Courage, enterprise and independence are not the first concepts we usually associate with the idea of fashion and luxury. Still they were often mentioned during the recent meeting between Gruppo Tod’s CEO Umberto Macchi di Cellere and MAFED - Master in Fashion, Experience & Design Management participants. These key words suggest a well-defined vision, not only of the brand but of the entire world of fashion, a world driven more by desire than necessity and where experience is core. A world in which the authentic, daring and innovative entrepreneurial spirit still prevails, but which must also keep the bar of coherence and ethics increasingly steady.
“After university, I chose to get into fast-moving consumer goods marketing,” Macchi di Cellere recalled. “I started at Johnson&Johnson, one of the best companies in the industry, a company that is very attentive to the way it works and to its responsibility towards customers and all stakeholders.” Here came the first suggestion to the young managers in the audience: “Your boss is your first mentor, from whom you can learn to live up to your role. Agree to take some risks to ensure that you find the right place to work.”
But it is experience in the luxury industry that has defined Macchi di Cellere’s career: first, almost twenty years with one of the most prestigious brands in the sector, Bulgari, for which he was Worldwide Managing Director of Sales. Then, three years ago, the move to Tod’s, a choice made in order to have a closer relationship with entrepreneurs – says the CEO – “who think differently from managers and from whom we have much to learn,” stressing the difference between “entrepreneurial” and “managerial” companies: in the latter, “the decision-making chain is longer, it becomes difficult to respond to the current times of communication. At the beginning of my career, we used to create one advertising campaign a year, now it’s one a week”.
And this is where the uniqueness of this world begins to emerge: “In luxury & fashion marketing it is not possible to test everything in advance, as is the case with consumer goods. So every decision requires courage.” Understanding, sometimes sensing, macro-trends, not only in fashion but in society at large, is key. For example, the issue of sustainability, which has become essential. “Chiara Ferragni’s appointment to the Tod’s Board of Directors is a step in this direction: working on emerging themes, such as sustainability and reaching out to a younger, more sensitive audience.”
And it is not only about what you communicate but also how you do it, i.e. the means you use to reach out to potential customers. “In the era of social media each message is short-lived, so it is the sum of messages that creates brand communication. Also, digital media offer greater possibilities for targeting”. Communication must also express the identity and spirit of the brand: “Tod’s has always emphasized quality and joie de vivre, two elements that are synonymous with being Italian.”
Finally, a word about the audience, the next generation of managers and the upcoming target group of the circular economy: “Your generation is not about ownership but experience,” the CEO emphasized. And two final recommendations: “Be a pioneer, have the courage to do what others do not, and enjoy what you do every day.”
SDA Bocconi School of Management.