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Marco Bizzarri: Revolutionizing Gucci’s Brand Culture

When you think of brand culture for the fashion industry, what do you think of? Of course, my mind immediately thinks of the movie The Devil Wears Prada. The movie stars Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly, a powerful fashion magazine editor, and Anne Hathaway as Andrea "Andy" Sachs, a college graduate who lands a job as Priestly's co-assistant.

From the beginning of the movie, most of her co-workers treat Andy quite poorly. Also, Miranda constantly bullies and humiliates her. In fact, Miranda takes pleasure in belittling all her employees. She enjoyed crushing any ideas they offered.

Miranda Priestly gif
Miranda took every chance to break her employees' creative spirit.

There was no room for individuality. Any attempt at creative thinking crushed. And you could forget about having a personal life. That was for mere mortals. Not the fashion gods.

Surely this movie goes far beyond what brand culture in the fashion industry is really like, right? Perhaps Mery Streep was looking to gain yet another Oscar to her collection portraying a soul-crushing character.

As much as I would like to tell you this movie is a far cry from what brand culture is like in fashion, I’m afraid it really isn’t. Of course, the movie might exaggerate certain aspects for entertainment purposes. But the truth is, the brand culture in fashion is based on fear.

Andy working under fear-based brand culture
Andy lived in constant fear of losing her job.

However, one person refused to give in to the fear and tried to change things to a more positive environment. Marco Bizzarri was brave enough to go against the norm in the fashion industry. Read along to learn about Bizzarri’s fascinating business outlook. He might help you revolutionize your business as well.

Who is Marco Bizzarri?

Marco Bizzarri, brand culture revolutionary
Italian business executive, Marco Bizzarri.

Before we tell you how Marco Bizzarri revolutionized brand culture, let’s first take a look at his roots. Bizzarri was born in 1962 in Reggio Emilia, Italy. He was an only child. He considers that his business side comes from his father and his humanity from his mother.

Bizzarri started his career as a consultant for the financial advisory firm Accenture in 1986. In 1993, he joined the Bologna-based Mandarina Duck group. He later became CEO of the group. In 2004, he became general manager of the designer brand Marithé et François Girbaud.

In 2005, Marco Bizzarri became President and CEO of Stella McCartney. With his help, the company turned a profit for the first time in 2007. In addition, he developed a lifestyle-oriented brand and drove its international development.

Later on, Marco Bizzarri became the President and CEO of Bottega Veneta in 2009. He rapidly changed its distribution to reposition it in Europe and worked on a less conservative buying. As a result, in 2012, Bottega Veneta’s sales reached the $1 billion mark.

Then in April 2014, Marco Bizzarri became CEO of Kering’s newly-created Couture and Leather Goods division, directly supervising most of Kering’s luxury brands.

Finally, in December 2014, Kering named Marco Bizzarri President and CEO of its flagship luxury brand Gucci.

Fear-based Brand Culture

When Bizzarri became President and CEO at Gucci, he wanted to change the fear-based brand culture that Gucci operated under. Like in most fashion companies, Bizzarri saw that the employees were constantly afraid of losing their jobs.

Undoubtedly, this led to poor working conditions. Employees had to come in early and leave late. They were afraid of making a mistake that would get them fired. People didn’t want to risk thinking outside of the box. Everyone seemed stuck in the old ways.

Brand culture based on fear can be a cruel reality.

Definitely, the fashion industry is fueled by big egos that operate based on fear. Bizzarri is against this way of thinking. Above all, Bizarri believes in respecting people. He is committed to them.

Furthermore, Bizzarri completely transformed the company. When he came into Gucci, he came into a culture of fear. He instead turned it into a culture of inspiration and empowerment.

Absolutely, there is no denying this was a difficult feat. Yet, Bizzarri was triumphant. What was his secret? Well, he lives by a straightforward yet effective philosophy: people come first. He has transformed the company through humanity, joy, and humility.

In addition, Bizzarri believes that creating a positive brand culture helps to foster creativity. Employees take intelligent risks if they’re not under the constant fear of being fired for a mistake.

Marco Bizzarri speaks about brand culture
A culture of respect yields positive results.

Also, Bizarri has a strong belief in partnership. His humility made him realize that he could not change things at Gucci on his own. His first move was to name 12-year Gucci creative team veteran, Alessandro Michel, creative director of the brand. As a result, Michel successfully managed to renew the brand's popularity.

Alessandro Michel with Marco Bizzarri image
Creative director Alessandro Michel with Marco Bizzarri.

Brand Culture Shock

In contrast to what other newly appointed CEOs might have done, Bizzarri definitely chose an unconventional route. On his first day walking down the doors at Gucci, Bizzarri noticed they were covered in black and white pictures. They were all pictures of celebrities from the ’60s and ’70s.

Unquestionably, Bizzarri knew the brand was stuck in the past. They were not looking to the future. This was a major point he felt had to change. Indeed, he had to find an impactful way to bring his point of view across. However, Bizarri had the challenge of doing this while also respecting the brand’s past.

What Bizzarri did next had many questioning his sanity. He had all the pictures removed from the corridor with no explanation. Obviously, some people at Gucci felt displeased with this action. “He doesn’t respect our past!” they exclaimed, indignant.

No respect meme
Not everyone felt happy with Bizzarri’s actions at first.

However, Bizzari wasn’t trying to go against the brand’s past. On the contrary, he believed that was the brand’s strength. What he wanted to incorporate were the people that are relevant today. Bizzarri believes change is necessary to grow.

A Revolution Based on People

Bizzarri knew he had to create an environment where people could take intelligent risks and be creative. His goal was for his people to do this without fear of making a mistake that would get them fired.

Without a doubt, this wasn't easy to achieve. While these changes fostered creativity, it was also necessary to ensure the company would continue to grow. Bizzarri had to fight every day to make sure people had the freedom to express themselves.

At that time, the Gucci brand was going down, which gave Bizzarri the courage to promote change. Gucci could no longer remain stagnant in its legacy.

Also, what helped Bizzarri be successful at creating change was personally getting to know the people at the company. He presented them with the strategies he wanted to work with. This helped others to believe in Bizzarri and his vision. He didn’t just tell his people what they had to do. He showed them how.

These changes empowered the people at the company. They felt involved. Finally, after many years, they felt they could be free to use their creativity.

Image promoting positive brand culture among employees
A brand culture based on people instead of fear yields positive results.

Not only did Bizzarri gain his people’s support, but he also brought on positive changes for all the company. For example, Bizzarri stopped the brand's markdown policy, favored cross-gendered collections and unified fashion shows, and banned the use of fur by the brand. Gucci also amplified its digital strategy to grow its customer base on social networks. Thanks to Bizzarri, Gucci's annual sales grew from 3.9 billion euros in 2015 to 9.6 billion euros in 2019.

Brand Culture: Your Brand’s Foundation

Above all, if you take away anything from Marco Bizzarri’s experience, let it be this: believe in the people you work with. Encourage them instead of diminishing them. Brand culture requires time and effort. Your people need to be supporters of your brand’s vision and mission.

Your culture is your brand quote
Tony Hsieh’s quote makes it crystal clear.

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By
Laura Amarillas
On
September 28, 2021
8
min read