OUR CHAT WITH LANDS’ END CEO AND BRANDER FEDERICA MARCHIONNI
BY KENNETH RICHARD
It isn’t often that one runs across an entrepreneurial CEO with a head for marketing and a heart for speed who is leading an iconic, large and public brand. But that is actually what we have found in Lands’ End CEO FEDERICA MARCHIONNI who after taking the reins less than a year ago has dusted off the American heritage brand and thrust it into the spotlight. In 10 short months she has worked to make the brand’s strengths stronger, added narrative to the catalog, on-boarded key new hires, created two campaigns including a holiday one lensed by BRUCE WEBER, partnered with Let Girls Learn, Project Runway Junior and the FIRST LADY, as well as opened the strongest holiday pop-up shop 5th Avenue New York has ever seen.
The Impression sat with the CEO to discuss her marketing acumen, the recent campaign, Let Girls Learn, Bruce Weber, the First Lady and why she believes.
Federica, congratulations on all the goodness going on at Lands’ End from the recent new hires to the ad campaigns. What can you tell us about the holiday ad campaign?
Thanks. My number one goal was to make sure our loyal customers are well taken care of and I focused on the catalog and online experience to assure that they would feel connected to us during the holiday season. We also wanted to start speaking to our new customers, so I created our first advertising campaign which was shot in Alaska.
We brought everything together through the holiday campaign, which was more about the family. It was multi-generational with kids, older brothers and sisters, single adults, parents and grandparents. I knew I wanted to bring the entire family together to give a fresh point of view, while still speaking to our loyal, long term customers. That is why I chose Bruce Weber, someone who can capture the American heritage, the multi-generational DNA of the brand, with a focus on the family, but all with a fresh eye. Within this campaign, Bruce Weber did a beautiful job bringing my vision to life and capturing the spirit and heart of Lands’ End at the holidays through real, emotional connections. I think he did an excellent job, especially on the video. And, there were so many beautiful pictures that we decided to tell the story as a collage, while focusing on several key images for magazine ads.
The theme of the campaign is “We Believe in You.” We wanted to let everyone know we believe in them, most importantly our loyal customers. To say “We believe in you, in your dreams, and what you want to achieve in life.” We used Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to further our campaign message and to connect with them, first of all to say “Thank you,” and then to understand what they believe and hopefully they believe in us.
Touching sentiment. Did you come up with the tagline?
Not specifically, but in speaking with Bruce Weber, I think he was inspired by my saying “I believe” and then he found the song “I Believe”, which he pulled for the video.
Bruce first wanted to understand my vision, what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. I used “I believe” when explaining to Bruce why I chose Lands’ End, why I came to the brand, why I believe so strongly in this project. Everyone was asking me “why” and I always answered with “I believe.” Bruce captured that in his way and then made it magical as he translated it into a beautiful tagline along with the beautiful song he chose.
We believe as well and here at The Impression think of Lands’ End as the “Most Improved Brand of 2015.” We also think it is unique that in you we’ve found a CEO who is as fluent in marketing as in leadership. How is it that you came to be so involved in marketing?
Well, my first job was at Saatchi & Saatchi. When I was younger I always thought I wanted to be a strategist and communication was defiantly my path. While at the agency I realized that the agency can give you a project but the strategy comes from the company. So I moved from the agency to the company and always worked in marketing and sales. But then to advance in my career I needed to be more commercial, so I became more involved in sales and business development.
When I moved to Dolce & Gabbana, I was more focused on business development, but I said to them “I’m joining you on one condition; I will always be in the room.” This is how I learned as we developed so many campaigns, and there were no agencies. We were the agency. So I reported to them on the image and the board on business and legal matters. That is where I developed the left and right brain and it’s what I enjoy now so I can implement all that I have learned.
Our operations are strong, but we need to transform and update everything to the new century. We have historically been leaders and we need to be advanced again. We were the first retailer to launch e-commerce in 1995, we were the first to offer a toll-free 800 number, and we need to keep being at the forefront of technology. Technology is in my head as after Saatchi & Saatchi I went to work for Samsung, then Philips, and then Ericsson.
The other element is great product offering, which you will see next year, then great marketing, building the brand and communicating. Which I believe … see, I always say “I believe.” [Laughs] I believe all these elements make the company strong and build equity. More powerful brands have more opportunities for more markets and more channels.
We’ve also been layering in additional strong players to help strengthen the team. Ian Velardi is doing the men’s line, which is looking fantastic, and I’m expecting the same from Martin Cooper for women’s. I brought in Joseph Boitano, who you know is a great merchant, so we are layering on to build a stronger product team.
On the marketing front, what can you tell us about your recent Project Runway Junior and First Lady partnership?
One of the co-founders at Project Runway is a business partner and friend and we were talking about what we could do together, to create an opportunity to do something in-line with my mission for Lands’ End to be a meaningful global lifestyle brand. I grabbed the opportunity, of course, because it was part of the Let Girls Learn campaign, which is an education initiative. Let Girls Learn is a collaboration of the Peace Corps and First Lady Michelle Obama to expand education for girls around the world.
The First Lady had made a pitch about Let Girls Learn at Fortune’s 2015 Most Powerful Women Summit in Washington, D.C., and she asked all the company to follow the example of others that already had started to be involved in girls’ education and mentioned Lands’ End as one of those companies making a difference. The news was out in front of a very powerful group of people and we were pretty excited about it.
The Project Runway Junior show involved a design challenge and that challenge winner developed and designed a backpack that we are selling on landsend.com. I’ve bought more than a few myself.
Sounds like a wonderful program. What are you looking forward to for the holidays?
One of the themes in Bruce’s video is the “Glory of Love.” I wish for everyone to find that during the holidays. Of course with some cozy and warm Lands’ End products. When we send our customers their orders in the boxes, we put a note saying, “Enjoy and thank you.” And we mean that.
And for 2016, I’m hoping we can continue to raise a lot of awareness and that will translate into more people becoming Lands’ End customers.
We hope the same. You’ve laid a great foundation. Congrats on the campaign, Bruce Weber, Project Runway and the First Lady’s Let Girls Learn project, and what we see as the beginning of one of the greatest American turnarounds.
Thank you. There have been many, but thank you.