Talking Strategy, Luxury & Digital Technology with Ana Andjelic

By: Julie Tsai

Ahead of the second annual FCD unconference, taking place in New York City on Friday, June 16th, Launchmetrics connected with 3 key panelists to discuss on key industry topics.

Joining us to discuss the future of strategy, luxury, and digital technology, is one of the industry’s most renowned business strategist. Building a brand strategy and knowing when to innovate is essential for any business to succeed in the modern age. Prior to her current role, this industry powerhouse led strategy at Spring Studios and Droga5. She’s worked with many of the world’s leading luxury brands including Loewe, LVMH, Valextra, Tom Ford, and more. Our first conversation welcomes Ana Andjelic, SVP Global Strategy Director at Havas Lux Hub.

You’ve come a long way since you’ve entered the industry. Have you always been interested in working as a strategist? How were you first introduced to this field? 

I was doing my doctorate studies and I was looking for a digital agency to do my ethnographic research at. I first went to AKQA and then to Razorfish. What started as a research project turned into a two-year stint as a strategist at Razorfish. It was just too fun not to do. It also allowed me to apply things I was studying, like organizational analysis, network theory and behavioral economics in the context of everyday business questions like how to reach a new audience or how to convey brand values and personality through digital design. 

You’ve had many great experiences working with brands from various industries. What was your favorite project so far? 

Two projects that are dear to my heart never saw the light of day. They were at two different agencies I was at and were too forward-thinking for the clients they were developed for. Later, I have seen that both of those ideas became successful startups. At least, now we know they were not only feasible but also viable and desirable ideas. 

How has technology shifted your way of thinking business strategy?

I haven’t been around long enough to know business before digital strategy. Classes I was taking during my MA program in Media Studies, and later, at Columbia Business School, taught me to consider business as an interface and digital design as a revenue stream. This was back in 2004 and 2005, way before this approach became common. I have always digital technology is not an add-on to a business, it should be in the core around which the business has been built. Similarly, digital technology is the most valuable when it is considered beyond advertising. It is not about the new advertising tools and channels to put your messages in. It is about new business models and value chains.

Digital technology is the most valuable when it is considered beyond advertising.

As most luxury brands have a rich heritage, how can luxury brands innovate themselves in this digital age?

There are few industries that pride themselves with a dream, imagination, history, and heritage like luxury. At the same time, the category is pretty bad at telling its own stories. Most of the luxury brands haven’t yet cracked the code of how to be timeless and timely. One would think that, once digital media liberated storytelling from the confines of video and print, the luxury industry would rush to seduce customers with its rich tales. Archives would be opened, books would be dusted and dreams unleashed. Luxury brands would finally have the opportunity to weave the fabric of their fables in an interactive, immersive and compelling way, across all customer touchpoints. They would participate in a larger cultural conversation and provide their audiences with references, inspiration and lifestyle ammunition unmatched by any other industry. This hasn’t happened. 

Today, greater cultural influence comes from companies that do not belong to traditional luxury. They are unburdened with the way the business is done, and they look at storytelling with the fresh eyes of the modern luxury consumer. They succeed because they build their business on the cultural language and direct relationship with their customer. Modern taste-aware audiences consume a strong point of view, convincing beliefs and compelling values. Luxury brands should be able to offer all of this.

Today, greater cultural influence comes from companies that do not belong to traditional luxury.

Many luxury brands are known to be slow with adapting to technology or innovation, what are some challenges you face when it comes to proposing an innovative solution to a luxury brand? 

There needs to be a phase of education first. Marketing and brand image managers are luxury brands have impeccable taste and they know and love brands they work for. The key is to speak their language, to show that you too are part of their team and their social circle and that you have the same love for their brand as they do. Once this trust is established, everything else becomes easier. You’d be surprised how open-minded they become once they accept you into their fold. They are happy to try different things out and they listen to advice when it comes to how to use digital technology to grow their market and their brand.

Throughout your career, how has the luxury consumers’ shopping habits and consumer behavior shifted? What are the three keys to success for brands to target the modern day consumer?

Again, I haven’t been doing this long enough to know the world of luxury consumers before the Internet. For me, it is just a matter of a degree of a certain behavior and a matter of the dominant social platform. Whereas last year, it was Snapchat that captured everyone’s attention, today it’s all about Instagram Stories. Consumers want things faster, better, more seamless, more immediate. That’s maybe different than 5 years ago, before Uber and Caviar and Net-a-Porter’s one-hour delivery. 

Today’s it’s all about immediacy, transparency, the relevance of information and personalization. It’s also about having a personal connection with a brand and identifying with its mission and purpose. Goop’s or Glossier’s loyal communities are a good example of brand-building today. Fans love these brands because they give them something to identify with.

Today’s it’s all about immediacy, transparency, the relevance of information and personalization

What excites you when you think of the future fashion and luxury industry? 

There is a lot that digital technology can do to make these industries more aligned with the values of the modern luxury consumer. This is an exciting evolution. If the 20th century was the age of the corporation, the 21st century is the age of the consumer. Luxury consumer is showing luxury and fashion brands the way forward. They are showing the brands what they want to wear and buy and talk about, and not the other way around. They want to know the origin of materials, the factories where the items were produced, the distribution process. But they also want the superior service and experience, in the one-step-ahead of you, white-glove way. That’s where data and AI come in. Luxury consumers still want a beautiful product, but now it needs to also be functional. They want a compelling story. Who knows if we are going be using iPhones in 20 years, but as humans, we will definitely still be enamored by a good story.

What excites you about the Fashion Culture Design Unconference? 

It’s a place where people speak more honestly than in other gatherings. Participants are more willing to tackle difficult issues head-on and to debate them. It’s productive to have a place where dialogue and constructive difference of opinions are welcomed and encouraged. It makes for a more informative and educational conversation.

For more insightful conversations from Ana Andjelic, follow her on Twitter and Instagram or check out her personal website at www.andjelicaaa.com. She’ll also be speaking at this year’s Unconference, hosted by Fashion Culture Design. For more info visit www.fashionculturedesign.com and use code LM25 for 25% off tickets. We hope to see you there!