It’s 2.30pm and Caroline Faillet commences her talk at an event organised by Digimind. Her words are vivid, her thinking clear and her audience is captivated. I’ve just taken charge of the digital hub of a communications agency when Caroline puts a map up on the screen called “Business in the digital war”. My geography classes are a distant memory but the funny captions appeal to me; several years later, I have the pleasure of crossing the “Maginot Line” in her company. Profile of a woman for whom zones of influence are territories to be conquered.
From Ipnoz marketing to Bolero’s data-centric melodies
There was no millennium bug! Caroline finishes her studies in finance at HEC business school and launches her first startup “Ipnoz”. Internet is still a gigantic mass of 0s and 1s, pioneering developers and flash contents, but the idea of launching an agency specialising in viral marketing is just emerging. Increasing traffic is not yet the crux of the digital war but forums are flourishing everywhere and her interest in online communities continues to grow. She comes across a “booklet” – “The Cluetrain Manifesto” – written in 1999 by four guys who predict the creation of social networks, our contemporary use of the Internet and lay down the foundations of 21st century marketing in ninety-five theses. The first one? “Markets are conversations”!
A new psycho-sociological era suddenly opens up to Caroline: could the great theories of Simon, Hofstede or Cialdini apply to internet users? Netnology has just arrived as well as a new methodology for analysing “online” opinion, leading her to sell Ipnoz to set up a new agency with two partners in 2004. A premise materialises, resonating in the ear like a sweet melody – “listen to the Web to understand how to speak to today’s consumer citizens” – and extends into digital Bolero, boosted by R&D and supported by innovative digital tools. Ravel plays around with notes while our modern Bolero composes with data and soon transforms the big revolution into a melodious ballet for happy customers.
Caroline puts the “smart” at the centre of her profession and combines it with data which is processed, transformed, cross-checked and logged to help corporate leaders make the best business decisions. Her interest in “business” developed at an early age, meandering through the pages of Zola’s Rougon-Macquart. The Second French Empire, the emergence of capitalism, department stores… she is drawn to finding out more about economic models and innovation. “Over fifteen years,” she tells me, “I witnessed digital revolutions, one after another, and, each time, I saw businesses making the same strategic mistakes”. We tend to believe what she says, given that the e-marketing and digital communication market remains so lacking in maturity!
Today, as CEO at Bolero, Director and Co-Chair of the ADETEM Marketing Directors Club, independent Director of the Beaumanoir Group, professor at HEC business school and distinguished producer of various contents – talks, research articles, expert opinion pieces and many more – she works tirelessly to “help businesses turn the corner into the 21st century and avoid the dangers lying in wait”. Artistide Rougon-Saccard likes that!
From the Art of Digital War to the study of fake news
“Waging war”, a masculinising concept. “The Art of War”, doubtless the most famous book on strategy in the world. Mix them together, add inspiration from her three little boys and you get the title of Caroline’s first book, “The Art of Digital War”. A book which she thought summarised the obvious dating from ancient maieutics, drawing on modern psycho-sociology and mapping out digital communication in 2016. Three successive digital revolutions have transformed the modern citizen into an enhanced consumer of the web 3.0 and power is being redistributed. In the face of this growing threat, businesses are bewildered, and this book offers their leaders numerous avenues to explore to redefine their strategies. “I thought I was pushing at an open door,” she confides to me, “but I realised that, in reality, what seemed self-evident wasn’t for a lot of leaders.” And Caroline doesn’t stop there…
Convinced that modelling trajectories of influence on the web, and analysing the extent to which a subject is contaminated by fake news, contribute to understanding what hasn’t been done, Caroline comes back to her own experience; she explains to me that today’s elites are disconnected from digital issues, referencing rules and sacrosanct engagement on social networks; these gaps contribute to encouraging the spread of fake news on the web. All the experts, professors and other specialists who don’t know how to maintain a presence in the digital-media world are partly responsible for this global scourge. It is high time that they also engaged in the digital war, adopting an educational approach based on the triptych “humility, fellowship and honesty”. “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles”. Thumbs up for Sun Tzu!
From strategic ping-pong to the small family business
The minutes pass and there is a knock at the door… “Caroline, your next appointment has arrived!”. I just have time to listen to her account of a typical day: a taste of communication, content creation and brainstorming, a serving of strategic ping-pong with her clients, a drop of management to support her teams, a few exchanges on Twitter with her favourite digital community and it’s time to go home to look after her “little business” made up of her three boys. Three boys who, several years ago, whispered in her ear, “Mum, have you won your digital war?”.