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What can marketers learn from Apple's appointment of Angela Ahrendts?
With the announcement that Angela Ahrendts, CEO of Burberry, is leaving to become Senior Vice President of Retail and Online Stores for Apple, we take a look at her career to see how she has jumped industries to work for the world's most valuable brand.
Ahrendts will report to Apple CEO, Tim Cook, in the newly created position to expand Apple's retail and online stores globally. Cook is hoping Ahrendts can use her vast retail experience and digital acumen to ‘build Apple's position as a global luxury brand, particularly in China where Burberry has grown rapidly while the tech giant has struggled.'
With an interest in fashion from an early age, Ahrendts completed a marketing and merchandising degree in the US. After graduating she moved to New York to begin her fashion career working for Donna Karan, before later joining Liz Claiborne Inc as the VP of Merchandising and Design in 1998. In 2008 Ahrendts was hired by Burberry to work closely with Christopher Bailey to revive the brand's image and return it to its former heritage as an iconic British Brand. Ahrendts is credited with 'transforming the brand into a digitally-savvy, international powerhouse, giving it a dramatic makeover.'
Inspired by Apple
Unlike many marketers, competitor fashion labels didn't influence Ahrendts. Instead, she told The Wall Street Journal in 2010 "If I look to any company as a model, its Apple. They're a brilliant design company working to create a lifestyle, and that's the way I see us."
Together, Ahrendts and Bailey revolutionised digital fashion. Burberry became the first fashion house to premiere its collection on Twitter and sell collections via 3D video Livestream before appearing in-store six months later.
Ahrendts' parting collaboration was in September 2013 when Apple gave Burberry exclusive access to the iPhone 5S to use for its Spring/Summer 2014 collections, to capture photos and video during the runway show and backstage. Less than a month later, it was announced that Ahrendts would join Apple to lead the retail side of the operation.
What can we learn from Ahrendts?
For marketers who want to cross industries or have always dreamt of working for an iconic brand, Ahrendts' journey is a reassuring sign that leaps are achievable. It was her leadership style, digital innovation and cultural fit that made her move to Apple possible. She also shared the same vision.
If you are looking to move across industries but have no sector experience, then look for brands that have company cultures that fit your vision and goals as a marketer. If you have digital experience, search for vacancies that require more digital acumen as these skills are currently in high demand by employers, and will help launch you to the top of the CV pile.
If you're a Marketing Manager or Director with digital experience, there are many opportunities available that may fast-track a rise to board level. Marketing Week reported that many brands need candidates with leadership qualities and a track record in innovation to enable them to develop their digital offering quickly.
In the future, a bigger barrier to moving across industries, and up the career ladder in general, could be a lack of digital knowledge and experience. Brands need Managers, Directors and CEOs with the know-how to bridge the gap between marketing and IT, and lead the way with digital innovation.
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