Colgate-Palmolive has handed its Asia-Pacific chief marketer, Yves Briantais, a global creative role, Campaign can reveal.
While his new role’s official title has yet to be determined, Briantais, currently the executive vice president of marketing for APAC at the healthcare giant, began his new role on January 12, 2024.
Briantais, a Campaign Power List member since 2021, will move to New York with his family in June to continue his new role at Colgate.
The Frenchman tells Campaign the move came about abruptly and faster than expected, and that Colgate has not yet determined his replacement. He describes his new role as ‘transforming creative’ internally at Colgate.
“I’m in marketing because I don’t just want to do essential promotions like ‘buy one, get one free.’ I love beautiful things and am passionate about creating beautiful products, communications, visuals, and more,” says Briantais.
“I thrive on challenges and transformation, significantly transforming a company. It’s not just about doing okay; it’s about taking our company from where we are now to becoming the best.”
Briantais continues: “This transformation is challenging because it involves changing people’s mindsets and teaching them what excellent communication looks like. We don’t have a clear idea of what good communication is.”
Briantais believes Colgate needs to help its people grow internally, as most of its employees have around 20 years of experience and are limited by what they know.
He admits his colleagues lack internal examples of excellence in creativity, so his new role is creatively transforming the company.
The marketer, who has spent 16 years at Colgate, says New York is excellent for creativity and learning, as it challenges the company with the best in the world. He is confident he can transform the company to create ‘the most beautiful advertising the world has seen’.
“It is an entirely new role, and I will be the first one. For the past 12 months, alongside my job in APAC, I have been working on creativity for Colgate in my spare time, often while cycling or from my office, and even my balcony.”
“Now, it is going to be my full-time job. I love that this role encompasses everything from nutrition to holistic design, including the product, brand experience, and user experience. I will be the one writing the book on these aspects.”
Lessons from APAC
Having spent three years in Hong Kong and more than a year in Singapore in his current role with Colgate, Briantais believes he has learned valuable lessons in APAC, which will be helpful in his new global role.
He explains coming from Europe—where people often perceive diversity as prevalent—there is a significant degree of commonality, including shared values, religion, and political systems.
However, he notes the experience of moving to Asia can be quite a shock as one must learn to communicate effectively with people from diverse countries such as Thailand, China, India, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Australia.
Briantais points out the regional impact is substantial, and a lack of empathy for employees and consumers can lead to failure, noting that working in APAC has significantly enhanced his empathy.
Regarding communication, Briantais stresses that a one-size-fits-all approach is ineffective as creativity is essential, and one must develop numerous communication pieces tailored to each local market.
He says communication styles vary widely across different Asian countries. For example, in China, unique campaigns might be run in elevators, while in India, traditional media still holds importance even as digital media gains ground.
Briantais also notes the rate of change in APAC is so rapid that the region often leads the rest of the world in various aspects.
“However, this is not widely recognised. At events like Cannes Lions, the room is often filled with white men, with few representatives from Asia. This needs to change. People in APAC are at the forefront of marketing innovation, but they are often overlooked due to cultural differences and respect for hierarchy,” explains Briantais.
“The concept of insight and empathy is crucial here. People in APAC are still learning how to express these, similar to where the west was 50 years ago. That is what drew me to the job at Colgate.”
Upcoming creative work
In his time at Colgate in APAC, Briantais has encouraged the brand to produce work that champions inclusivity and diversity.
One example would be the Hear Gear project, a campaign to raise awareness of inclusion and belonging in sports featuring Jamie Howell, a deaf QAFLW athlete playing for Brisbane’s Yeronga Devils.
A more recent example is using generative AI to help people in APAC be less conscious of their smiles. Colgate launched the campaign to coincide with World Smile Day and World Mental Health Day and addressed ‘smile shame’ by tapping on a database of 15,000 public images of smiles to recreate them into Colgate’s logo.
The brand then created a Smile Generator AI tool on its website to encourage consumers to make their own personalised Colgate smile on TikTok and Instagram and spread the message to celebrate all smiles.
Briantais says Colgate will continue to explore various creative solutions like Generative AI. However, he explains that the brand’s core principles are well-defined and focused on elevating the brand beyond just its products, aiming to position Colgate as synonymous with health and happiness.
He says his goal is to elevate Colgate to a level of preference previously unattained. Whether through initiatives like World Smile Day or mental health campaigns, Briantais believes the brand’s approach heavily relies on insightful understanding and identifying regions where Colgate can make a substantial impact.
“Many companies are still learning how to integrate AI into their operations. In my new role, I will participate in discussions on how we can effectively embed AI in our work. It is essential to be bold and not just please people. We must create polarising content that gets people talking about our communication efforts,” explains Briantais.
“We are increasingly creating campaigns that challenge societal norms, particularly in some countries, where we’re starting to influence societal views on physically challenged individuals, racial diversity, and gender diversity.”
Briantais also reveals Colgate has partnered with Cannes Lions to train its team. In 2023, Cannes Lions conducted training sessions that have led Colgate to completely change its approach to brand positioning and the way the brand writes job descriptions internally,
According to Briantais, this transformation began in May 2023 and is now starting to make an impact.
“If you visit India, look at our latest campaigns, which represent our new direction best; they are truly splendid. We have many plans, but this is just the beginning,” he explains.
“We dedicate more time to the team, working closely with them during this transformation. I would have loved to be with them to complete this process.”
This story first appeared on Campaign Asia-Pacific.