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.
About Daria Burke
Daria Burke is an independent strategic marketing and brand strategy consultant in New York City, helping clients with a range of marketing initiatives including brand strategy, marketing communication, positioning and digital marketing. Daria earned her MBA from the Stern School of Business at New York University in 2008, where she specialized in Marketing and Strategy. Daria received a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from the University of Michigan in 2001. She was one of the 10 founding members of Rent the Runway, an online fashion startup. She is also the Founder and CEO of Black MBA Women, the premier organization dedicated to creating professional and social development opportunities for African-American women with MBAs from elite business schools.
Most recently, Daria Burke served as the Director of Makeup Marketing for the Estée Lauder brand where she led the strategy, market plan development and new product launches for the makeup category in North America. She also has worked in brand management at L’Oreal USA on the Lancôme and Yves Saint Laurent Beaute brands, developing and implementing strategic brand positioning of the beauty and fragrance categories. Throughout her career, Daria has been invited to speak to both undergraduate and MBA students on a myriad of career development topics at Harvard, Columbia, Brown, and New York University.