Chanel: 'Digital should not be a department'

It is not enough for companies to have a digital department, they must become intrinsically digital if they are to meet the service demands of consumers, according to Chanel’s global digital programme director Phillipe Baumlin.


Chanel’s digital chief has called on brands to implement a digital mindset across all departments to achieve the best results.

Speaking at Adobe’s EMEA Summit in London today (24 April) Baumlin said digital is now part of Chanel’s “DNA” and advised the best organisations get their different departments to work together on projects towards the same digital objective.

He said: “Digital poses organisational challenges, that’s clear and we tested several models [at Chanel]. But what I see is that digital cannot be a department in your company. It’s too deep, too important, the whole company has to become digital.”

Baumlin advised the ideal way to structure towards becoming a digital company is for departments to keep the same direct reports but for them to work in the same geographic space as other arms within the organisation towards the same objective.

He added having a steering committee for such projects also helps drive their implementation and tends to lead to “very rich debate”.

“The creative director debating with the CIO is some scene. There are lots of debates about the scope and expectations of the project, with the creative director saying you have to promote a great experience, the CIO saying make it smaller…it’s a very rich debate,” he said.

The luxury industry “is by no means the most advanced industry in digital”, he adds, which he believes is due to the fact that digital does not create any disruption in its business model because a lot of the services that thrive on the web - such as recommendation - already existed in its boutiques. He predicts, however, it will create “a new standard of service” a consumer will expect that the luxury industry will have to reach and exceed.

Digital fits neatly into the aspirational element of the Chanel brand, which the company has served to exploit to bring its products closer to those who may have previously felt they were out of reach.

Baumlin said: “Chanel is a dream for all and digital fits very well with this model. Through digital we can allow any customer to read his own journey into the brand. If he sits on his tablet at home and wants to see a fashion show in Paris, he can dive right into the brand and discover the story of the bag and the jacket and how Coco [Chanel, the company’s founder] was making this revolution for women in the early 90s.”

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