Big news for L2: This week, Luxury Daily named L2 Research Director Danielle Bailey as a Luxury Woman to Watch in 2015. Bailey has spoken as an expert on Alibaba, social media and mobile. In this Q&A she talks about the non-luxurious start to her career (involves tree sap and smoothing over failed home renovations), how luxury brands have been slow to extend the velvet rope online, and why passion alone doesn’t cut it in the luxury business.
Tell us about your career path. Did you start out in luxury?
The start of my career was anything but luxurious and traditional, but it was the best business foundation I could have ever hoped for. I started out my career at The Home Depot’s corporate headquarters in Atlanta. I was a Systems Engineering major undergrad and when I came out all companies wanted engineers to do was fix COBOL code – NO THANK YOU. I wanted to learn business and Home Depot was not only willing to let me learn, but to give me responsibility way beyond my experience and exposure to the C-suite. I completed their 2-year Business Leadership Rotational Program touching IT, Biz Dev, Logistics, and even a 6-month stint as a store manager. There is nothing like having a customer yelling inches from your face about a kitchen remodel that has left them without an oven for 3 months or being covered in tree sap after loading a Christmas tree onto a customer’s roof.
I went back and got my MBA from NYU Stern, which is where I met Scott Galloway, by far my favorite professor. After several years of working at mobile start-ups in the early 2000s, rather than on Wall St. or as a Brand Manager, and waiting for the mobile tipping point to arrive (which it didn’t until years later), I was contemplating going to get a PHD and looking for research opportunities when I miraculously ran into Scott Galloway in the subway. He mentioned he was doing research on luxury and digital and that I should be in touch. I did and have been with L2 ever since. Watching L2 grow and the luxury industry grow with us has been a fascinating experience.
You mention in the Luxury Daily interview the aversion of luxury brands to Facebook presence a few years ago. How have luxury categories changed? Are you seeing similar patterns of resistance?
Based on “The Burberry Effect” – I think the pendulum might have swung too far in the other direction – there was an all out arms race for followers on social – this is helpful now that social is paid media, but in many cases it was done at the exclusion of addressing real issue. People only paid attention to what brands like Burberry and Nordstrom were doing on social, but missed the way these brands were investing digital to radically transform their backend operations and customer service. These investments are much more difficult and costly, but by integrating online and offline early these brands are prepared for what is now an omnichannel world – while many luxury brands are caught flat-footed.
I don’t think it is the same kind of resistance that there was to social, but I think that luxury brands have also been slow to leverage digital as a means of segmenting and personalizing to extend the velvet rope online.
What advice do you have for those looking to have a successful career in luxury?
While knowledge and passion for luxury brands is good – everyone in the industry has that. What is more important is having tangible, differentiated skills that you can bring to the table, understanding the industry’s challenges and customers, and best practices from other industries that can be brought to bare.