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Strategy

How can tomorrow’s luxury deal with its heritage?

Knowing how to project oneself into the future, anticipating trends and innovating whilst keeping one's heritage intact is the key to successful management. This was also the theme of the conference organised by The Vendôm Company in front of students connected for the occasion. The highlights and the replay of the conference are available here.

Isabella Hübscher

By Isabella Hübscher26 octobre 2021

The luxury hotel industry must adapt to the expectations of tomorrow's talent (Shutterstock)

The conference “Corporate culture: how tomorrow’s luxury can deal with heritage” organised by The Vendôm Company and moderated by Cristina D’Agostino, founder and editor-in-chief of Luxury Tribune reunited on the 7th of October 2021 three industry experts on luxury, entertainment and hospitality. On stage, live from Geneva and broadcast via zoom, François-Henry Bennahmias, CEO of Audemars Piguet, Mathieu Jaton, CEO of the Montreux Jazz Festival and Philippe Rubod, Founder and CEO of Swiss Hospitality Global discussed how they have managed change in their respective industries, defined the notion of innovation and how to manage it, while preserving their brand's desirability to tomorrow's talent.

Never sell your soul

François-Henry Bennahmias, CEO of Audemars Piguet since 2012 (DR)

We call "casual luxury" a world where anything is possible, as long as the brand does not sell its soul, nor detach itself from its DNA

François-Henry Bennahmias, CEO of Audemars Piguet

It was with the importance of desirability for luxury brands that the debate was launched by Cristina D'Agostino. Indeed, being innovative, visionary or ethical are no longer sufficient prerequisites to remain competitive today. Concepts such as inclusion, mentoring and empathy are strong concepts that industries must be able to deploy in their management and internal and external communication, in order to seduce the public, but also to recruit young talents. Concepts that could define what we could call "casual luxury". On this subject, François-Henry Bennahmias explained: "In the past, all industries were separate and did not seek to penetrate other worlds than their own. However, over the last ten years, the walls have come down, making luxury richer and more inclusive through cross-functions between different worlds. Today, we see fashion brands collaborating with singers, designers, artists. This open-mindedness defines what we can call "casual luxury". A world where anything is possible, as long as the brand does not sell its soul, nor detach itself from its DNA." The Audemars Piguet boss then recalled the importance of embracing pop culture, where worlds such as music, sport and art among others come together. "Signing the partnership with the Montreux Jazz Festival was another step for Audemars Piguet in its entry into pop culture. Everywhere on the planet, music is preponderant, shaping cultures. You can't separate these worlds and continue in the same vein as you did 40 years ago.”

Attracting new talents

Philippe Rubod, CEO and founder of Swiss Hospitality Global (DR)

The most important values and goals of the younger generation are work-life balance and a sense of purpose in the workplace

Philippe Rubod, CEO of Swiss Hospitality Global

Another observation of this need to broaden mentalities in the luxury industry is that the new generation entering the professional world seem to be seeking different objectives than in the past. The consequence is cruel: in France, there is a shortage of 10,000 workers in the luxury industry, according to the Comité Colbert. "Older generations found their motivation in the notions of prestige and pride that brands could offer, as well as working for an affluent clientele. But today, things have changed," says Philippe Rubod, CEO of Swiss Hospitality Global. In my opinion, the most important values and goals of the younger generation are work-life balance and a sense of purpose in the workplace. Companies that can meet these will have the advantage in recruiting and retaining young talent. Another important point is that people over 50 should not be left out, as they bring skills that can add real value to a company. They have the great quality of accumulating experience, including in crisis situations. They also have a culture, which is crucial for the luxury industry. For many reasons, they show greater loyalty to their employers and also have fewer family constraints, so they can devote more time and passion to their work."

Mentorship as inspiration

Mathieu Jaton, CEO of the Montreux Jazz Festival, took over from his mentor Claude Nobs in 2013 (DR)

Even though the younger generation has its own values and goals, it still remains important to show the right direction. But what makes a good mentor? “There are different ways of doing things now, compared to the past. But when you get the chance to learn values from your mentor that you can share with him, it ties you together, emphasised Mathieu Jaton, who has taken over the heritage of his mentor Claude Nobs, founder of the Montreux Jazz Festival, in 2013. I think the future of mentoring is having someone you respect and admire, but not in the sense of following, the admiration as inspiration. A mentor is not a teacher. He or she is someone who gives you inspiration and the keys to move further. It’s important to not just copy paste what a mentor has done, it’s thinking about the main values of a brand and taken them further with your heart, your personality  without ever changing the DNA of the company.”

A good mentor is someone who gives you inspiration and the keys to move further

Mathieu Jaton, CEO of the Montreux Jazz Festival

François-Henry Bennahmias added: “I love the fact that at some point you can give back what you’ve learned. But as previously mentioned, it’s not about teaching, it’s about fostering talent and pushing people that can challenge you as well. It’s not a one-way road anymore, it’s the sharing of a passion. And as a mentor, the best reward you can get is making someone a better version of themselves.”

The pandemic was an accelerator for a change that had to be done

While brands are asked to reinvent themselves, they are also constantly disrupted by their environment, the socio-economic situation. The challenge for a brand is to successfully innovate while maintaining its heritage. The Covid-19 pandemic was an accelerator for a change that had to be made," explained Mathieu Jaton, who faced a huge challenge within the entertainment industry caused by the coronavirus. We must not stick to what we did in the past, we must think differently, forgetting the procedures, but never forgetting the values. That's what we did when we created this stage on the lake, a crazy project, but one that was incredibly successful. Claude Nobs would have had this madness too.”

The stage on the lake of the Montreux Jazz Festival 2021 ((c)FFJM - Emilien Itim)

The luxury industry was also strongly affected by Covid and had to adapt. "Suddenly, nobody was travelling anymore. We were faced with shop closures and our customers were far away, which forced us to reinvent ourselves very quickly, to think local. We should have worked on this years ago. We had to think about how we could better reach the local customers and create new ways of communicating with them. I said to my team: "Keep in touch with the customers, but don't talk to them about watches". As a result, we have seen the customers come back even stronger," stressed the Audemars Piguet CEO. However, the greatest success of 2020 was to succeed in bringing together and motivating our entire team, and making it stronger than ever. We worked with the conviction that we had to be strong on the inside, in order to be better on the outside."

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