CMO Insights: Providing a Consistent Experience

an interview with
Louise Camuto CMO, The Camuto Group

For The Camuto Group brand family, one thing is certain: luxury runs in their blood. But with such a diverse portfolio, including brands like Vince Camuto, Jessica Simpson, BCBG Max Azria and Arturo Chiang, how does the company know where to focus its marketing efforts?

In my recent conversation with Louise Camuto, CMO of The Camuto Group and recipient of a Marketing Innovation Award at this year’s CMO Club Awards, she explained how her company provides a consistent luxe experience for women around the world, no matter which designer they prefer.  Having never taken on the challenge of fashion marketing its always been a bit of a mystery to me but talking with Louise, its clear that there are those who’s success in this stylistic milieu is no accident.  Read on to find out why.

Drew: The Camuto Group is a family of 11 very different brands. How do you infuse The Camuto Group values and maintain consistent messaging across all of your brands?

Louise: At Camuto Group, We spend a lot of time thinking about how we can interpret product – from footwear to apparel – in the most on-brand manner.  We have been able to lead a brand-building effort with the development of footwear as well as develop product into an existing apparel collection that not just extends a brand into new territory but enhances the presence at retail.  In addition, I emphasize the importance of IMAGE and brand consistency daily with my team.  We work closely with our international partners to ensure that the way a brand is represented at every consumer and trade touch point not only reflects the DNA but also reinforces the message and aesthetic which allows for the brand experience to omnichannel.

Drew: How does new product development work at The Camuto Group? Does it report in to you? 

Louise:  Yes, the design teams report in to me for the 18 women’s categories. Our design process is extensive.  We have a team of people who shop all over the world for inspiration and they bring ideas, concepts and materials to the table for review.  We sit as a team and determine what items are appropriate for each of our brands and we spend a lot of time analyzing the marketplace for trend direction as well as what’s happening at the consumer level.  What I have found to be paramount is listening to customers.  When I am in any of our stores, I watch how the customer shops, how she selects product, as well as her purchasing process.  When we work on our campaign looks we collaborate with Vince, our marketing team and with PR to ensure we are on trend and delivering something exciting to the customer.

Drew: A CMO has a lot of choices in terms of where they invest their time.  What have been your top priorities in the last 12 months?

Louise: My focus recently has been building the Vince Camuto lifestyle.   I have spent a lot of time working on our retail store roll out globally.  It is so important to have a strong store image that supports the brand direction and it has been my goal to create a luxe consumer experience for women around the world at this price point.  I am proud of the 30 stores that we have opened including the luxury flagship, VC Signature by Vince Camuto on Madison Avenue in New York.  I spend a lot of time working on the creative presentation of all of our brands.  We live in a world where the ways in which a customer can be reached are online, in-store, in print and of course through social media.  I have invested a lot of time over the past year ensuring that the brand voices are consistent with the brand DNA.

Drew: Have there been any big surprises in terms of what’s worked really well and what hasn’t?

Louise: We have been so fortunate lately with our initiatives.  We haven’t experienced too many hiccups, nor have we had any product launches not succeed.  I think our biggest challenge is constantly innovating and being ahead of the curve in terms of our product offerings, assortments and design direction.

Drew: How are you using social media as a marketing tactic? (Awareness, customer service, etc.)

Louise: Social media continues to  be a significant portion of our business.  We have really invested in a team to build the brand voice cross-channel.  Today, customers spend a lot of time online looking at fashion.  The internet has really democratized the business which is exciting.  The influence of bloggers in today’s world is a breath of fresh air to me.  You really see how the customer actually wears and styles your product.  Delving into the online space has really helped with the design process as I continually think about the end use of a skirt, top, pant, dress and what she would be looking for coming up in the next season. It’s also a great way to share new product and immediately test the response. Louise Loves on our site has also reached a following. It has a selection of great items to make a look and we can follow how many hits we get and how it drives her to buy.

Drew: How do you evaluate/measure the success of your marketing?  Are there some channels that work a better for you than others?

Louise: I read all the selling reports and market recaps reports daily.  I am very engrained in the business as it is not about what I think works, it is about how the consumer responds to your brand and your product. I also look at how our advertised styles perform versus the items that are not included in our campaign.  I love market research as I think it helps establish a framework for understanding who your customer is and what she is looking for when she shops.  I love analyzing our online business as well because it is the purest form of analysis in the marketplace today.  You are able to understand how your direct mail, email blasts, print campaigns, celebrity support and editorial credits impact sell-through and in turn leverage the knowledge to further reach your customer and meet her needs.  Online has been very successful for us but we are also seeing a lot of positive results from our brick and mortar stores as well.

Drew: Content marketing is a hot topic at the moment.  What’s your perspective on content in terms of its effectiveness?  Are you increasing your investment in this area?

Louise:  We are investing in content and product marketing extensively as we find it highly effective in engaging with our customers.  It also allows us to be able to extend our brand message to a wider audience.  We utilize content marketing online to relate to the woman that is looking for fashion tips, advice and information.  It is another way for us to be helpful to our customers while not pushing product.  I think the balance between creating interesting content and achieving sales goals is important as content marketing is truly an extension of our commitment to customer service.

Drew: How do you see the retail design industry evolving over the next 10 years? What steps are you taking at The Camuto Group to stay ahead of the curve?

Louise: I think we are in a period of true innovation.  I think stores are creating experiential programs that allow for engagement with the customer at point of sale.  We have adopted several tactics in order to engage with our customers at retail.  When we build out a store, we have created a shoppable wall as the store barricade so that customers can shop the line and engage with the brand while the store is being built out.  Once the store opens, we utilize video to bring the brand to life.  We just launched men’s so this year we are able to have the woman interact with the man in order to tell the full brand story.  We also have ipads in store so that people can look at the total Collection, even if an item is not carried, they can style what they are purchasing with the total collection in order to create a complete look that is their own!

What’s the biggest marketing risk you’ve taken at The Camuto Group? How did it play out?

Louise: Several years ago, we relaunched Vince Camuto footwear and invested in a broad-based marketing campaign that crossed all channels.  It was important for us to get the message out and we immediately saw success through exponential growth in brand awareness as well as sales.  The marketing investment also allowed us to expand the multi-category licensing program rather quickly as we became a more significant brand for our retail partners almost overnight.

Drew: Do you agree with the notion that marketing is everything and everything is marketing and if so how have you extended the boundaries of your job beyond the normal purview of the CMO?   

Louise: I absolutely believe everything is marketing and marketing is everything.  You truly live marketing every day.  Marketing occurs across every channel and touch point and I think the total experience is what drives a customer to love a brand and become a loyal enthusiast.  I think we constantly need to push the envelope in marketing to be ahead of the curve and innovate so we are always an intriguing brand for our woman.  I believe in always trying to lead and not follow and I work closely with the team to always be at the forefront of what’s happening with the consumer so we reach her every day, in every way.

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