Agility in Luxury: How Brands Can Confidently Face The Tensions Of Today's Industry


Meaghan Corzine | June 04, 2019

With this year’s “Reinventing Luxury: Strategic Conversations,” world-renowned executive business school IMD is breaking the mold when it comes to how executives learn to protect brand desirability in a highly disrupted luxury landscape.

How do luxury brands effectively tackle the challenges of today’s market while still maintaining the core values of their companies? It’s a question that many luxury leaders are asking themselves today as they enter unchartered territory in a fast-paced environment driven by digital, social, and global changes. There’s no “one size fits all” answer to this question. As each day goes by, problem-solving becomes more intricate and, quite frankly, it’s easy to get lost in the maze. 

Launched in 2017 and now in its third running year, IMD’s “Reinventing Luxury: Strategic Conversations” workshop aims to address these questions by offering unparalleled access to research content, interactivity, networking and workshop creativity to help professionals navigate an increasingly demanding world.

Why Now?

“When we looked at the market and what top business schools offer in Europe in the scene of luxury, aside from some schools that offer master programs or MBA programs, I discovered that there was nothing really substantial in the executive education space,” Stéphane J.G. Girod, IMD Professor of Strategy and Organizational Design, tells Luxury Society. 

With IMD ranked #1 in the world for open programs since 2012, according to the Financial Times, creating a safe environment for various luxury industry leaders to unveil and exchange information seemed like a natural fit given the school’s expertise. 

Learning from each other— that’s the key. Most of us know the standard industry seminar all too well— hours of brief overviews with little productive conversation— a format that IMD’s workshop is anything but. 

Instead, leading executives are given hands-on experiences, opportunities for back and forth dialogue, and concrete case studies to address the startling challenges faced by the luxury industry today. 

“What’s interesting is that although the challenges will be quite different between cosmetics, fashion and automobiles, when you attend this program you really come to realize there is a lot of common ground between them. This program has already  given birth to several company partnerships— it’s about creating an ecosystem,” Girod says. 

The 2019 edition, which will be held from Thursday, October 10 to Friday, October 11 in Monthey and Lausanne , Switzerland, is structured to cater to the specific needs at this very moment in the luxury sphere. 

Interested in knowing more about how to reinforce brand desirability?

Mystique vs. Transparency: Purpose, Content & Story-Telling 

What makes luxury interesting but more challenging is the need for doing multiple things at the same time. For example, before, all international operations could be centralized and standardized from home headquarters. Today, firms still need this global approach but they also need much more local realitivity and responsiveness. It is no longer you are either local or global, it is about both. And this requires that executives resolve these tensions in new ways. 

One of these tensions is the challenge of balancing the traditional mystique of luxury and the growing need for transparency. This is one of the themes this year.

“We are in an era where everything is more and more open. Customers want longer and deeper relationships that are not necessarily just transactional,” Girod says. “They want to know more about how things are done, what the values are, or why they should buy from a specific company. There is also the concern of brand authenticity, does the brand really do and practice what they say?”

These questions and more are triggering the need for companies to disclose more information and open up more regarding everything from their values, brand policy to story-telling. 

Girod notes that Chanel is a great example of a brand that has taken this next step and responded to consumer interests in a productive way. The fashion house recently released “Inside Chanel,” a series of 25 short films dissecting the fascinating history of the brand in the form of story-telling.

But it’s not always a simple task. For instance, this series is all about Chanel, so it's still really much inside out. But luxury brands need to add the outside in.

“The question is also how can they proceed to open up without disclosing too much? And that’s the mystique part, because luxury is also an industry based on artist creation and craftsmanship, and it needs to retain that. How you do that is rooted in the trust of the customer and this is where authenticity, purpose and value play a greater role,” Girod explains. 

Stability vs. Speedy Innovation: Agility in Luxury

The second tension the workshop will highlight is agility in luxury. What does this mean exactly? 

“Consumers want more new things all the time and they want to have a greater say in the creation itself via personalization. The real question for luxury now is how far can they accelerate all this and should they accelerate all these?” Girod says. “Often what luxury brands sell need to be sustained by rare things of which there are sometimes limited quantities. So how do you use and satisfy customers and stay relevant, but at the same time respect the slower speed of luxury, its rarity? It’s this tension between acceleration and patience that companies will need to think about. And this has important implications on the ways of working and leading in the digital age.”

For information on this year’s program and more, please visit IMD