marketer of the month

EPISODE 200: Marketer of the Month Podcast with Frédéric Mazzella

Hey there! Welcome to the Marketer Of The Month blog!

We recently interviewed Frédéric Mazzella for our monthly podcast – ‘Marketer of the Month’! We had some amazing insightful conversations with Frédéric and here’s what we discussed about –

1. Minimal adaptation needed due to the universal nature of car ownership and mobile networks.

2. Necessity to decarbonize transport to address climate change and ensure future mobility.

3. Use diverse KPIs based on campaign goals, targets, and communication methods.

4. Ensure your product will make the world better to sustain motivation through challenges.

5. Focus on efficiency and automation to handle repetitive tasks, staying creative and adaptive.

6. Stay frugal and efficient, symbolized by the ability to live simply while building the company.

7. Building a robust trust network was essential for user confidence in carpooling with strangers.

About our host:

Dr. Saksham Sharda is the Chief Information Officer at He specializes in data collection, analysis, filtering, and transfer by means of widgets and applets. Interactive, cultural, and trending widgets designed by him have been featured on TrendHunter, Alibaba, ProductHunt, New York Marketing Association, FactoryBerlin, Digimarcon Silicon Valley, and at The European Affiliate Summit.

About our guest:

Frédéric Mazzella, founder of BlablaCar, is also co-founder of Captain Cause, which allows companies to finance environmental and/or social associative projects. He is a regular speaker at leading international conferences and in the media, where he comments on the fast-changing mobility landscape, entrepreneurship, global marketplaces, and building trust in online communities.

Metrics on the Move: BlaBlaCar’s Co-founder Frédéric Mazzella on how to Measure Success

The Intro!

Saksham Sharda: Hi, everyone. Welcome to another episode of Outgrow’s Marketer of the Month. I’m your host, Dr. Saksham Sharda, and I’m the creative director at Outgrow. co. And for this month we are going to interview Frédéric Mazzella, who is the Co-founder and President, BlaBlaCar and Captain Cause.

Frédéric Mazzella: Great to be here. Thank you.

Don’t have time to read? No problem, just watch the Podcast!

Challenge yourself with this trivia about the exciting topics Frédéric Mazzella covered in the podcast.

Launch Interactive Quiz

Or you can just listen to it on Spotify!

The Rapid Fire Round!

rapid fire Don McGuire

Saksham Sharda: At what age do you want to retire?

Frédéric Mazzella: I think never.

Saksham Sharda: How long does it take you to get ready in the morning?

Frédéric Mazzella: It depends on what I have to do. Sometimes two minutes, sometimes more.

Saksham Sharda: Most embarrassing moment of your life.

Frédéric Mazzella: Oh my God. Singing and playing cello in public. I did that several times. I’m getting used to it, but it’s still tough.

Saksham Sharda: Favorite color?

Frédéric Mazzella: Blue.

Saksham Sharda: What time of day are you most inspired?

Frédéric Mazzella: Midnight.

Saksham Sharda: How many hours of sleep can you survive on?

Frédéric Mazzella: I think I can survive with four, but I’d rather have seven.

Saksham Sharda: Fill in the blank: An upcoming technology trend is _________.

Frédéric Mazzella: Responsible marketing.

Saksham Sharda: The city in which the best kiss of your life happened?

Frédéric Mazzella: Paris.

Saksham Sharda: Pick one. Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg.

Frédéric Mazzella: It’s too tough.

Saksham Sharda: The biggest mistake of your career.

Frédéric Mazzella: I think not starting earlier.

Saksham Sharda: How do you relax?

Frédéric Mazzella: I sleep, I play music. Then I spent time with friends.

Saksham Sharda: How many cups of coffee do you drink per day?

Frédéric Mazzella: Too much.

Saksham Sharda: A habit of yours that you hate?

Frédéric Mazzella: I’m always a bit late.

Saksham Sharda: The most valuable skill you’ve learned in life?

Frédéric Mazzella: Federate people. And bring on.

Saksham Sharda: Your favorite Netflix show?

Frédéric Mazzella: I don’t watch that much. And favorite, you know, it changes every year.

Saksham Sharda: One-word description of your leadership style.

Frédéric Mazzella: I don’t know. You have to ask people I’m working with.

Saksham Sharda: Top priority in your daily schedule.

Frédéric Mazzella: Enjoy.

Saksham Sharda: Ideal vacation spot for relaxation.

Frédéric Mazzella: Home.

Saksham Sharda: Key for maintaining a work-life balance.

Frédéric Mazzella: Being able to stop communications even when you have a pile of messages you have to answer.

The Big Questions!

Big Questions Don McGuire

Saksham Sharda: What was the initial spark that led to the creation of BlaBlaCar? How did you identify the need for a carpooling platform in Europe?

Frédéric Mazzella: So the need for a service like BlaBlaCar came from a personal experience. I had to go back to my home family, uh, home place in Bonnet, which is about 300 miles away from Paris. And all the trains were full. And I called my little sister who had a car. She came in, picked me up, and then we went on the road to go to my family. And I looked at the trains that were passing by and zooming faster than we were on the highway. And then all the trains were full because I knew I could not book a ticket in them. And then I saw all the cars, which were empty, and I was like, oh, thousands of cars were going to where I’m going and we could have booked seats in the cars, not in the train. And that’s how it all started. Because you know I had the luck to have my sister to bring me to Bonnet, but it was not a platform. It was just, that you had to be lucky to know my sister, which doesn’t make a service. Then I thought about the service where you can book a seat in all the empty cars everywhere. That’s how BlaBlaCar started.

Saksham Sharda: How did the name BlaBlaCar come up?

Frédéric Mazzella: The name Bla Bla comes from your choice when you register, you choose how much you took during the ride. So are you a bla person. And so in your profile, it says, if you bla, bla, bla or blah, blah, blah, and this is why, it is called BlaBlaCar.

Saksham Sharda: And so can you share some examples of how BlaBlaCar adapted its marketing strategies to resonate with diverse cultural contexts in different countries?

Frédéric Mazzella: So, well actually we are lucky with concepts like carpooling and BlaBlaCar because the simple fact of having cars and mobile phones and a network allows you to create the service. Then, so we didn’t have to adapt much to this. You know, everybody on earth has been in a car and now mobile phones and networks are everywhere. So it’s just a different thing to go with someone you don’t know. And then what we had to build is the trust network. So like all the trust features we have on blah account to make sure, you know, you’ll be riding. This is something we had to build. But I would say everywhere, not in a single country in particular. We built it everywhere.

Saksham Sharda: As a regular commentator on the fast-changing mobility landscape, what do you see as the most exciting trends and innovations in this sector today?

Frédéric Mazzella: Oh, there’s a trend that has been around for a while, but it’s still not a reality. It’s called mass mobility as a service. Everybody wants to reach mass, which is kind of growth. But so which means combining all the types of all the means of transport together and having a ride where you could, do a partly in train, partly with a bus, partly with a carpooling, partly with something else, right hailing in the end or whatever. And, so I guess several actors are working on it. We, at BlaBlaCar, have the potential to be a real combinator of the means of transport because with cars we are able to go everywhere. And carpooling is kind of a universal plugin for mobility. It brings you to any other means of transport and also to your grandma in the countryside or to whatever holiday place.

Saksham Sharda: And so what role do you think sustainable transport solutions such as electric bikes and scooters will play in the future of urban mobility?

Frédéric Mazzella: I think it’s a necessity to think about decarbonizing our transports because we see that we should not add any CO2 in the atmosphere right now, any carbon. And so we have to rethink our mobility because mobility is really a source of carbon, which is very important. And we’ll not be able to move around for long as we do if we don’t reinvent all the means of transport that we are using today.

Saksham Sharda: So going back to the name of the company, and also you’re known for your expertise in branding and communications. What are the key elements to successfully building and sustaining a global brand?

Frédéric Mazzella: I think your brand has to convey the values and also be very memorable. So it’s good to have a name which is easy to pronounce. Then it’s good to make sure you always think about the values which are attached to your brand, and you update them according to the context, and you just don’t sing that the values that were attached to your brand 10 or 20 years ago can still be the same today, except if you are some kind of brand which builds its reputation based on the fact that it’s been so old that it’s been a 100 or 200 years. I would say for modern brands, you have to stick to the context and prove that you are relevant in an ever-moving context.

Saksham Sharda: So have you had any trouble with the name BlaBla by using that name somewhere, anywhere? 

Frédéric Mazzella: Well, actually, you know it’s a name which has been striking to a lot of people because it’s kind of either you love it or you laugh at it or, and so at least it doesn’t leave people in difference. The day you crossed the name BlaBlaCar, you remember it. And this is very important. Plus it conveys a sentiment of you know, conviviality because you’ll be exchanging with people. There is some empathy in it, the discussion, and also it has the name of mobility in it with the world car. So it’s a very good brand. Plus it’s what we call a glocal brand. So it’s global and local because if you go to Spain for example, they’ll say BlaBlaCar, and they’ll think that BlaBlaCar is a local Spanish brand. If you go to France, we say BlaBlaCar and we think it’s local as well because there were bla bla international itself.

Saksham Sharda: So when you look at branding and communication, what are the key metrics and performance indicators you use to measure the success of all of this marketing?

Frédéric Mazzella: Well, anything you can measure past launching a campaign is good. So the KPI you’ll be looking at may depend from the campaign of course because it depends on the target you’ve chosen and also on the means of communication you’ve chosen are also the period of the year. So it’s hard to say which metric you would look all the time except for like, for BlaBlaCar, it would be the number of rides, the number of matchings that we have performed in our community of a hundred million people worldwide in more than 20 countries. But depending on the campaign, you look at different KPIs and it’s important to keep in mind that the contact and the diffusion and the targets change the way you look at the data all the time. So you have to discover and use all the tools that are available to you.

Saksham Sharda: So you’ve had a diverse and impressive academic and professional background, from physics and computer science to stints at NASA and NTT. What inspired you to transition from a career in scientific research to founding BlaBlaCar?

Frédéric Mazzella: I think it’s just loving novelty trying to invent what hasn’t been done already. You know, when you are a researcher, that’s your goal to discover something new, understand something new, see how it can apply to improve our lives and everything. And I think as an entrepreneur it’s the same. You look for things which can be made differently and which will improve your daily life. To me like doing some research or being an entrepreneur is a very similar activity in terms of creativity, which is required. The difference with entrepreneurship is that you cannot build something on your own. You really have to make sure you bring a lot of people on board. You federate a team, you bring enthusiasm, you convey your vision in order to have a full team working on building the project. That’s the difference when you’re an entrepreneur. But other than that, creativity, innovation, passion for change, passion for the future, I think all this is common.

Saksham Sharda: And so what advice would you give for young entrepreneurs or people looking for a job in your industry?

Frédéric Mazzella: I would say project yourself in the hopefully near future where your product, your service will be very successful and everybody will be using it and figure out whether you really think the world would be a better place with your product or not. If you’re not convinced, you should change, I think, your project because it means you may not have enough energy to trust all the difficulties that are ahead of you when you create a company. Because at least for me, what motivates me when I’m working super hard, building new things, it’s to project a future where what I’m working for is existing at scale and I know that it will be better for all of us. This thing exists. So it brings us to the challenges of our times, of course, like, climate change and also all the social issues which come with it. So if you’re able to provide a solution which will ease those changes, then you will get enough energy to go all the way and build something everybody will be using.

Saksham Sharda: Speaking of making things work at scale, can you give us some key points as to how you got BlaBlaCar to work at scale?

Frédéric Mazzella: You have to be obsessed with efficiency. And the good news is, and this is all the tech revolution of course, the good news is that computers are always very good at doing always the same things. So everything you do twice the same thing, you should ask yourself information that could not do it for you. And then you’ll stay in the creative zone because you’ll be doing different things every day because if you’re always doing the same thing, it means probably a machine could do it.

Saksham Sharda: Can you describe what a typical day at work looks like for you? You wake up in the morning and then?

Frédéric Mazzella: There’s no typical day. I do wake up in the morning. But I mean, yeah, so I wake up at around seven thirty, and then, there’s no typical day. That’s what I love.

Saksham Sharda: Okay. So everything is different.

Frédéric Mazzella: Yeah.

Saksham Sharda: Could you give an interesting story about any challenge that comes to mind now that you faced while in the development of BlaBlaCar that is an interesting story that unfolded?

Frédéric Mazzella: Well, I think it’s a challenge everybody faces its credibility when you launch a project. So all entrepreneurs have that. I remember one day discussing with a journalist in the very early days of BlaBlaCar and then he came and I spent like 40 minutes explaining why this project should flourish and it will be big and would be international. And it’s So I gave him my whole vision and then his conclusion was like, okay, so I understand, so you’re pretty much alone. You’ve got almost nobody on your service. The people who are using it don’t even pay you a penny to use it. It’s all free. Well, how long do you think you’re going to survive? And then I was like, okay so my pitch was not very convincing. And then I told him, well, you know my family name is Mattila. I’ve got Italian origins. I can eat pasta for 10 years, and so let’s see you in 10 years. Yes. So, and then that’s how you survive as an entrepreneur. It’s by staying frugal as well. You don’t spend the money you don’t have. And so the fact that, you know, so it’s of course it’s an image when you say you eat pasta for 10 years, I do eat pasta because I love them. But, I mean, it’s also the symbol of staying frugal with all your spendings in order to achieve efficiency in everything you build and being able to scale afterwards, with unit economics which works. So don’t spend the money you don’t have, be very careful in progressing. And yeah, pastors are the best kind of entrepreneurs.

Saksham Sharda: So the last question for you is, of course, my client. What would you be doing in your life, if not this?

Frédéric Mazzella: You know, I spent the weekend listening to Coldplay and I saw, oh my God. That would be, that is a wonderful job. I mean, you go around the planet and you sing love songs to everybody. That must be an incredible job. So maybe I would try to do that, but I’m not sure I’ve got the time.

Let’s Conclude!

Saksham Sharda: Thanks, everyone for joining us for this month’s episode of Outgrow’s Marketer of the Month. That was Frédéric Mazzella, who is the Co-founder and President, BlaBlaCar and Captain Cause.

Frédéric Mazzella: Pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Saksham Sharda: Check out the website for more details and we’ll see you once again next month with another marketer of the month.

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