Bottega Veneta: Luxury Brand Building | In Practise

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Bottega Veneta: Luxury Brand Building

Former Chief Marketing Officer at Bottega Veneta, Kering

Why is this interview interesting?

  • Formulating an integrated marketing communication strategy
  • The heritage of Bottega Veneta and how the brand connected with consumers
  • The importance of communicating what you stand for as a brand
  • How Michael Kors built a brand and challenges scaling
  • Core pieces of advice for young marketers entering the luxury world

Executive Bio

Lisa Pomerantz

Former Chief Marketing Officer at Bottega Veneta, Kering

Lisa is a luxury goods marketing veteran and has worked at a handful of the world’s most valuable brands. Lisa is the former CMO Bottega Veneta, the Italian brand with €1.1bn in revenue and owned by Kering, where she has spent a total of 10 years leading marketing during two spells working at the brand. Previously, Lisa was SVP, Global Communications and Marketing at Michael Kors for 7 years after spending 6 years leading marketing for CELINE, the luxury leather goods brand owned by LVMH, in North America. Read more

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Interview Transcript

Lisa, can you provide some context to how the marketing function structure has evolved, over the last 15 to 20 years?

The marketing function, as well as marketing structure, I would say. But marketing function has evolved, most recently, I would say in the last 10 years, if that. Historically, marketing communication was limited to earned/paid. You had limited channels. You were looking at print, you were looking at broadcast and out of home, perhaps. Those were the three areas where you would, actually, engage with your potential customer, for any kind of brand awareness or brand messaging.

Today, fast forward, with the internet, as well as the increase in technology, the amount of channels in which you engage or where your potential customer could find you, has exploded, through the various social channels, through the internet, through the traditional, which is still there – the print, the out of home, broadcast, radio. It’s much more diverse; it’s much more fragmented. This has created a bigger challenge for marketers today, from not only a strategic perspective, but also from a skillset requirement and internal organizational structure. It’s fast. Everything is very fast. A lot of it can be tracked, with real key performance indicators, KPIs. Some of it still can’t. It’s really trying to understand, in real time, the efficacy of the strategy. The beauty is, you can change it in real time, unlike 10 years ago. Then, you bought an ad, you committed, you signed a contract, you put in your purchase order, you ran it. There was very little flexibility.

Today, you can look at a week’s worth of digital advertising and, based on insights, tweak it. That’s great, but it then requires a whole new requirement of data extraction, analysis and a team that can pivot and move, based on what you’re seeing.

What typical silos have you found in both large organizations, with different functions within them, but also within the marketing functions, in these big corporates?

I think, what I’ve seen most, and the last two companies I’ve worked for have had tremendous growth, so I had an opportunity to meet and interview hundreds of people. What I found, most of the time, were that the organization structures, internally, particularly from legacy companies – companies who have been around and are established – that the org was very much from the past, when business ran in a certain way and when the customer was, less so, in the driver’s seat. This meant that the brand was, basically, dictating to the customer, here’s the product you need; here’s why you’re going to buy it. Here’s why it suits you.

Whereas today, because of the fragmentation of the marketing communication landscape, and the amount of information that the consumer has and the research they do, they are now much more in the driver’s seat. The requirement for the company, in order to create a coherent, consistent ecosystem of brand, has to have, in real time, this integrated approach, because the customer has it. For any young person – millennial or Z – it’s a natural habit to research, to consume on various channels, various platforms, sometimes at the same time. They’re very aware, they’re very educated, whether it be brand story, brand promise, even price check. That puts a great onus on the brand, to be in step, which means that there are multiple departments, within the company, not just in the marketing comms team, but across the company and organization, from customer service, to product, to retail – whether it’s online or brick and mortar – to the marketing. They all need to be in step. It’s incredibly challenging and the orgs don’t, typically, really address this. They’re from, as I said, a legacy time. It creates a lot of havoc. It doesn’t set professionals up to really succeed, in my opinion. It doesn’t, necessarily, allow for the best outcome, in terms of your return on investment.

Maybe we could discuss now, the difference between marketing and communications. Can you just elaborate on how you see the differences between the two?

Marketing, typically, is paid or owned. It’s not organic. It’s a strategic approach to buying media. If we’re going to speak about a funnel, the traditional funnel of marketing, where the top is the brand awareness buzz, where you start to, hopefully, penetrate into the consciousness of the consumer, all the way pulling them down into the funnel, where they are considering the brand, to the point of where they purchase. They convert and then go back to the top, as an advocate.

If you look at that funnel, the communication, public relations, typically, lives at the top as an organic, earned activity. Whereas marketing is, typically, paid and owned. From an email campaign, to buying media, to boosting posts on social, to having an out of home billboard. The two, more so today than ever, really need to work in tandem. The PR now, is only as good as how it can be boosted through the social channels and vice versa. Because of this fragmentation and the way the communication landscape has been impacted, there are so many different touchpoints, throughout the day. If you consider that you pick up your phone 1,500 times a day, and you’re receiving thousands of messages, to receive news on a campaign, a new product, etc., in order for it to resonate and for there to be any type of recall, you need to be reading it, seeing it, across a multitude of touchpoints, in a way that’s appropriate to that channel.

PR is one of those channels. When it’s siloed, which I see often, because a lot of times, companies will use an external PR agency, for example, that agency is very good at PR and that’s how they approach their strategy. It’s traditional but it’s not, necessarily, thought of within this integrated approach of the marketing team. So again, you’re not going to benefit to the fullest extent that you could or that you should. I also think that traditional PR is a thing of the past. I really believe that the old days of taking a particular product and trying to convince a magazine or newspaper to place it, is really almost irrelevant. It’s not going to move the needle. It’s not going to do a whole lot. I think brands are better off working with their designer, their face of the brand, to build an online persona, for example. I think you can move the needle much quicker with that, where they have their own authentic, credible interaction with the customer. This is where the new social communication channels have, I think, impacted marketing more so than anything.

If you have a new product, it’s not really about pushing the product; it’s about pushing stories. I don’t think, in this new world, anyone is interested in just a product. There needs to be a story and how is it contextual in what is happening in today’s world? I think that the PR is as important, but it will not be as impactful as it has been, unless it’s integrated into the overarching 360 of the consumer-centric strategy.

What makes very good integrated marketing strategy, like you just explained, across all channels, across all touchpoints?

First and foremost, you have the product that you are wanting to put out there. The first question is, who is this product for? Who am I trying to attract? That’s critical. Once you establish who that is, then a little data and research around where that person is, most likely, engaging with content. Where are they looking for content? Where do they spend most of their time? Some age sectors will be more in the traditional; other ages will be more in the new means of content. It’s really important to figure out who it is that you are trying to talk to and then, where are they? What time of the day and which days? Then the type of content appropriate for those channels. I think, too many brands start in the opposite way. They go and they shoot a picture; they go shoot a campaign. Everyone wants to jump straight to the creativity. I don’t know if that’s because it’s the most fun or the easiest. Then they come back and they say that they’re the marketing communication team here, work with us. It’s completely backwards.

The first question I always ask is, who is this for? Are we sure that this is the right product, the right price point? Have we done our competitive, to see what’s already out there? Is there even a need for it? Is it feasible? Then, what’s the brand promise and is it really going to resonate with this group that we’ve decided is going to be our target audience? From there, that’s where I think the strategy starts, where you establish who the target audience is. Is this relevant? Right price, etc. Okay, where are they? Where are they getting their information, what time of day? How long are they spending and then what is the appropriate content, for each of these channels. Obviously, you have to add in, what is our budget and how are we going to allocate it. Then, only then, do you go and you shoot. But by this time, you have a very tight deliverables list that is very specific, ideally. That, in my opinion, is a far more efficient and sustainable approach to building a campaign.

Let’s talk about story-telling then. Just referring back to your time at Bottega. Maybe you can lay out the heritage and story of Bottega Veneta and that brand?

Bottega was a brand that was born in the 60s and it was family-owned and operated. Primarily, it was really the most known, from sales penetration and brand awareness, in North America, which was interesting to me, when I first joined, in 2000. The family were Italian, but they had moved to New York and had opened their first flagship on Madison Avenue, in the 80s. As a result, that’s where they had the greatest brand awareness. When Gucci Group bought Bottega, in 2000, the company was almost bankrupt. It was really hanging by a thread. We were really starting from scratch.

The creative director, at the time, Tomas Maier, had a very clear vision of what he saw for the brand. Having a vision is critical and a real thought around an identity. He mapped that out, which made it much easier, as a marketer, to start building out on his vision. The vision, really, was to take Bottega back to the original premise, which was always around craftsmanship, artisanal know-how, the Veneto, which is a northern part of Italy, not to confused with Venice; it’s very different. It’s the people of the land, versus the water. That’s a whole story, in itself.

The functionality, because, when the product was originally made, this cross intrecciato, this cross weave, that it was so known, it was the most iconic pattern, the reason that they made the bag that way, is that the Veneto, at the time, was really known for ready-to-wear. It was a region where mostly fabric products were being made. When the two guys that launched it, tried to make a handbag, the machines they had were for very, very thin fine leather. So once you made the bag and you put some things in it, it didn’t really work so well. There wasn’t a great functionality aspect. You would put things in the bag, it would, inevitably get heavier and it wasn’t really structured for that. So they ended up stripping the leather and weaving it. By creating this intrecciato, you were doubling the amount of leather and the ability to put more weight in it, and for it to function.

It came from a place of functionality and design, craftsmanship and the really finest quality materials and logoless, which was a big point of difference. The original tag was ‘When Your Own Initials Are Enough’ which had been coined, I think, in the 70s and had disappeared. That was his idea, to really establish brand tenets, pillars, that we would refer to and every decision would be made against, as deciding criteria, to keep the brand very much on the road to what his vision was.

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Bottega Veneta: Luxury Brand Building

April 7, 2020

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