The Sig Survey No.10: THE PROMOTION FACTORY CEO VENANZIO CIAMPA

VENANZIO CIAMPA
Founder
+ CEO
The Promotion Factory

A NOTE FROM SIGnature: “The Sig Surveys” were undeniably amongst our more popular features on SIGnature in 2011, and as such they will live to see another year in 2012. However, they will be different… As time went on the original idea of the Surveys (to ask luxury industry CEOs/Co. Founders/Chairmen the same seven questions so one could cross reference the responses) was diluted with extremely long (often twice as long as the Q&A itself) preludes. Therefore, in 2012 you will see a far more focused “Sig Survey”, one that cuts straight to the subjects’ responses. —Sig

THE PROMOTION FACTORY IS THE BRAINCHILD OF VENANZIO CIAMPA , who started his career as a journalist based in both Italy and the United States. In the early 1990’ Mr. Ciampa’s career took a turn that would impact the next twenty years of his life, when he became a marketing consultant for the Italian film studio Cinecittà here in New York City—the networking opportunities were endless for a young ambitious man.

Buona fortuna smiled on Mr. Ciampa again in late 1995, when he became an independent consultant for Omega watches—the rest, as they say, is history. He would go on to become the International Marketing Director for Omega. In 1999, Mr. Ciampa joined LVMH Moët Hennessy • Louis Vuitton S.A as international marketing consultant. And at the end of his LVMH agreement, he jumped to the Swatch Group to head up marketing for its eponymous brand as head of communications for U.S. Upon leaving Swatch Group in 2004, Mr. Ciampa opened his own shop, a full- service integrated branding agency with an emphasis on marketing and public relations and an impressive roster of past/present watch clients, including: Hublot, Girard Perregaux, Fredrique Constant and Glam Rock Watches, among many others in the fashion apparel and accessories arena.

I met Mr. Ciampa a year or so after he opened the Promotion Factory, while I was the Editorial Director of Trump Magazine; we became fast friends and have remained so ever since. The interview below took place over a lovely old-fashioned long lunch in a restaurant near Mr. Ciampa’s Flatiron District offices; I would like to think we were simpatico, to borrow one of Mr. Ciampa’s favorite expressions, then and now.

How would you describe the Promotion Factory style as it applies to luxury clients?  Our “corporate style”, certainly has some constants regardless of the client’s business. I truly try to bring value to the brand. I also explain to everyone prior to bringing them onboard that we are not in it for a quick hit. The Promotion Factory is an eclectic mix: part agency, part corporate, part creative— a harmonious mix of different talent on the table.  I try to teach each one of the Promotion Factory account directors to think as if they are the CEO of the brand they are working with; it creates a level of internal confidence and ownership.

What is your definition of luxury?  This is a difficult question to answer today.  On the surface, luxury has something to do with heritage and tradition. You may say it has something to do with how you produce.  Overall, it is really a state of mind.  It is something that exists and doesn’t exist at the same time.  It’s a little bit something that you know in your stomach, sometimes more than what a brand maybe tries to propose.

What is your assessment of the luxury market today?  I think the state of luxury is in pretty great shape.  But I think the key thing to keep in mind is the many variations of luxury: from mass luxury to true, bespoke—these are not the same. Yes, they are both luxury. And to the purchasing consumer both appreciate the concept of “artisanship”. But beyond the price point is a mindset. Mass luxury offers a certain conspicuous outward validation, with true bespoke or bench made there is an element of inward confidence , the approval comes from self-satisfaction—so there is a departure or deviation in the psychographic after the mutual appreciation of artisanship. Over time the distinction of these two concepts of luxury will grow to the point where perhaps there will be a split, a bifurcation in the term “luxury” itself. This is what’s very interesting to me.

Would you say the US is a major market driver?  Absolutely.  While it’s great we see new, developing markets such as China, Brazil and India, I still feel that companies love to work in the U.S. America is still a fascinating country for luxury.  Just this morning I was with two Italians from a well-known agency and they said it is still the best place to be; there are so many influences, especially in New York, where so much that is created. At the end of the day, people still love to do business with America.  It goes beyond the pure commerciality of it. It is like having your brand validated by the US and that is key. With all due respect to China, a brand validated by the Chinese just doesn’t mean as much.

What has been your biggest challenge in luxury?  A very happy challenge was Hublot.  When Jean-Claude Biver [until recently CEO of Hublot, now Biver serves as Board Chairman] took this brand, it did not mean much to anyone. It had some success in the 1980s and early 1990s, but when Biver came on board it was still like building a brand from scratch: year one, introduce the product; year two, create the market. Today, Hublot has reached a certain pinnacle. When you have Jay-Z and Kanye West singing about a brand, that’s quite an achievement. On the other hand, there is certain listlessness to what one can do.  We have made luxury mass and mass luxury, we have people who love us and can afford us and we have people who love us and cannot afford us.

Describe the perfect/ideal client for Promotion FactoryIt is a client that doesn’t see us just as an agency but as an arm of their brand, a client that challenges us on a daily basis.  A client that doesn’t look at the standard platforms and say, do it this way but actually says, be unique, be original, and think differently if you wish.

What do you think is the next big thing?  We haven’t seen yet the limits of what digital can bring us. Luxury and digital have had some common moments but they still need to find total integration.  It will be interesting to see how luxury brands work in to the digital world.  No doubt we will be living more and more in the twitter lingo, the Facebook ads, but the question is how do luxury brands maximize that?  It is almost like two youngsters holding hands; how do we get them to embrace?  And how will the consumer interpret the luxury brands in the digital space? So I would have to say the next big thing is to see how technology and luxury mix. The answer to this might well be in looking at what are the consumers going to ask of the brands?

[Portrait provided by The Promotion Factory]

About SIGnature

As a commentator and influencer, Aaron “Sig” Sigmond writes and speaks about male-positioned (often prestige) brands well before they hit the mainstream media and consumers—including those selected below. Sig, who coined the phrase, “Because Style Never Goes out of Fashion” as the tagline for his 1990’s men’s fashion periodical Dossier-For Everyman, is considered to be a true arbiter of good taste.
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