Interviews

Tammy Smulders, President, Wednesday

In the post climate crisis world, Tammy Smulders, President at Wednesday examines how luxury brands are redefining the value of craft and sustainability.

Nicola Kemp

Managing Editor, BITE

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“I’ve always been driven by moving culture forward and doing things differently.” As President of Wednesday, Tammy Smulders is at the creative forefront of the intersection of fashion, technology and culture.

Smulders won Women in Marketing’s Intrapreneur of the Year award when she was Global MD of Havas LuxHub, a recognition of her entrepreneurial spirit. Havas Media acquired insight agency SCB Partners, which was co-founded by Smulders, in April 2013. The agency combined quantitative and qualitative insight to deliver consumer trends and forecasting, with a focus on high net worth individuals. Having left Havas to join VICE as President of the luxury and fashion group, she joined Wednesday, which operates as an independent agency in the BBDO network specialised on fashion, luxury and lifestyle.

In the midst of the climate crisis, it is a pivotal era for luxury brands as the products and behaviours which consumers derive status from continue to shift. According to Smulders, the “feel good factor” in shopping is shifting. She explains, “Consumers are becoming more pointed about the choices that they are making and making that choice about products standing for the right thing.” This shift, Smulders believes is a particular focus of younger Millennials and Generation Z shoppers.

I’ve always been driven by moving culture forward and doing things differently.

Tammy Smulders

Conscious consumerism

“There is an overall level of consciousness that has come over the luxury industry,” she says. However, she points to the fact that craft has always been key to luxury products so they do not have to be so constrained by the challenge that consumers will quickly discard them. As the antithesis of fast fashion in many ways, the luxury market is not as exposed to shifting consumption patterns as less sustainable brands.

“People buy luxury products because it makes them feel good. But if you want to feel good about the products you buy, that is very much based on the values of those products,” explains Smulders.

She believes as an industry there is much to do to address the myriad issues surrounding climate and sustainability. For example, what do with unsold goods? “New business models are emerging surrounding rental and there are new opportunities coming through,” she adds.

Market opportunities

From the role of blockchain in ensuring sustainability through the production process, to the burgeoning secondary sales market, the luxury market is facing up to new opportunities and tech driven opportunities. “People buying luxury want the story of the craft behind a product, but also a story of brand values. Being able to add to that story with technology, whether looking at the products creation or what that product or brand represents, will continue to be an important development,” adds Smulders.

Then of course there is the looming challenge of Brexit. “We are all looking at what it means to be British in a post-Brexit world,” says Smulders. Yet she points to the fact that British luxury brands inhabit an intrinsically global world: “British luxury brands like Burberry are diverse and international. They are exciting global brands, which form part of a global world of luxury.”

People buying luxury want the story of the craft behind a product, but also a story of brand values.

Tammy Smulders

Collaboration drives growth

As a leader in luxury marketing, Smulders has a clear view on the challenges and opportunities presented by being a woman in marketing. “Creativity is a very meritocratic world. Your work stands for itself; yet as I have become more senior you see the field of women narrowing in the boardroom,” she explains. As she reflects on her own career, Smulders notes that she has always had a majority of women on her team. “I’m always looking for the best talent and there are so many talented women in our industry,” she adds.

Reflecting on the role of Women In Marketing in driving her career forward, Smulders says that supportive environments help create opportunities. “Omnicom has an active women’s network and we recognise the contributions women make,” she explains.

As Women in Marketing celebrates a decade of the Women in Marketing awards, Smulders points to the power of the organisation. She explains, “I really respect what Ade [Onilude, the founder] has built. She has an amazing ability to find interesting women who are shaping the marketing world and bring people together.”