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

My Professional Manifesto

Someone once asked me why I’m where I am today.

At first I really thought the question was rhetorical because I couldn’t find the words to explain what was so simple to me. Here is my attempt to use words to describe why I’m still working when most of my competition are asleep or idle.

There is no other way to get better at what you do than simply doing it with the same passion a fish has for water. In your ignorance you will find opportunity; in your failures, more chances to defy the naysayers; and in your successes, the encouragement to do even better.

Am I satisfied with my progress so far?

My answer is a resounding NO.

Am I appreciative for what I have achieved?

Lets just say I’m respectfully pleased because I really don’t know how far I can go in my goal to:

give people access to the ‘best’ that life has to offer.

However I continue to work towards knowing how far my purpose and passion will take me. There’s a remarkable journey for each person that relentlessly pursues the unknown. Success may not be as hard to achieve if you have the correct definition. I believe success lies in simply trying.

Stay hungry my friends.

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

Premium vs. Luxury

How companies like Audi are redefining product classes at the expense of long time brands, who are now trying to get back into the premium game.

Lately, I have been thinking of a couple luxury themes I’d like to explore in my posts. They center around a couple main questions: Continue reading

Ahead of the Curve

Referenced Article: Debt to Pleasure
Source: The Economist Magazine

This article bears a profound message on how the increased knowledge of choice architecture could turn traditional economic models upside down. Continue reading

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.

 

 

Tesla Motors – Keeping up with the “Cool Factor”

Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S

If there is one thing I’ll keep doing as the publisher of L.I.L, it will be to bring “cool” things to your attention.

I am enchanted with Tesla , especially because its cars are not gimmicks designed to draw “the herd” (a respectful reference to mass consumers). They definitely have my stamp of luxury particularly because of the brand’s exclusivity, quality production, unique heritage, and innovation. More importantly, this is a car you need to have if you plan on helping change the world.

I’ll say no more. Read this interview with George Blankenship, Tesla’s Vice President for Worldwide Sales and Ownership Experience.
I bet you’ll get goosebumps by just imagining the world that Tesla founder, Elon Musk, aims to develop.

#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.



Top 10 Posts on “Lessons in Luxury”

Below are the top 10 posts based on readership.

Title
1. Aman Resorts: A Tough Sell for DLF
2. Questionable Co-branding
3. Fair and Square at JCPenney
4. Part 2 – This Thing Called Luxury
5. Luxe Value: Interbrand’s Best Global Brands
6. Adding Value – Train Rides and iPads
7. Swatch: Creating a Shakeout in the Swiss Watch Industry
8. What do LVMH and L’Oréal Have in Common with Google, KPMG, and Deutsche Bank?
9. A Room With a View of Your Porsche, Ferrari, Benz, …
10. Differentiating Upscale Hospitality Series: Ritz-Carlton

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

A Gathering of Luxury

One of the substantial influences that prompted me to start Lessons in Luxury was an industry conference I attended in April, 2011. The event was the Retail & Luxury Goods Conference hosted by the student-run Retail & Luxury Goods Club at Harvard Business School (HBS). Meeting business luminaries such as Tommy Hilfiger, William Lauder, and Stephen Sadove did a lot to help me develop my career ambitions.

This year, you can join me and my cohorts in the Luxury and Retail Club from The College of William and Mary, in Boston, MA. HBS will host the 2012 iteration of its annual conference from April 14, 2012 to April 15, 2012. For more information on registration, keynote speakers, and logistics, go to http://www.hbsrlgconference.com.

Previous speakers at the conference have included:

  • Stephen Sadove – Chairman and CEO, Saks Incorporated
  • William Lauder – Executive Chairman, The Estee Lauder Companies
  • Tommy Hilfiger – Principal Designer and Visionary of the Tommy Hilfiger Brand
  • Bernd Beetz – CEO, Coty Inc.
  • Terry J. Lundgren – CEO, Macy’s Inc.
  • Patrizio di Marco – CEO, Gucci

I look forward to seeing you there.

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

Part 1 – This Thing Called Luxury

Yesterday, I got into an intense discussion with two of my classmates about the strategic justifications for my focus on the “luxury” segment. While my colleagues were making an argument for the limited market size demerits of luxury products, I tried to explain my thesis of luxury goods/services in a transactional framework. In the end, both sides came to similar conclusions. I’ll attempt to take you through the debate first from an abstract level.

If a customer asked me: “why do you consider your product/service a luxury?”, I’d say to them: Continue reading

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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.

Adding Value – Train Rides and iPads

Train rides are very enjoyable for me because I get the chance to remain terrestrial. I’m not driving myself, nor am I on a bus going pretty much the same way I would have driven myself. Since train tracks do not always follow “car routes”, I get to take a more scenic view, stumbling upon sights that don’t come into my view on a regular basis. I also like to take trains at times they are sparsely occupied, so that I have a lot of space to myself. The combination of those components makes the ride an enjoyable one. However the real luxury experience can be summed up in one picture from my last trip on Amtrak: Continue reading

Luxonomics

Today’s post focuses on luxonomics (luxury economics). Since luxury goods embrace the concept of rarity, it would be an obvious deduction to assume that the more scarce a luxury product or service becomes, the more demand it enjoys. Consequently, prices can appreciate – to levels that can be absorbed by few.

Some of the factors affecting supply include:

  • Input Prices
  • Technology or Government Regulations
  • Number of Firms
  • Substitutes in Production
  • Taxes
  • Producer Expectations

Today I want to show you some “scarce” luxury products, whose supply has largely been affected  by government regulations. As the cited MSN Money slideshow states, all the products listed are affected by legal restrictions limiting their production, distribution, and sale in parts of the world. Much of the reasoning behind these bans is aimed at protecting the environment. Continue reading

Luxury is About Freedom

So, we can obviously say that relativity plays an important part in the way we think about many things – including luxury. What’s that old adage: One man’s meat is another man’s poison? I read an article from WSJ that brought this idea well into focus for me, and I think it also has some adjacent relevance to the concepts of trends and cycles.

When the great fashion designer, Yves Saint-Laurent started his own couturier in 1958, there wasn’t much in the way of pattern machines or industrial cutters for him to achieve his goal of making womenswear more affordable for the masses. In those times, the best clothing cost too much for common folk because of the time, money, and people that were required to make the ravishing clothing he designed. Today’s more affordable technology could certainly have done much for “la mode”. Continue reading

Pictures from NYC: Part 2

Yesterday, I forgot to mention that I have successfully completed the 30-day Challenge. I am really proud of the fact that, with exception of a few days where things were beyond my control, I was able to write a blog post every single day, for 30 days. Now that I am done, I’ll slow down just a tad to work on some other projects I have. Now on to more pictures from NYC. Continue reading

Pictures from NYC: Part 1

30-day Challenge – Day 30

In the past two months, I have been to New York City twice. In fact, the first time I was in NYC was when I interviewed the CEO of Saks for this blog. The second time I went up to the “big apple”, I was with my classmates from the Real Estate CAM (Career Acceleration Module) at the Mason School of Business.

In a previous post, I had promised to talk to you about my experiences in NYC, and now I am “making good” on that promise. I’ll start with my October 2012 trip. Continue reading

A Room With a View of Your Porsche, Ferrari, Benz, …

30-day Challenge – Day 29

In the second half of this past semester at business school, I took an immersion course in real estate – the best course I have ever taken. The course not only exposed me to the business of real estate, but also introduced me to the nuances of an industry where success is not necessarily about reality, but your ability to create a perception, in which people want to participate.

Real estate can give you a means to exercise your networking, negotiation and selling skills. At the same time, real estate allows you to be very creative in realizing your visions of developing mixed use, multi-family apartments, commercial, or industrial structures. You can literally do anything and the next lines will show that. Continue reading