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9 May

Why Communications and Marketing Execs Are Getting CEO Jobs

Fashion’s future CEOs could be very familiar to the media crowd.

A growing variety of communications and marketing executives are entering the corner office, with Robert Triefus the most recent, attributable to assume the management helm of Italian outerwear firm Stone Island effective June 1, just one month after exiting Gucci as senior executive vp, corporate and brand strategy.

The elevation last March of Dior’s Olivier Bialobos to deputy managing director accountable for global communication and image also underscores the crucial role of fashion’s storytellers, brand builders and image architects in a consumer-centric age.

Siddhartha Shukla, deputy general manager of Lanvin, and Jenny Galimberti, chief executive officer of JW Anderson, are other examples of seasoned communication professionals now leading European fashion houses.

Siddhartha Shukla

Courtesy of Siddhartha Shukla

“To generate revenues, influence and a spotlight are two key drivers out of three — the primary one being a desirable and impeccable product,” said Floriane de Saint Pierre, founder and principal of executive search and consulting firm Floriane de Saint Pierre & Associés in Paris. “Hence good marketing/communications C-suite leaders, as they orchestrate influence and a spotlight, are qualified to be CEO.”

“Marketing has turn out to be far more essential in the luxurious and fashion world — and marketing expenses have gown loads,” agreed Thomas Bucaille, director of the Paris fashion design and business school LISAA, an acronym for L’Institut Supérieur des Arts Appliqués. “It’s also turn out to be far more complex, and more crucial, so it is smart to have communication experts at the highest of the business.”

Understanding “what a brand is and brand constructing”; knowing easy methods to navigate a fancy new-media landscape, and “the flexibility to do 360-degree marketing” are amongst the talents top communications executives possess, in keeping with Bucaille, who spent most of his profession in senior human resources positions at firms including Christian Dior Couture, Ralph Lauren, L’Oréal, Petit Bateau and Condé Nast International.

De Saint Pierre noted that brands now access, entertain and have interaction their audiences mostly through their very own channels, without third parties.

“Brands are competing to be and remain influential so as to have the eye of a professional audience. That is the ‘attention economy.’ Without attention, there is no such thing as a desirability, hence no purchasing act,” she explained in an interview. “This requires being a connector between a brand and an audience, understanding today’s society, generating unique ideas, and managing their implementation through 3D and 2D creative expressions.”

Within the post-pandemic period, brands have ramped up the dimensions and frequency of fashion week displays, itinerant runway shows and VIC gatherings around high jewelry, along with campaigns around celebrity ambassadors. Close coordination between creative, merchandising and marketing is seen as essential so as to impart a powerful vision and brand proposition.

Bucaille noted that retail and industrial/sales executives were predominant as fashion and luxury CEOs for a minimum of a dozen years, as major European brands built out their global boutique networks.

Before, it was also common for fashion CEOs to ascend to the role from finance, or manufacturing.

In recent times, nevertheless, merchandising profiles got here to the fore — Jacopo Venturini becoming Valentino’s CEO in 2020 being a distinguished example — and recently communications and marketing executives, who now have purviews much broader than public relations, store windows and events, observers agreed.

Robert Triefus

Several experts pointed to Pietro Beccari, who became chairman and CEO of Louis Vuitton in February after stellar stints at other LVMH-controlled houses Dior and Fendi, as the final word guru, who spent his earlier profession in marketing at Benckiser and Parmalat.

Others mentioned Jean-Marc Loubier, previously marketing and communication director of Vuitton and today CEO of Delvaux, and Francesca Bellettini, who headed communications along with merchandising when at Bottega Veneta, before joining Saint Laurent as CEO.

Bucaille cited Remo Ruffini, chairman and CEO of Moncler, as one other “marketing genius and product expert” who propelled a small skiwear specialist right into a luxury powerhouse.

Caroline Pill, partner accountable for global fashion, luxury and wonder at Heidrick & Struggles in London, links the rise of promoting executives to the consumer-centric posture fashion and luxury players have adopted in recent times.

Within the fight for market share, brands must create desire and provide products that individuals want, “and that’s where the marketers are available in.”

They “are on the heartbeat of what’s happening,” craft messages exalting brand DNA, and “play an enormous role in knowing who the purchasers are,” she explained. “My mission is to open doors for very strong marketers who’ve the skill set and strategic vision to turn out to be CEO.”

Echoing other observers, Pill noted that there’s a long-standing tradition of promoting executives leading beauty and fast-moving consumer goods firms, and now fashion is following suit.

Olivier Bialobos, Dior

Olivier Bialobos

Karim Zeriahen

LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, for instance, has recruited a bunch of fast-rising executives from L’Oréal in recent times, including Damien Bertrand, now CEO of Loro Piana, and Pierre-Emmanuel Angeloglou, Vuitton’s executive vp, strategic missions.

“Once you develop, or reposition, the contribution of the communications director is vital within the strategy,” commented Sidney Toledano, chairman and CEO of LVMH Fashion Group. “Prior to now, a CEO was often driving the strategy by himself.”

Toledano, who had been the longtime CEO of Christian Dior Couture, said he was pleased to see Bialobos elevated to managing director since he has “been key to the success of Dior” because of his “understanding of the brand, his contribution to the strategy, the image and positioning.”

Toledano also backed designer Jonathan Anderson’s want to make Galimberti CEO of his JW Anderson brand in 2018. She was previously head of communications and events at Vuitton, chief marketing officer at Dunhill and held senior roles in communications and brand development at Gucci, L’Oréal, Swarovski and Prada.

“Jonathan is the chairman. He needed a CEO and Jenny understood perfectly the target and the event plan,” Toledano said.

Jenny Galimberti

Courtesy of JW Anderson

In Toledano’s view, a fashion and luxury CEO can come from a wide range of backgrounds, including retail, merchandising or marketing. “It depends what the trajectory of the corporate is.”

What’s essential are management skills and “it’s essential to have a passion for this industry,” in keeping with Toledano, an engineering graduate of École Centrale de Paris who began his profession as a marketing consultant at Nielsen International.

As well as, communications executives must pursue very high standards to guarantee the vibrancy, integrity, clarity and creativity of a brand.

“You have got to hunt perfection, this needs to be an obsession,” he said. “In the event you do mistakes in communications, it might cost you a fortune.”

“As reputational risks can heavily hurt a brand, its influence and revenues, marketing communication leaders bring the experience of anticipating such risks,” de Saint Pierre agreed. “The plus is the understanding and the monitoring of the eye economy, easy methods to construct an influential brand globally and drive revenues.”

In line with sources, other high-profile communications/marketing executives with CEO potential include Stefano Cantino at Vuitton, Rod Manley at Burberry, and Bastien Renard at Golden Goose.

To make certain, there is no such thing as a set formula today on the subject of choosing an executive to take the management helm of a fashion and luxury brand. Chanel conscripted Leena Nair, chief human resources officer at Unilever, to turn out to be its global CEO at the tip of 2021.

Pill noted, nevertheless, that “we now have yet to see a supply-chain CEO.”

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