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Michael Kors: Affordable Luxury

Lisa Pomerantz
Former Chief Marketing Officer at Bottega Veneta, Kering

Learning outcomes

  • How Michael Kors took the original luxury jet set brand DNA to the global mass market
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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

Moving on to look at your experience at Michael Kors. Arguably, more affordable luxury, if that makes sense. That’s a paradox; as you said, those two words don’t really go together in the truest sense. How was the target customer different for Michael Kors’ Collection line, versus Bottega, which was the older, more mature customer?

I would say that Bottega had a very clear vision and brand promise, brand DNA and every decision was taken through these criteria, this exercise. Michael Kors, because the goals of Michael Kors, the size of the business that they wanted to build and this was during the IPO, so taking the company from private to a public company and the growth and the size of the business and the market cap, they needed to reach a massive audience. In order to do that, they used the halo of the Michael Kors Collection, which was the original designer brand, that Michael Kors created, which was more at a designer price point. They used the halo of that and established a second line and they, kind of, blurred the marketing story and imagery around it. I believed that the customer didn’t really understand the difference between the designer and the second line, because all of the marketing was by the same photographer, who was Mario Testino, for over a decade, shooting both the high-end and the low-end and making it all look very similar.

That was the beginning. After we went public and we needed to really grow quickly, we started to create the second and third tier campaigns, that allowed us to start to build out different segments. So talking to different countries and making it relevant. For example, jet set, which was always the underlying brand promise, this jet set glamour. It didn’t resonate in China; China didn’t know what jet set meant. Nor could they really relate to these six-foot-tall, blonde, Amazon women, that he always portrayed in his ads, because that was going back to the very original Michael Kors Collection. How do you take that and broaden it and build out different facets of brand story, that would then appeal to a much broader audience? Whether that’s different parts of the world, different socio-economic, different ethnicity. We really had to be a very broad focused marketing communication team, which meant tons and tons and tons of content, constantly being pushed out, very segmented to the different audiences, but all under this halo of this jet set.

What we did is, we pivoted the idea of jet set from being, literally, getting in your boat, your helicopter, and I’m sure everyone has seen these ads. The woman and the guy are always jumping off a boat or a plane or a helicopter. They’re living this magical life. What we did is, we pivoted to more of it being a jet set state of mind and what does that mean? It means that, whether you are taking the subway to work or you’re in your private car or you’re riding your bike, it’s more about the mentality. It’s waking up in the morning and wanting to look your best. It was just taking what was already part of his DNA and creating a broader scope from which to work. Jet set became jet set state of mind and what that meant. Michael Kors, the man. He had many years on Project Runway, he became well-known. He became almost a celebrity, in a sense. People always say, was that the reason for the success of the brand? No, it’s not. It didn’t hurt, obviously, because it helped brand awareness. But he wasn’t really the face of the brand, when it started to grow.

We decided that that it was important to use him, not just as a fashion designer because, quite frankly, the second line never even had a fashion show. It wasn’t considered a fashion brand in the very specific sense of what that means. It never had a fashion show, we never showed the second line on a runway, or even a presentation. We decide to use Michael, the man, as a content creator. Then Michael started to have his own dialogue, through content and opportunities where he started to, not on Project Runway, but through being his own media publisher, almost, rather than relying on third parties, we started to create media, from him, to the audience, on different topics, whether it was how to get dressed or a celebrity moment conversation. All kinds of different content.

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