is to say, you know what. I am just going to bend. I am just going to do everything the way he says to do it period. And I'll be a good soldier. And I think that is very wrong as well. Because if you work for some years with that you will probably lose yourself and become a lessor type of you. So I think it's a very difficult balance to find and that balance can be found by yourself but also with other people. Exchanging having a network of people seeing people that are not within the scope of that boss that you have. Exchanging views with peers with other mentors is a good way to step back and make sure you follow your own way as opposed to the one that someone ask you to regardless of what it means to you. I don't think it applies, particularly to 25 to 30 years old. I think it goes all the way to, I'm 49 right now. All the way to 49 and probably beyond.
Daniel: Anytime in your career. A part I was going to ask you around the term you mentioned about networks and what I have learned being in this industry. I find that especially in consumer goods. Until you have had a chance to move around in different companies. Your network peers are people within your company. People who work at the same desk as you or the same brand or the same category. During your career did you find that most of your network was within your company or you able to get to know people at other competitors or complementary companies? How did you when you were coping with these situations where did you find your network to support you?
Michael: I think at the very beginning of my career it was mostly about what you could do within your own company. And there were fewer networks than today. The social networks did not exist so, it was, you were kind of stuck. You were within your company and you could liaise with lessor people from your company. Also people from, I graduated from business school in Paris called ESCP. ESCP Europe now. And I had lots of friends over there and I was actually, the delegate of my class so the class at ESCP was 250 people. I didn't keep contact with all 250 people but we did organize a few meetings, a few gatherings. Every year or so at the beginning then every five years to keep contact with people that obviously have done different things. So that was one way of networking.
And I think what has appeared in the past 10, 15 years is that there are more and more of these forums, these events. These forums, conventions and things that gather people from several companies and I've made it my business to spend time doing that. So I've been probably once a month or so. Or every other month when it would be at difficult times. To events like that to listen to what was being said. Meet with other people. Sometimes deliver speeches as well. Which is very important because it forces you to put what you are doing into a border perspective. I mean how could what I've done, serve the others or be felt interesting to the others. And so I've been doing a lot of that. If you factor all of that in plus the Linkin contacts and all of that. Now I think I am obviously in a place where I have several circles of acquaintances friends and things and I think if I had on piece of advice for young people it's to think of these events as something important. Not all the time not too much. Keeping in touch with the industry. Keeping in touch with friends from school. Keeping in touch with maybe people from different departments within your company as well. That can be very helpful.
Daniel: There is that anecdote that most of your next job or next opportunity or the next thing you do in life, often comes from those loose connections. So maybe not your close friend but one of their friends or someone you went to school, or someone you worked with three years ago and you met up for coffee. And so I defiantly agree that it's something that is super important that you try to develop your career.
The part I wanted to get into on this topic of your friends and your co-workers. When you looked at you can draw from any of your experience whether its Pepsi, YSL or Danone or the early days when you were starting at P&G. What were some of the traits that stood out for you for marketers that were successful versus those that were not successful? Those who rose thru the ranks very quickly, those who were able to get all the interesting projects. What where the few tactical things that you saw them doing that others didn't do that made them stand out?
Michael: It's an interesting question. I'm not sure I could spot anything tactical. Any tactics. What I can tell you about the people I met when I was at P&G maybe 30 years ago back in 1988. And the ones that have become successful, they're kind of three types of individuals that I met over there. The ones that were perfectly P&G addicted. They were basically following each and every rule. They were becoming best at doing thing a la P&G and some of them have actually made it to the top of that organization. In the country I was or in Europe or throughout, even at global levels for some of them.
There were other people that were learning the lessons from P&G. This is how you write the memo, this is how you do a thing. Taking all of that, you know what, this is like being in a classroom again but I'm being paid for it. And it's fun and its interesting and its new. But I have my own way of thinking, I have my own intuitions and whether they want me to put that in this format or that format doesn't matter eventually, I want to follow my intuitions. And these people have actually become, for the most part have actually become very successful elsewhere. Rather in the luxury industry, in the agency world, etc. etc.
And then there is the third part which is sort of in between people that have kind of followed the rules. Left their intuition at home and have become sort of a very technical about that job. Very technical in that all they know is how to write the memo, how to do things in a certain way and etc etc. It has become very ridge and those have not become very successful for the most part. So I don't think it completely answers your question about finding tactics. But I think it's about either taking the mold to its full extent or taking the mold thinking you want to remain yourself and you take that as background that you carry with you or else. But else doesn't work. You need to choose. To lead your way, follow, or get out of the way.
Daniel: I'm interested in digging to you and your own personal experience there was a comment I think it was in one of the interviews I watched with the web view. You mentioned this line I really liked where a lot of people operate under the mentality of think, do, and think. But I think you were referring to one of the projects at Avian where its do, think, do. When you told your story about your father, he's just like go to New York and figure it out. That's kind of your first experience of doing it and thinking about a way how I survive in this country and then doing it again and building a career. Other than that mentality, what are the things that you personally did people wouldn't know or people wouldn't realize but you feel like you did for your career that helped you get all these interesting opportunities?
Michael: Well, first of all think you because you just brought the answer that probably you were expecting to that previous question. Tactics that I have seen working best is the very idea of doing things then thinking then redoing, as opposed to spending an enormous amount of time thinking usually delivering nothing. Because for many months your just thinking and thinking and thinking. Then once you come up with something that be whatever it would be you go back to your thinking board again. I really like to do, think, do part because you end up doing thing twice already. At least in terms of testing and learning, you are learning twice as much by doing that. So that is obviously one.
If I had to list other things that I enjoy doing and kind of worked for me. I think one of them is to dream a lot. There is a moment for me which is crucial for me. It's the one where I go running. It's the one where my mind is kind of free. This morning I went running for a little over an hour on the beach. Just fabulous moments your mind just and everyone has to find that thing their own way of letting their mind free at some point. You are very often thinking under pressure. Just thinking about things and not finding the solutions to problem. The minute you let your mind wonder, then you realize that there are loads of options that you haven't explored and that you don't even need to focus on them for a solution to perk up. And that has worked incredible well for me. Every time I have been in a situation of stress I go running. And when I go running and I come back I have some ideas that will solve my problem but also new ideas, new thinking new project new everything. So I think dreaming and letting your mind free is something very important.
The second thing that I think is equally important is to gather people that come from different field that come from different perspectives on a topic . I done that on Evian. I've done that on digital even more than anything else because that team was not directly reporting to me they were people that had other jobs. Every time I've done that I have been fascinated by the quality of the outcome. So dreaming a lot, bring diverse people together to think with you about how to make the thing happen. Finding the people that can make it happen. You say I am a do, think, do type of guy but I need people that know how to do better than me and I need people that can finish the thing. And can go all the way, and I have been lucky enough to find many of those in my career. And they probably made it possible for me to go from Oh yeah, I think I have we can reinvent Evian to this is what you have done.
I would add another on which is first. I know it's not a tactic, but I think the one thing that has helped me though out my career and I think I have helped people with is that notion of trust. If you have trust from someone, you're going to be able to play. If you have trust and the right people around you, the right type of thinking you're going to be able to fly. The minute you don't have this trust, and that ties back to what you were saying about good managers and bad managers. The good managers trust you. They won't try and do it. They will show you the moon and say this is what I would like to go, can you find a way. I trust you, you will find a way. The bad managers are not able to show you what moon they want to reach or what star they want to reach. They tell you precisely, they will be on your back with everything you are going to do to go there. And they don't trust you.
They will actually be skeptical all the way. They will make it difficult for you because you will have to prove yourself every step of the way. And so I think being able to get trust from your boss, being able to deliver or give this trust to your team, to your agency, makes it possible to create things that did not exist. I think Evian roller baby would never had existed hadn't I had the trust of Frank Raggo, the CEO of the group at that time. It wouldn't have happen if my team and Bill's team and the others hadn't had the trust from us to deliver something spectacular. And it wouldn't had worked if the director that they had chosen had not gotten the same level of trust. But with trust, trust, trust we delivered a few miracles. Without the trust nothing is possible.
Daniel: I think this ties something together very interesting we started with the do, think, do. And the question that I had in my head was you necessary had to have a base layer of trust especially with your boss or manager to be able to take that approach. Because often the time when you do a lot of thinking you have to get permission from above to do something. You have to show them analysis and cover yourself to make sure if things go wrong you won't get fired because of it. So in a situation where maybe you don't feel like you have trust, how can someone take that do, think, do mentality and execute on it in absence of trust? What are some of the things that you would recommend that someone would do to operate in that way?
Michael: It's a very tough, not only question but situation. If you don't have the trust you have nothing. I found myself in my career, I don't need to go back twenty years in time to find moments when I did not have trust. And all of a sudden you are wondering whether you are even capable. At that stage, I think you need to think back the things that you may have accomplished before. You have to find areas where there is no question that you can trust yourself, like you know a sport. Sport can be one of them. You have to find the areas that can actually remind you of where you are coming from and what you've done. That you are able to take the next step forward and such.
The only problem is whenever you start lacking trust, you're not even able to remember those. You're thinking oh, that was pure luck or what happen was not because of me or it was a different story. So the lack of trust can take you really down. But I think it's important to get several pillars in your life. You obviously have your family, you have your friends, you have sports whatever actives you have, you have your studies, you have hobbies. There are many areas where regardless what is happening in one of them. Even though sometimes it's 80% of the total right there, you can remind yourself that you are not just that person that has lack of trust from one individual. It's not important, but it's very difficult. I'm saying that knowing that it's super difficult to take that kind of step back.
Daniel: That makes a lot of sense. I want to be mindful of your time. Just a few more questions if you have a few more minutes.
Michael: Sure. I have no problem. I have time.
Daniel: Enjoying the garden.
Daniel Rodic: You mentioned sports or running, I was just curious if you have any morning or evening rituals you've developed while you were at Danone most recently that you use to regulate your days?
Michael: No, there are not really morning rituals. Running have been one of them but not morning. Not necessarily a morning one. On that I am doing every week, that I have pushed it twice a week, sometimes three times a week. In moments of stress it, can go all the way to five times a week. So this has actually been a ritual, and I pushed actually that ritual a little bit further where every time I have a big meeting, strait line to present or something bit and stressful. I never go into the meeting room without having go run before. Never. Because I find it the perfect thing to do because all of the sudden all the eternal signs of stress. I actually believe that stress comes from emotions that turns into something physical.
And when it turns into something physical you are not yourself. You are not able to speak your mind. You're not able to hold a pen hopefully without making that fall and all of that. So running for an hour, just to exact external stress completely away and you know that you are yourself. If you add to that it brings you new thoughts about how to speak and how to introduce the speech that you are going to deliver and all that. For me it, was the perfect routine. And it has worked 100% of the time I haven't gone running before a big meeting, I know that I leave it up to chance for that to be successful. Otherwise that's my secret. That is my only ritual.
A new one recently, because I went to a class, we had a class on mindfulness. I'm sure your aware of mindfulness and you've heard about meditation and I went to a class and that taught me in six or seven lessons how to actually use breathing as a way to take a step back. To focus better, how to be in a better mind frame and I have used that. Obviously one hour of running versus ten minutes of meditation and the two to them kind of work on me. I tend to prefer the one hour run, but if I can do both.
Daniel: Even better. It's interesting that mediation can be something that I've gotten into quite recently. Have you ever use an app called Headspace before?
Michael: Yes. Of course, I'm using it. I'm using it.
Daniel: Great. I used it this morning as well.
Michael: No, I didn't do it this morning. Oh, you used it this morning. I'm sorry.
Daniel: Yeah. I used it this morning.
Michael: Yeah. I think it's a very, I actually like, I heard a guy by the name of Christoph Andreas who is a very famous psychiatrist in France. Talk about this new trend of mindfulness mediation and all that. He explained very rightly so that sports clubs had popped up in the sixties because people were moving from jobs where they were actually running, walking and doing a lot of things to all of a sudden just taking the car and going from one place to another. And not moving their body anymore and sports club was created what was necessary to combat that issue. And what is happening in today's world is we are completely bombarded with sources of information with internet and all that. And what has disappeared is the moment for you mind to rest. So all these mindfulness classes and things that are popping up everywhere are like the antidote for that disease that our world has actually created. And I really believe in that a free mind like a vacation. Is that this one is that is a mind that works. It's free, it's empty, it's idle but it's actually when it regenerates itself. And it creates new ideas and new associations.
Daniel: I think its really interesting, I don't know if they cover this in your class but mediation is something many of the top performers. People we look up to like sports for example. Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan all the great basketball legions all meditate. Almost daily, at least when they were playing. The Beatles was another group that did it quite a bit. Arnold Schwarzenegger did it when he was starting in his body building career so it certainly has evidence in science and anecdotal evidence from successful people. Are there any examples of where things just didn't work out? Anything that sticks out to you where looking back it ended up being okay, but in the moment you thought everything was going to crumble?
Michael: Absolutely, you know I have had loads of them. Loads of them. And I think probably they are the most important moments in one's life. If I look at Danone without going too far, to far back in time. We renovated at some point the bottle at Evian. The plastic bottle, the PT bottle at Evian, and we designed a new bottle that was going to have less weight and less PT in it. So it was better for the environment blah blah blah blah. So we developed that and we tested it in a very rigorous and quantitative way, which I have learned to hate now. And we get the results of that and it's very clear it's a go. If you launch that it's going to be perfect, its better, people like it, they like it even more, blah blah blah. We launch it. We start launching and in fact we get the very first samples of the bottles for ourselves. And we realize by opening the bottles that when you want to pour the bottle is kind of flimsy and so you squeeze it and the water just spills. And it's not just once, its twice, its three times, it's pretty much everyone that tries that notices this. And of course, you have the tendency to going back to the research and say hey, the research say that people like it so you know what, I don't care about what I think the research has said that.
After realizing clearly after a few weeks we had 16 lines of production, 400 million bottles were going to be developed based on that design and this had been developed and shipped. And we get some letters, we got 180 letters, emails, phone calls whatever you want to call them from people in the first two countries that were, which were France and Germany, that said I have a problem with that bottle. I cannot believe you are doing something like this. It's terrible. I am spilling water all over. This is like a cheap bottle. I am buying Evian brand because it's a premium brand and it looks cheaper than the most cheapest brand, I'm not going to buy Evian anymore.
And at that point I realized we had a huge flop on our hands. And when I say huge flop, I mean imagine what it means for 400 million bottles of 1.5 liters. That's basically 600 million liters out of a brand that does roughly double that, a bit more. It can be a real disaster, and an industrial one because you have 15 lines that have been redesigned to do that. And what we did at that time is we started hearing noise within the company. People were unhappy, even top management people had received the bottle and thought it was crap. etc. etc.
So before, what we did is I gathered a group which was my innovations person, R&D people and, factory people and we tried to develop alternatives. More importantly, we picked up the phone and called each and every one of the 180 people that had called or written to us. And asked them and spent roughly 45 minutes with each of them to understand precisely, what they didn't like about it and what they thought should be done to change that. And at the same time R&D was designing new bottles, new options. And what we did was we informed the top management at the company that we thought that even though it was only 180 letters they should really be taken very seriously. And we thought we have a problem with this bottle. But that we were working on it, and that we were acting and coming up with new solutions with in the next few months. The good thing is that this took care of the noise, which could have killed us. But at the same time what we were designing, we tested not at all quantitively but we tested with the people from the factory that could say rather this bottle was better or not than what they had seen before. And then more importantly we sent these samples to the 180 people that had taken the time to write us. And these people were extremely grateful. And they were actually giving us feedback saying this one is better. That one is not as good. Little by little it, came to a point where we had the right solution.
It was just the matter of shifting 15 lines of production again. Which is dreadful, which is costly, which is a problem, but we did. It took roughly nine months for the whole thing to be solved. But after nine months we had a bottle that was proper. And more importantly we had some people that had complained that thought that no other FNCG brand, no other goods brand had ever listen to them like that. And when I think back its one of the worst thing I ever done where literally, waking up in the morning I can't just believe I just killed brand Evian.
All together, by taking a result so literally, that I didn't know myself whether that was good or bad. It was just relying on green flag on a piece of research that meant nothing. And now based on that we learned two or three things. First of all, never to take bad news without action. Hadn't we started the process of reworking, hadn't we written to everyone saying we know there is an issue we are working on it. Probably that would have been dreadful. That would have been a blood bath.
The second thing is we learned not to listen to any black box that comes out of anywhere. That piece of research was just following the protocol. The protocol is wrong. Because you are asking people to tell you what they think of a bottle after a week using it. Had you been sitting next to them when they were pouring, do you know precisely at that moment they didn't spill some water. And could not remember it at the end of the week when they had to fill out that questionnaire. So what we did was we started doing research by doing one to one. Showing, I mean asking people to pour some water. Asking how they felt etc. etc. Looking at the experience itself.
And last but not least, and it's a huge lesson, we ask the people from the factory and all the people that were involved what they thought. And that we are now doing or have been doing now on everything.
That's one example I can give you twenty. My first viral campaign on a brand called Can by Volvic. Which was a very very interesting combination, interesting in the British sense of the term of course. Very interesting combination of a rugby brand Can which is doing rugby gear and a water brand Volvic. Which comes from Auvergne which is area in the Puy-de-Dôme where you have volcanoes but also you have great rugby teams. And that association looked very very promising on paper turned into a disaster. And these were my very first attempts at developing viral campaigns on the web. I think we got 35 views 34 of which I think was from my team and the last one I haven't quite identified yet. But clearly that launch and the whole Can by Volvic was huge learning not only on the viral thing but we try to be extremely practical and create something that would be an immediate blockbuster. And everyone believed in that.
Except that it takes time. I needed to give it time. So we tried basically to create that brand, Can by Volvic, right at the moment of the Rugby World Cup in France. Now the issue is for the people who love rugby its sounded very practical for a company like Volvic to all of a sudden create a rugby water brand. And more importantly for all the people that didn't know rugby or where not fond of rugby meant nothing. And you were in the situation where you were getting all the retailers, mass retailers excited about something. They were ready to put out the end of line displays and gondola and all of that instead of the regular Volvic or Avian, any other water brand, even Coke and the others would be ousted. To put Can by Volvic up front. But again 80% of people that didn't really care about rugby, didn't care to pay more for that water. And the people who cared for rugby thought of it as a marketing coup. So not authentic and the rugby people are very much about authenticity. And funny enough once it was delisted and was a complete flop that it could have been a success had we taken time and listed the brand in each and every club and let it grow organically before trying to make it bigger than that. Going big upfront was a very big mistake.
Daniel: Such an insightful piece for marketers. I find that a lot of times you want that big win upfront but it takes a lot of trial and error. Sometimes you have to start small, do little test and make it work on a small scale before you can expect something to blow up. And I think there is so much about the roller baby campaign which we can talk about. You have a campaign like this. Your first campaign got 35 views and you fast forward a couple months or couple years later and all of the sudden you set the world record for the most viewed viral campaign at least at that point and time on the internet. But is sounds like there are a lot of experiments that didn't work out for you had the one that really kind of knocked it out of the park.
Michael: I wasn't the one to say that but clearly once you start from the fact that sometimes you win and sometimes you learn. Probably you can go further than you've ever been before. And I think I've learned lots and lots of lessons from flops. And I think what actually most companies are missing and many people are missing, is the time you spend understanding why it didn't work. You know in companies like the ones I've been working with. When you have a success, you get the best practice. And you go everywhere and you brag on how fabulous you've been and how your team has done a great thing and blah blah blah. The fact of the matter is most of the time your best practices are not really applicable because what you are showing is not really the learning how great you are. And if you think about the flops most often than not, not to say all the time. People hide them under the carpet. They do not want to say that they were even mildly associated with that thing that didn't work.
And what this results in two-fold. One is people do not take any learning from these jobs, any. So they will go back home and probably try to stay away from any that looks close to what has been done. But they will not understand what it would have taken for that it become successful.
But the second downside of that is even worse. Suppose you have ten people working on a project like Can by Volvic. And the ten people that have worked on that project never gather to share their views on what went wrong. And they never look at the facts together. An one of them leaves thinking rugby is not a good sport for water. An one of them leaves and says "oh an association between a water band and a brand from a different seal doesn't work." A third one goes off saying, "oh, mass retailers will not take brands that do this and that," etc etc etc. And you have ten different people that leave with ten different views of what went wrong. And what does it mean for the future, it means you're not going to shy away from one type of projects. But you're probably going to stay away from ten different ideas that might pop up in the future in saying oh no this will never work, I won't go into that. And I think it's a disaster for the company, for the individuals and for everyone. And I think if you take it the other way, stressing that individual field in the past few months. If you can share learnings, not successes, not failures, learnings, what have you learnt from that. Well your company, if your in 80 countries can become an learning organization and in the course of one year you can basically get 80 cases like that. Which would be useful to 80 more people that develop 80 different ideas a year later. So very often and this is what is missing I think in the equation.
Daniel: That's fascinating. I think very few people ever address those so I'm happy we just got a glimpse in there. I wish we had more time to just kind go through all the other twenty that you've gone through because I feel like there is so much people could learn. Maybe there is a way you could summarize and I want to wrap up so I don't keep you for too much longer. Two final things. One if you were to give advice to your twenty five year old or thirty year old self and maybe places where you were at, at that time, what are some of the things that you would have told that version of Michael?
Michael: Wow, that is a tough one. First of all, I hate to say that, it's probably not very humble, but there not one thing that I would do differently. In the sense that I think really had my share of flops. I've had quite a few. There has been many times or moments when I thought I deserve more, deserve better or should have been this or should this been that and it didn't happen. But every time it didn't happen, a few years later I was able to think that back and go hum, you know what it didn't happen at the time because probably I was not ready or probably I was not the right person or probably that project didn't work because it was not framed the right way or whatever. So the one piece of advice that I would give myself is take and learn from everything. It may sound good, it may sound bad, it may sound perfect. At times it may sound fabulous and you are waking on the waters to others, but take all of it and take the time to learn from all of it.
Because the bad is probably as important as the good and you have room for both in your lifetime. So yeah. I don't know if it fits if that really answers the question but I think live every experience to the max and take time to learn from it.
Daniel: And so maybe we can finish. Go ahead.
Michael: I didn't say anything. Sorry.
Daniel: I was going to say maybe we can finish off and just tell the world about what your next adventure is going to be. I know you mentioned a little bit about DxO where you starting some point soon. And so you can tell a little bit about why you decided to make the switch and what your excited about there and tell people about where they can learn more about this new company that you are joining?
Michael: Sure I'll start with the first part of the question. Which is why am I leaving Danone. Obviously, I really love Danone as a group and I think the vision that has been set forward of reinventing the way fast moving consumer goods operate. Re-inventing re-influencing illumination trends and not being one of these food companies that have basically hurt the world in the past by making everything uniform. By trying to sell the same products everywhere in the world without respecting the cultures. The local needs. The health needs and all that. I think there is a great vision of being a unique company and probably being followed as such in the future. So, I love the company. I love pretty much everything I had to do and I've done in the past ten years over there whether on Avian or the water division or the digital world.
The decision that I made to leave is actually linked to the fact that you know where you are adding value and you know what gets you excited. When I got that promotion position of Chief Digital Officer, I was going into a new field. Completely new field and I tried to make sense of it with individuals coming from different areas trying to think of what it meant to be in a digital world. Trying to think of what it would take for a company like us to become digitally fluent. And that is actually the name of the vision. The Danone Digital Fluid by 2020. We said okay we like it to be digitally fluid because brands would know how to operate in a digital age. It's still about creating a relationship between people and brands but everything that fits in between has changed. The way you listen to consumers. The way you reach them individually. The way you create content to get them engaged. The way you sell to them. The kind of data you can capture the information you get to become more precise and all that has been reinvented in a digital age. So how do we re-invent ourselves for that.
And then I talked about the functions. I mentioned earlier, how do you re-invent HR, finance and all of that. And then the individuals, how do you re-invent the platforms so people collaborate. So, that whole vision of Danone Digitally Fluid came to life. And I was fascinated by it. Fascinated by starting it by trying to change the game. In every possible field. Creating the organization for that etc. etc.
But what gets me most excited is when I have a brand, a category, a product where I can develop things. Get back to the do, think, do type of working mode. And obviously in this role, once the boat have started leaving the pier it's not about you doing things anymore. It's about holding the frame. Now can I hold a frame, yes I can but can I hold it forever and be as excited as I am when I working with a team re-inventing a brand or category or something, slightly less so. And I really thought that probably the best part of what I could do as a CDO was the one that I had accomplished. And I thought I needed a new challenge, I needed something that would get me excited again on a project level. And that is where basically I have a couple of opportunities. Actually, three came up and two were in other big corporations. I think they would have been more of the same. Not necessarily in a bad sense but it would have been doing what I had done before in a different place. With maybe few years of fabulous highs because everyone loves you and then back into the same process.
And the third one was actually something very strange, because it had been near me for many years, and I had never thought of it as an opportunity. A friend of mine created a business. He is an engineer, very skilled and very bright engineer who started working in the field of photography, and he created some filters about 12 years ago that he started selling to Apple, to Samsung to all the others 370 million phones today have V-expo filters within them. They correct chromatic aberrations or v-net effects. I think I don't even know. I'm sorry I'm misspeaking. Clearly, these filters are unknown, and they are within your phone.
From there, he created a second idea, which was if I know how to correct the picture, I know how to measure the quality of the picture and, therefore, I know how to measure the quality of a camera. And his lab called DXO Mark became the standard or the reference for all cameras in the world. These latest Canon, or the Nikon, or the Leica have an 8.2 or an 8.6 on the DXO Mark. And that is now known all over the world.
But then he came up with the last idea last year of bridging the gap between professional photography and instant photography. What I mean by that is if you are a photographer yourself, I don't know if you are, and you have a DSLR camera, you love to take nice pictures, but your DSLR camera, your Canon or your Nikon is a heavy piece of material that you cannot carry with you all the time. And also whenever you want to share a photo, you're gonna have to go through your computer again and share it through the computer, and it's going to take time. Now, on the other side, there is the use of your iPhone, where you can take a picture and share it immediately, and you know it's instantaneously and for 95% of the people it's perfect. But for the 5% of people or a few millions who actually love high quality pictures and high quality cameras, it's absolutely not the same. You don't have the same capture. You don't have the same number of pixels. You don't have the same aperture. You cannot play with your speed, etc. etc. depth of field, all that is impossible. And so he created the smallest professional camera connected. And it's a very small device, very "sexy one" if you ask me. From my days in the packaging design company, a while ago, it's a very sexy small type of that you just click onto your iPhone, and all of a sudden, it turns your iPhone into a viewer. The best viewer there is for any camera. Because no camera, no professional camera, has an iPhone 6 as a viewer with 7 million pixels. But the camera is the one that you clicked on it. And that one has a capture that is one full inch, which is an eighth of an inch for itself. And it takes incredible pictures, and it's absolutely immediate when you want to send the photo.
And he started selling that device in the U.S. at the end of last year and started selling a large number of them. Sixteen thousand in two months. And he came to see me. I was sort of his marketing consultant at night. And he said, "Well, Michael, I'm going to need more help, because it seems that my company is taking off, and I have a lot of engineers, 200 of them. But I do not have the skills in marketing, sales, creativity, all that to tell the story. And so you're going to need to help me hire a chief marketing officer, chief sales officer etc. etc." And I said, "You know, Joe, I'm not very good as a head hunter. Maybe I can think differently about your question. It could be the right moment for me. I'm 49. I have spent 27 or 28 years of my life in big corporations. Maybe it's the right moment for me to join you and try telling the story or writing the story with you. I'm firm with photography. I love technology if its new and marketing, digital, telling a story, got all these. Probably the only thing I know how to do, so let's try." Well, we found a way. There was a will, there's been a way. And I'm now with him. And this is starting as of August, and I'm very excited about it.
Daniel: Michael, thank you so much.
Michael: Thank you very much. And thank you for all the insightful questions and to me they are part of what I mentioned about all these meetings and forums and presentations where you think what am I doing there. Well in fact what you are doing there is taking that little step back that very often you don't have time to take to make sense of everything and figure out why your doing things. Or how you could be doing things differently. So, thank you for these question and the time we just spent.
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