Over the past decade, the MBA has become a rapidly developing area for talent recruitment in the luxury/retail/fashion/beauty industries. Increasingly competitive landscapes and omni-channel consumer behavior has forced companies ranging from Tiffany to Target to increase investment in product marketing, e-commerce, digital marketing, social media and CRM. As such, the range of marketing opportunities in the luxury and retail space varies as greatly as each brand’s unique selling proposition.
MBA candidates in pursuit of a career in luxury/retail marketing often use the term loosely, unclear of all the options and the exact direction they want to take. When asked which is “best,” my answer is always “it depends.” In order to make the most informed decision on the best route to take within luxury/ retail marketing, you have to first understand the nuances between the most commonly explored areas.
This is a function/title that is rarely used in the luxury/retail space. Beauty is the real exception because it’s more similarly structured to traditional consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies. As a result, companies like L’Oreal are data- driven (with information for both in-store and online sales and returns) and have been recruiting brand marketers from top MBA programs for many years. These management development programs are structured and robust, and there is often no shortage of senior leaders in the company who have taken the same career path. Beauty is also often more “forgiving” of career-switchers, highly favoring those with pre-MBA careers in finance, marketing in other industries (I came from corporate architecture and interior design), consulting, advertising and operations.
As a brand manager in beauty (more likely called marketing manager) you are the ‘hub at the center of the wheel’ as you’ve heard in your marketing courses, with responsibility for the competitive analysis, brand/product strategy, pricing, launch planning and point of sale of your product category. You liaise with cross-functional partners in PR, R&D (if you’re on the development side), Creative, Education, Sales, Finance and Special Events to make sure that each element of your product launch plan is aligned with the product strategy and speaks to the target audience you’ve defined.
The Internet and subsequent emerging technologies has forever changed how brands do business. A brand’s success relies heavily on understanding the complexities of a non-linear customer engagement cycle and experience (omni-channel consumers don’t follow a straightforward shopping or decision- making path). This ranges from acquisition (display advertising, search engine optimization (SEO), e-mail marketing, social media management) to retention (retargeting, loyalty programs). Such positions exist across organizations and may be inclusive (at a small company, you might have responsibility across all of these areas in some capacity) or very much in isolation, where you are solely managing e-mail marketing for Coach or Bloomingdale’s (both organizations have such roles available). There are also many integrated marketing opportunities in publishing, an area that has allowed magazines to diversify revenue streams by creating additional advertising opportunities for clients.
Client/Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
Rooted in understanding and quantifying consumer behavior, CRM marketing requires the ability to analyze significant amounts of data to understand consumer demographics, key segments and best practices for recruiting or retaining those customers. These consumer insights help marketers leverage the brand to reach the most qualified customer, develop loyalty programs, determine the best A/B tests to run in an e-mail marketing or direct mail campaign, the best form of media to reach the consumer and how to leverage online consumer behavior to drive sales at brick-and-mortar. As a result, CRM marketers often function as internal consultants (again, corporate structure dependent) or consumer insights team members, and work closely with other members of the larger marketing organization.
If navigating the range of marketing career options seems daunting, one consideration is to pursue a more general marketing path like brand/marketing management to gain a solid 360 degree view on each role before deciding to become a subject matter expert in a given field.