Gabey Goh
Apr 18, 2016

Helene Blanchette exits Fuji Xerox Asia Pacific

SINGAPORE - After nine years in Asia, Helene Blanchette is stepping down from her role as regional general manager, digital centre and business support, for Fuji Xerox Asia Pacific. She talks to Campaign Asia-Pacific about her time in Asia, what agencies are missing and tips for aspiring marketers.

Helene Blanchette
Helene Blanchette

Blanchette joined the Fuji Xerox Asia Pacific offices in Singapore in 2007, and is slated to relocate to the United States to join her family.

When contacted, Fuji Xerox declined to comment but confirmed that Chitose Oike will be taking over the role as general manager.

Blanchette is best known for the 1:1 Experience programme she launched at the company, which won her multiple awards including being named one of Asia's Top 50 CMOs at the World Marketing Summit 2013 Awards.

Speaking to Campaign Asia-Pacific, Blanchette said the decision to step down was a “hard one”, but said that she will be taking away many cherished moments and lessons from her time both with the technology company and in the Asia-Pacific region.

She pointed to the establishment of the regional digital marketing centre as one notable milestone, where she led the transformation, structure and implementation of the regional digital marketing strategy and the digital centre of excellence for the APAC region.

“We were starting something that was really very new for a traditional and conservative company,” she said. “It was very challenging but always a rich learning experience and I’m very proud of the strong team that we’ve built around it that is basically the glue of the whole operation.”

The other notable milestone was the integration, performance management and significant expansion in Asia of FXDMS, an Australian-based Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) company and subsidiary of Fuji Xerox.

“It was a very interesting job, you felt a bit like the secretary of state,” Blanchette said. “You’re working with so many angles of the business, not to mention the different cultures and communications styles. I was constantly learning.”

Blanchette expressed sadness at leaving her role and team behind but added that Fuji Xerox has extended her contract as mentor GM and advisor until May.

“So I’m on call for input into the current strategies that we’ve put in place,” she added. “The company has put their support behind the current direction, and I will be helping to ensure that it doesn’t veer too far.”

On digital and agencies

Blanchette said that it is “unbelievable” how much marketing has evolved over the years, and in Asia especially, where the industry has leapfrogged into technology and digital marketing.

“What many forget is that the basics of marketing remain the same, but it’s somehow not implemented,” she added. “You kind of just go straight to online without that basis of fundamentals.”

The tendency for many brands to separate the digital marketing function from the main marketing unit is not healthy, in her opinion.

“Integration is needed, to really create something new,” she said. “But at some point, somewhere along the way, we’ve lost the fundamentals.”

When it comes to agency partners, Blanchette believes that too many agencies only do a “superficial touch” on the pain points and needs of their corporate clients.

“That’s one thing that’s needs to change," she continued. "There’s this thinking that ‘Oh we might lose the account after a few years’ so they don’t invest heavily into it, don’t link to the business’ KPIs and make themselves sticky with the business. But that very lack of investment is what will lose them the account eventually. That’s why so many partnerships are so fragile.”

Blanchette added that in her own hunt for an agency partner during her time at Fuji Xerox, she was adamant about finding a partner and “not a hit and run.”

The company currently counts Denstu Mobius as one of its partner agencies, an appointment that was part of an overall consolidation exercise. On a global corporate level, Fuji Xerox’s agency partner of record is Dentsu Inc, but Blanchette said the existing relationship did not influence her choice of agency.

“At one point we had 50 different agencies across all the APAC markets,” she shared. “It was crazy, I lost track of who we were working with and where. I had to put my hands up and go ‘enough!’”

Agency partner consolidation is also inline with the company’s own integration efforts, with the establishment of the regional digital marketing centre, which Blanchette said involved the centralisation and migration of all assets onto a single platform.

“That’s where we really start to have ‘one Fuji Xerox’ across all our APAC markets and executions,” she added.

It is also a consolidation she wishes would occur on the agency side as industry consolidation has resulted in a handful of holding groups, under which multiple agency brands sit, holding on to identities and their own ways of working.

“They say they’re integrated but really they’re just a honeycomb of silos doing cell-like communications between themselves and with their client,” said Blanchette. “There is a need to have that mid-sized integrated operation that can do it all—not just campaigns but strategy as well. But to really do that, I understand, is a challenge in and of itself for these agencies.”

On aspiring marketers

Asked what advice she had for up-and-coming young marketers, Blanchette said that the most important thing is to understand how you link back to the organisation as a whole.

“In addition to a strong long-term strategy and vision, it is crucial to get a lot of quick wins that are relevant to business objectives as well,” she added. “I’m not talking jumping onto the latest fad or fad with no real measurements of KPIs to it—you won’t grow that way.”

Blanchette said that having the direct correlation to business objectives and the bottom line is key, and the pursuit of “quick wins” must be tied to it.

“So if it makes sense for the brand, then do it, even it is a little dysfunctional,” she added. “Because getting those quick wins not only garners you respect and relevancy, it gets you that budget. Especially with the next year or two with the economic slowdown, marketing budgets will be the first to go and you want to ensure that you can justify your plans to fend against that.”

 

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