Magazine article Marketing

The Marketing Interview: Scott Morrison, Diesel

Magazine article Marketing

The Marketing Interview: Scott Morrison, Diesel

Article excerpt

The apparel brand's marketing and commercial director is applying an FMCG approach to fashion as it embarks on an ambitious plan for growth, writes Rachel Barnes.

The FMCG sector is about as far removed from fashion as one can get Laundry powder and detergents are hardly the stuff of inspiration for a mainstream clothing brand aspiring to a premium positioning.

For Diesel, however, the Procter & Gamble approach is the bedrock of its strategy. After its 90s heyday, the brand lost its footing by targeting too-young consumers who couldn't really afford its products. As such, Diesel struggled to compete with emerging, cheaper, fast-fashion retailers.

This is where FMCG came in. The 35-year-old Italian brand's key management personnel are P&G alumni, including chief executive Daniela Riccardi and Jonny Hewlett, managing director for the UK and Northern Europe. They knew a repositioning was needed, requiring fresh thinking of the sort not usually found in fashion.

Although marketing and commercial director Scott Morrison does not hail from the corridors of P&G, he first got to grips with the FMCG sector while at Saatchi & Saatchi, working on brands from Benecol to Oil of Olay, followed by a stint as marketing director at gaming firm Activision. It is at the latter, he says, where he honed this valued FMCG approach, which he and Hewlett have now bedded in to Diesel's UK business.

'At first, when you say we're bringing people in from P&G, there is a culture shock,' says Morrison, who is meeting Marketing at Diesel's concrete, warehouse-style office in London's King's Cross. 'People think, 'Oh my god, they're not like us.' But the reality is that the people who have come from P&G have slotted in seamlessly.'

Bringing some of that P&G framework to Diesel has added 'more commerciality, slightly more structure, helped shape the business more for growth and given it more direction', explains Morrison, although he is quick to add that all this hasn't been at the expense of the Diesel culture.

'It's not about being robots or brainwashed; you want the entrepreneurial spirit and the passion from people,' he says. 'The world of fashion can be seen by some as fluffy. However, there are a lot of very astute business people in this world - Renzo (Rosso, Diesel's founder and owner) being one of them. But Renzo's entrepreneurial brilliance can take the business only so far: the business gets huge, you're in so many countries around the world, you have loads of stores, it becomes a very difficult thing to manage. That's when you need a disciplined, structured, focused framework.'

Fashion first

Morrison believes that Diesel is one of the first fashion brands to adopt this approach. At the centre of the model is a long-term view of the brand, and 'collaborative growth' - a complex process for a company that, although it has direct control of its brand through 400 stores in 80 countries, as well as its websites, also has the more unpredictable side of thousands of retail stockists to contend with.

Many of the latter, seeking to control costs, are no longer willing to buy big quantities of stock at the beginning of a season, preferring to wait to see how sales pan out before replenishing popular lines as demand dictates.

This shifting of risk from the retailers to the brand has compelled Diesel to reconsider its partnerships. 'You have to be looking at where the business is moving to in the next three to five years. We need to deliver long-term growth that is both profitable and sustainable, rather than a short-term gain with a (retailer) that might then sell out of the brand the following season,' says Morrison. 'I'm from an agency background, and about 70% of an agency's new business comes from existing customers. With a lifestyle brand such as Diesel, it's so important that you maintain and grow the customers that you have. …

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