Angela Kapp on retail marketing, branding, and stepping out of the comfort zone

I read about Angela Kapp on Seth Godin’s book ‘The Icarus Deception’ and mentioned her on our Real Leaders project team meeting. Dhanya reached out to Angela and Angela agreed to interview with us and I enjoyed reading and listening to her. Thank you, Seth, and thank you, Angela.

About Angela: Angela Kapp is an entrepreneur, digital pioneer, multi-channel retail expert, and serial traveler. Angela is president of Kappcorp, an advisory and investment company for her interests. She currently works with select fashion and beauty brands in the U.S. and China on consumer marketing and global expansion. She is also the executive vice chairman of The Luxury Club (Hui She Shang), the first brand-authorized luxury e-tailer in China, and a strategic advisor to Baozun, the leading digital and e-commerce service provider in China.

For 17 years, Angela was a senior executive at Estee Lauder Companies. At ELC, Angela created and was the general manager of three different multi-million dollar businesses in three retail arenas: freestanding stores, online, and on university campuses. Internet World hailed her as one of the “Top 25 Shapers of the Net.” Shhe was a member of ELC’s Executive Management Group. Prior to ELC, Angela was founder and president of New York Wise, a fundraising and special events firm.

Angela is a sought-after commentator on multi-channel retailing and global luxury consumers. She is frequently called upon by press, including CNN, The New York Times, China Business Daily, Wired, and Women’s Wear Daily. She is a co-founder of the elite industry group DIG (Digital Influencers Group).

My favorite bits –

“If I look back, my dreams were always changing. Most of the things that I’m doing I might have bet you 5 years ago that I’d never be doing. That’s part of the interest of life.”

One of the things that’s true in fashion, or luxury, or beauty (but particularly in fashion and luxury) is that you typically have a creative force. You have Tom Ford at Gucci; you have Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren. But then you have the business side. That duo is really important, and when understanding how to deal with someone who is a creative force, the business person is actually someone who can serve you a lot.”

(On Wharton) “They used to say that you’re going to make a finite amount of mistakes in your life. The point of business school is to let you get some of those mistakes out of the way where it’s not going to cost you anything.”

“Depending on the category that you’re in, the internet is either your lifeline or it’s an enhancement to what you do. If you’re in office supplies, it’s your lifeline because nobody’s ever going to walk in to buy office supplies again. You’re not going to walk in to retail. You better invest all of your money in that. If you’re in the beauty business, it’s enhancing and it’s convenient; it has a sense of opportunity and intimacy. Great merchandising makes you want to buy stuff. You have to understand both, and then play them to their best advantage.”

“What people forget is just how much of the luxury business is driven by the aspirational consumer. It’s not the man or woman who can afford everything, but it’s the one that wants to afford just one thing. There’s a lot of business being done by those people.”

“Don’t leave before you leave.” I’m a firm believer of that. Don’t start thinking about the next thing. Make sure this thing gets done. In fact, in everything that I’ve done, I always keep a picture of the last thing that I did to remind of where I was, but also to remind me that I’m not doing that. I’m going to go blaze a new trail. I think that part’s the most important part. Just focus on doing a great job.”

“I’m a big list person. My husband always says that my lists have lists. I make lists for me, I make lists for him. It just helps me organize my thoughts.”

“First, I’m going to tell you the one that I’ve always tried to live by. It was this stupid little thing that my mother gave me when I was in my teens. It was one of those little wall-hanger things and it says, “Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path, and leave a trail.” In my work life, that’s always what I’ve tried to do.”

“I’ve found that the more experience and the more success I’ve had, the more interested I am in mentoring people and seeing them succeed. I want people to overtake me. I want my team to be better than I am. I want to learn from them. I want to make them better, stronger, faster, happier, etc.”

“If you’re going to fail, fail fast, and fail cheap.”

Full transcript, as always, on