What will I be doing in 2019?

As us usual, I’m always influenced by the current zeitgeist. Today’s inspiration comes from a Vox video attempting to answer the question: Does expensive wine taste better?

I’ve always told my clients that wine is a sensory experience that requires the use of all senses, but I’ve learned that what makes me more successful than my competitors are the stories I tell; and how I empower my clients with enough knowledge to “try something new” the next time they go to the store. That’s an investment that yields infinite returns no matter what products you represent. #AlwaysAddValue

Yes, it is true that awesomely well-trained, data savvy, wine professionals like myself can manipulate clients to buy whatever we want to sell (see the research), but my satisfaction has always come from surprising clients with profound and pleasurable discoveries.

That’s why I love treating curious customers to some of my rarest or more expensive wines in the first meeting. Sometimes, they can’t even afford the wines I present – so why do I take this counterintuitive approach? Well, aside from the fact that it fosters desire, it’s also because what my clients value most – above ownership and consumption – is a journey. So, setting them up with a view of what they “could be” drinking is more important than someone telling them what they “should be” drinking. My clients don’t just want me to help them make memories – they want me to inspire dreams. Doing this the right way always requires more work that most professionals are willing to put in, but it is the most sustainable strategy to truly winning hearts and minds. 

Customers and friends still contact me every time they find something new. The most gratifying aspect of this is that they want me to share their new discoveries with them. I go from being a consultant to a partner. #SoThankful #KnowYourCustomer #KnowYourCompetition.

Here is my recipe for the work I’ll be undertaking in 2019:

  • Take my unique CX approach to #MakingMemories #InspiringDreams; and
  • Marry that with my purpose to “give clients access to the best that life has to offer”; and
  • Add my love of #Datasets and #GeospatialModelling; then
  • Throw in a sprinkle of data science with a dash of #SeeingAroundCorners; and
  • Add a continuous stream of confidence and perseverance.

2018 has already come to an end in some parts of the world and is only a couple hours away from my comfortable perch. I sincerely want to thank every person who has been part of my #Superstory thus far. I am especially thankful for the obstacles I overcame and all the experiences that have led up to this exact moment. Most of all, I am thankful for my wife and family. I couldn’t have made it this far without their support.

In 2019 and beyond, I believe there will be a lot more stories wanting to be told, and more memories to facilitate. I’ll be focused on the consumer frontline – bringing the fringes to the front by empowering makers (a word borrowed from a company I admire) and consumers with the tools to unlock hidden value.

#TurningDesertsIntoGardens

#HappyNewYear

#NextBigThing

#StartedFromTheBottom

Advice: Don’t Take Things Personal

One Thing#Newsflash: You can’t make all your stakeholders, friends, colleagues (all the people you know or don’t know) happy all the time.

As professionals, we talk a lot about listening and looking at issues from multiple angles. Those are really important lessons that keep coming up in my career, but lately, there’s a bigger lesson I have learned:

Try not to take all that happens to you as a personal indication of your value or potential. 

If you dig deep enough you will be able to connect the dots in your past and realize that everything that happens to you is for your own good. You are exactly where you need to be right now. All the things that have happened to you HAVE HAPPENED. You can’t change the past and you do not know the future – but you have NOW.

What is the next thing you can do to move your goals forward? Have a big dream, but just focus on doing one little thing that gets you closer. Do that one little thing – that if left undone, you would regret not trying at all. Do one little thing for yourself.

#ChooseYourself #WhosLookingOutForYou #IfNotNowWhen

One Thing Well

UPDATE: Transactional Integrity and Luxury

I updated my last post on Transactional Integrity  with a new post on Linkedin Pulse. Check it out. I’m so glad to be blogging again. I also updated my visuals using free high-res images . Thanks to Kirby Ferguson (@remixeverything) for mentioning.

Transactional Integrity… and Luxury

As a brand guardian, every time I get to introduce consumers to a brand I consider to be “true luxury”, it is nothing less than a privilege.

However, there is one rule: I never advocate brands, with which I haven’t had some reasonable interaction (as a consumer, loyalist, or enthusiast). To do otherwise would be disingenuous and represses Transactional Integrity. Continue reading

Are you the target?

I came home this evening a very disappointed consumer. I had just seen “Man of Steel” and “The Wolverine“. I know it seems so off-message to start my post on luxury with talk of comic book heroes, but read on to see where this leads.  Continue reading

I Love The Business of Luxury Like A Fish Loves Water

So, the HBS Retail and Luxury Goods Conference is over and I’m wondering why I go to this conference every year.

Well, its simple.

The Dream Team (and yours truly) - Members of the LuxRe Club from The College of William and Mary at the HBS Retail and Luxury Goods Conference

The Dream Team (and yours truly) – Members of the LuxRe Club from The College of William and Mary at the HBS Retail and Luxury Goods Conference

I like to listen to the array of views on what’s going on in the luxury industry. I also enjoy meeting new minds, and reuniting with old friends. However, the real reason I go to the conference is simply because it makes me feel good. It fires up my creative neurons and allows me to think about things in different ways. The best way to describe it is that I feel comfortable – like a fish in water.

Reimagining the In-Store Experience: One of the panels at the HBS Retail and Luxury Goods Conference

Re-imagining the In-Store Experience: One of the panels at the HBS Retail and Luxury Goods Conference

Key Idea: Find those environments and business cultures that make you feel good about who you are. Find the people and places that excite your true passions. You won’t go far if you fail to be honest with yourself about who you are and what you believe in. Act like a luxury brand and stand for something.

My View: The main reason I joined the industry is because it stands for something that is important to me. Though there are opposing opinions out there, I believe that the luxury segment benefits a vast array of stakeholders in different geographic, cultural, and socio-economic segments – governments, companies, the environment, and of course, consumers. The industry doesn’t just provide beautiful products and valuable services for consumers – it also provides jobs and supports economic development.

BOLD Customer Experience Management, Blogging, @doubletree… I need more than 140 characters

I need more than just 140 characters

As soon as I tweeted it, I felt like I had to say more. Have you ever met someone, read a book, or watched a movie that contained ideas or dreams that you’ve always had? Thoughts that, prior to the encounter, you couldn’t concisely express?

I’ve been having those moments as I’ve been reading this book about companies that adopt a customer-first culture.

BoldThe book has been the breath of fresh air I needed to fill my lungs of passion for the customer. After going through some of my past posts, it dawned on me that I agreed with the authors (Shaun Smith and Andy Milligan) long before I received the book as a graduation present in 2012. Since starting the book, I have ordered four more copies for my friends across the US (and even in Japan). I think you should read it too.

Heck I might just send a free copy to the first person to send me a message via the comment box. 
 
Past Posts

As I was looking through my old posts, I felt so proud for having a point of view of my own, before being introduced to someone else’s. I couldn’t have begun to formulate my perspective if I hadn’t had a cathartic outlet like blogging. It never really mattered if I sounded stupid, smart, or experienced, I just wanted to put my thoughts out there. All that mattered was for me to develop my own point of view. Finding this book was such a proud moment for me because it lets me know that I’m not crazy. I’m just saying what I think. So its really important to blog.

If you need to develop a point of view on something that’s important to you, start putting your thoughts out there. Start a blog…. do something.

On to the next piece.

I’m in Boston, MA for the Retail and Luxury Goods Conference held by Harvard Business School. I’ve been coming since 2011 because its such a comfortable zone, being around luxury industry professionals. It’s especially relevant for me because of my personal mission in life and business:

Tweet

Whenever I come to the conference, I stay with the same hotel brand – DoubleTree by Hilton Worldwide. I have to say it is such a wonderful customer experience because I always get what I expect – the feeling of a home away from home. More to come sooner than you think.

DT 1

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How To Get A Job In The Luxury Industry – Forbes

Click the picture to go to the Forbes.com article.

Click the picture to go to the Forbes.com article.

My View: This is an insightful point of view from an industry practitioner. No one has all the answers, but this will certainly get you in thinking in the right direction.

 

 

BRAND U – Template for a Luxury Resume

I’ve come across a few MBA students in the same place I was about a year ago. Many questions they ask center around creating a resume fit for the luxury sector.

Here’s a format used at ESSEC Business School. ESSEC is one of the most respected institutions, where the biggest firms in the luxury business recruit MBAs. It is particularly because it is one of the few MBA programs with a focus on the luxury segment. I’ll be writing about luxury education in a couple more posts. However, you don’t have to wait till then. This link will take you to the school’s 2012 Resume Look Book. Go to their website to learn more about the program.

I have also created a template for you to fill in (scroll to the bottom). It’s really a table. All you have to do is fill it in with the relevant info and hide the lines when you’re finished. Need further help with the template? Send me a comment.

I hope this helps.

Lux MBA Resume Template

JC Penney Going for Broke / Luxury Conference in Boston, MA

Ron Johnson’s Original Turnaround Plan for JCP – Circa April 2012

The Gist:

Less than a year ago, I wrote about JCP’s “square pricing” strategy created under CEO, Ron Johnson. The pricing strategy was intended to help the retailer grow its business, however, latest indications show the company has recorded four consecutive quarters of decline.

In combating the consumer backlash, Mr. Johnson is rolling out some of the previously discontinued sales that JCP is known for. There is no indication as to how many sale campaigns the retailer will bring back, but JCP’s CEO has vowed not to return to levels where the company ran up to 600 sales promotions each year. Supposedly, the retailer is going to introduce a limited number of promotions that tie in with the core habits of its consumer set – shoppers who only buy when they need something and require high value.

It’s bad enough that most of JCP’s consumers have decided to shop at its competitors (Kohl’s, Target, Dillard’s, and Macy’s to name a few). What’s worse is that Wall Street investors have also lost confidence in the stock. After losing more than half of its value, Penney stock is now trading at around $19. The company will also find it hard to raise capital as its credit rating is in the realm of “junk status”.

There is still no light at the end of the tunnel for Ron Johnson’s (RJ) turnaround. Though I was very pessimistic (and correct) in my initial assessment in April, 2012, I wouldn’t quit on RJ just yet. You do know he turned Apple and Target’s retail performance around, right? The past is the best predictor of the future. I just might roll the dice on some JCP stock.

Question

Where do you need to be this month?

Harvard Business School

Answer

In Boston, at the Retail and Luxury Goods Conference, at Harvard Business School. It happens every year (this is the ninth) and is never a dull event. I had some of my best professional moments there. If you can’t make it, you can trust that I’ll take notes for you.

Back to Blogging… with A Different Focus

First off, here’s wishing you a Happy 2013 ahead.

If you are reading this post, then I must either welcome you anew; or thank you for checking in on the blog.

When I created Lessons in Luxury, I had a goal of starting my post-MBA career in the luxury goods and services sector. Today, I have achieved that goal and have set even loftier ones for my career.

However, this blog has such a cool name that it must continue, even if it means that it will have a new focus. Rather than focusing on luxury from an academic perspective, I’ll discuss luxury as a career.

Look out for the first entry in 2013.

The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner, VA

Today, I’m at the Ritz Carlton in Tysons Corner (near DC) for an event organized by the Mason School of Business. What a great hotel. Trust me cause I know. I’ll tell you more about it later (with pictures). This is a brand that truly loves the ladies and gentlemen it serves.

Luxury, Retail, or Otherwise… Looks Count – Job Postings too.

Note: There’s a link to some jobs at the bottom of the post.

Last week, our Luxury and Retail Club had an event at the Mason School of Business. The event was titled “Looks Count – A Presentation on Professional Dress for Men and Women”. Here’s how we described the event: Continue reading

#HBSRLGC – Day 2: Emerging Markets Panel

4/15/12 – After the keynote address from Max Azria, I went on to some of the panel sessions. The panel sessions are a little more intimate than the keynotes because you get to hear different perspectives on the same issues that concern retailers today. You’ll see competitors, collaborators, and disruptors in the same room. This year there were four panels and I attended two:

Emerging Markets – The panelists were:

  • Anya Ayoung Chee – Designer, Project Runway Winner
  • Kai Schoppen – CEO, Brandsclub Group
  • Malte Horeyseck – Co-Founder and Managing Director, Dafiti
  • Tikka Karpurthala – Chief Representative in Asia for Moet-Hennessy/Group Advisor Louis Vuitton, India

New Business Directions – The panelists were:

  • Anthony W. Campbell – EVP of Administration, Vice Chairman’s Office, Perry Ellis International
  • Julie Bull – Director of Investor Relations, Dillards
  • Mark Bonchek – SVP Communities and Networks, Sears Holdings
Here are the tweets to catch you up on what went on in the Emerging Markets panel.

Continue reading

#HBSRLGC – Day 2: Max Azria

Two Crazy Guys - Max Azria (Founder, Designer, Chairman and CEO, BCBGMAXAZRIAGROUP) and Edmund Amoye (LuxRe Club, Mason School of Business)

On day two (Sunday 4/15/12) at the Harvard Business School Retail and Luxury Goods Conference (HBSRLGC), we kicked off the day with breakfast, which was not attended by yours truly.

I was having too much fun walking around Boston... literally.

However, my day was off to a a memorable start with the second keynote address by Max Azria – Founder, Designer, Chairman and CEO, BCBGMAXAZRIAGROUP. This is a man I have always admired for his perspective on fashion – and have respected for his vision with the Herve Leger brand. Meeting the man was something I wasn’t expecting and the HBSRLGC helped me do that. I tweeted so much at this conference that I’m just going to use my tweets document my experience. Enjoy. Continue reading

HBSRLGC – Boston, MA: Day 1

So I was in Boston for the annual Harvard Business School Retail and Luxury Goods Conference (HBSRLGC). Yes, I know that’s a long acronym. I’ll document my days in Boston (4/14/12 to 4/15/12) with pictures and tweets (yes – tweets).

A Sculpture at Back Bay Station - by George Greennamyer, 1976

After coming out of the station I took this picture of the entrance to the Back Bay Station:

Right across the street from Back Bay Station is an iconic property – Copley Place. This was a good experience for me because just the day before I had the pleasure of conversing with Howard Elkus and Ken Himmel, famous architect and renowned developer respectively.

Copley Place consists of multiple connected buildings. Here is a picture of a pedestrian bridge over Stuart St.

NW Elevation of Copley Place

NW Entrance of Copley Place

Took the Orange Line from Back Bay to Downtown Crossing, transferred to the Red Line and went on to JFK/UMass where I stayed at the DT - Boston Bayside

Left the hotel and went to Harvard Square Station via the Red Line

Later in the evening around 6pm, I went on to the Sheraton Commander Hotel for a networking session and keynote address by Steven Kolb, CEO, The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). He set the conference off on a good tone discussing the role and history of the CFDA as well as its efforts to push intellectual property rights for designers in the US.



Visiting Boston for the 2012 Retail and Luxury Conference at Harvard Business School

Back Bay Station, Boston, MA - First stop off the train

Back Bay Station, Boston, MA – First stop off the train

So here I am in wonderful Boston for the Retail and Luxury Conference at HBS. It’s been a year since I’ve been back. I’ve had a wonderful time so far, traveling via the subway/rail system. I think I like it better than NYC’s subway system. Watch out for more posts (with pictures).

Finally…. Luxury Car Brands are Taking Tips from the Kings of Customer Service

Key Takeaway from The Luxury Doctrine (a new resource in development):

If you want to be successful, especially in luxury, you have to think of, and act like the customer, at all steps in the value chain… you have to manage the customer’s experience

– Edmund Amoye, Lessons in Luxury

For those who have been following my posts on the different luxury segments, you’ll notice that the key catalyst for success in today’s environment is innovation in managing the customer experience. If you are new to this customer-centric theme, I have a list of related posts at the bottom, to get you up to speed.

In every business there are seasons and cycles – ups and downs. At their rollout to end-users, luxury goods and services are sometimes heralded as innovative novelties and “must haves”. However, as brands permeate, manufacturers innovate, and marketing teams penetrate (I had to use that rhyme… too easy to pass up), commoditization sets in. Luckily, the Ford Motor Co. is doing something about that with its Lincoln automotive brand.

– Top View of the 2013 Lincoln MKZ Continue reading

Are Luxury Brands Recession Proof?

Credit for this post goes to Chase Harps, one of my MBA classmates.

I often find myself having to evangelize for the luxury industry, especially to people that may be skeptical of its necessity or long-term viability. For those people, I am posting a link to a new 2012 brand ranking report from Brand Finance. Based on its findings, the company issued a viewpoint on luxury brands. Entitled “Recession Fails to Dent Consumer Lust for Luxury Brands“, the article lists the following main points. Continue reading

How Many Lives Does a Jaguar Have?

So Tata Motors is doing a lot to revamp the Jaguar brand. It purchased the Jaguar and Land Rover brands from Ford for $2.3B. Ford, which lost $800M on the sale, seems to have shed its heavy baggage, but can Tata bring this cat back to life?

There are mixed reactions from industry on the effectiveness of the luxe auto’s new advertising campaign, which is aimed at making an emotional connection with auto enthusiasts. Professors from the University of Michigan and MIT said it missed the mark, while a consulting firm out in LA stuck its neck out to say that the campaign is “avant-garde enough to definitely capture consumers’ attention and put Jaguar on the radar screen of more potential luxury customers”.

All those opinions don’t matter. Let’s see what the sales numbers say in a year. It will surely be an improvement for Jaguar to get 18,000 to 20,000 people to test-drive its cars, as opposed to the the 300 to 400 who try them out annually in the United States. Wow only 300 to 400. Anything above that will be a remarkable improvement.

What Apple Can Teach You About Not Having To Compete On Price

I found this great article at www.fastcompany.com. The major take aways for businesses that do not want to compete on price are:

  1. Develop Powerful Branding – Effective and unique branding puts your product in a competitive space that has little to do with price, and more to do with being cool, trendy (or timeless), and of great quality.
  2. Strategic Marketing – This encompasses the four Ps of marketing and much more. In luxury marketing you need to be thinking about the four Es (exclusivity, emotion, engagement, and experience). While Apple won’t admit that they intentionally create product shortages in order to create a buzz, it is certainly part of the reason why customers are willing to pay huge premiums to have their products as soon as they are released.
  3. Excellent customer service – Customer service is something you can not afford to lack. From getting customer’s to try your products and services to keeping them loyal, customer service is the lynch pin that sets you appart from competitors.
  4. A product that doesn’t disappoint – All of the above won’t mean anything if you don’t have a stellar product. Take a page from companies like Apple and Patagonia who are committed first to making the best product possible.

If a product can’t live up to the expectations set by its marketing, it won’t be successful for the long term

Part 2 – This Thing Called Luxury

Building on the confusion of yesterday’s post, today’s entry focuses on the academic justification for a firm’s participation in the luxury segment. Though what appears below is very intellectual, it is very similar to the thoughts I had on the matter long before I ever knew I wanted to work in the luxury segment.

In his work covering business strategy, Michael Porter explains that there are two main categories, in which a firm’s competitive strengths fall: cost leadership and differentiation. Depending on the firm’s market focus (broad or niche), and the uniqueness of its products (custom or commodity) and services, Porter posits four generic strategies a firm can use to develop a competitive advantage. Continue reading

Protected: Job Openings for Masonites: Hospitality (password hint – first name of the bubbliest Admissions staff member)

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Update: Swiss Watch Industry Shakeout

In Dec. 2011, I wrote a post about how Swatch Group was “Creating a Shakeout in the Swiss Watch Industry“. Today I just read an update to that event. The Reuters article gives a clearer picture of Swatch’s overall strategy to make things more difficult for strong rivals such as LVMH.

Christian Louboutin vs. YSL: A Battle of Trademarks

Today in my class on Customer Experience Management (the name makes it sound contrived but it’s a great class) we had some discussion on this article about the trademark battles between Christian Louboutin and Yves Saint Laurent (owned by PPR). If you would rather watch a video than read the backstory, here is a video.

From a business standpoint, it makes perfect sense for Louboutin to go after other manufacturers that could “cramp its style” – but does it honestly matter in the business of fashion where imitation is rampant and normal? Moreover, if Louboutin is successful, will it hinder the creative process that drives fashion? My answers are “no” and “yes” in that order, but I’d love to hear what some of our fashionista readers think. I’ll even give you the opportunity to write your own post on this topic if you have more than four lines of thoughts on the issue.  Continue reading

Protected: Job Openings for Masonites: Luxury Automotive (the password is the first name of the first person you see when you walk in Miller Hall)

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Luxe Value: Interbrand’s Best Global Brands

If I have not said “thank you” to my many readers, I’ll say it now:

THANK YOU FOR READING MY BLOG.

My comrades at W&M and WordPress.com have been phenomenal in spreading my posts all over the internet. I wake up a lot of mornings surprised to see the array of readers I have from all over the world, looking in on my scribbled thoughts. I’ve gone from having only one reader – my wife – to getting as many as 100 unique views on days when I do my job right. For me, the metrics don’t really matter as a marketing strength, but as a reflection of interest. So thanks for your interest. I really appreciate it. Let’s grow together in 2012.

Ok, on to today’s rant…

Last year, in October to be exact, Interbrand published a list of the top brands in the world. It’s no different from what they do every year. Take a look at the list here.

Continue reading

China’s Jewelry Rush

Sometimes, finding good topics for this blog can prove quite challenging. So, I’m always thankful for the readers who send in great material – some of which I am using in today’s post.

First, you should know that the luxury goods and services market in China is growing at an astronomical rate. Forecasts indicate that Chinese luxe will grow at a rate of 20% CAGR by 2015, at which time it will be the second largest market in the world.

One sector of luxury in China that is doing very well is jewelry. Estimated at a worth of $39 billion, the Chinese jewelry market is growing at around 15% per year. Growth has been fueled by a couple of factors:

  • A growing middle class living outside of the tier one cities are spending more on gems and gold.
  • Rising inflation concerns in the region are making gold more attractive as a hedging instrument; and
  • Lastly, the wealthiest segment of the Chinese population are been getting richer.

What is most surprising is the fact in spite of the availability of world renowned jewelry manufacturers and retailers such as Swarovski and Cartier, Chinese consumers are paying increasing attention to homegrown brands – specifically Chow Tai Fook (CTF). The company, owned by billionaire Cheng Yu-tung recently went public. With 1500 outlets and 2010 sales of $4.5 billion, CTF is twice the size of Tiffany & Co.

I’ll leave you with a graphic from The Economist, developed by George Washington University and L2 (a think-tank). It asserts that CTF, as a brand, outperforms well-known international brands in the hearts and minds of Chinese consumers.

Aman Resorts: A Tough Sell for DLF

Amangiri – Utah, USA

Two weeks ago, there was some news that China-based conglomerate, HNA, had sent in a bid to buy Aman Resorts, a collection of unique luxury resorts in some of the most sought-after destinations in the world. Aman Resorts, which is owned by DLF, an Indian development company, represents the company’s biggest non-core asset.

To bring you up to date, DLF currently has a net debt of more than $4 billion and is looking to raise as much as $650 million to shore up its debt levels and put some cash on its balance sheet. In 2007, the company had bought a 97% stake in Aman Resorts based on a $400 million valuation, while the remaining three percent was held by Aman founder Adrian Zecha. Considering that the purchase was made right before the global financial crisis, DLF has been desperately looking for a buyer for this property.

HNA Hotels and Resorts is part of China-based HNA Group. With assets exceeding $30 billion, the group has its tentacles in airlines, hotels, airport management, real estate, retail, financial services, logistics, and tourism. Annual revenues are around $10 billion (as of Dec. 2011). The hospitality segment of the group consists of a total of 43 luxury hotels and resorts in China and Europe (40 in China and three hotel assets in Brussels and Belgium).

Reports are out that HNA is out of the bidding process for Aman Resorts, since it never received any feedback on its undisclosed bid. Reuters reports that “bids came in the $300-$315 million range”, which means that the market feels these luxury assets are overpriced. This is a huge setback for DLF considering the list of companies interested in Aman Resorts. They include:

  • Malaysian sovereign wealth fund, Khazanah
  • LVMH, and
  • Kingdom Holdings, which owns a 47.5% stake in the Four Seasons chain of luxury hotels

It’s looking bleak for DLF, but maybe some other group will step up to take over Aman.