Baccarat CEO Daniela Riccardi worked as President of Procter & Gamble (China) from 2005-2010, and as Global Chief CEO of Diesel from 2010-2013. Now she’s running a 254-year-old French crystal maker founded by the royal decree of King Louis XV.
Chinese investment company Fortune Fountain Capital Ltd. bought a controlling stake from Baccarat’s private-equity owners for about 164 million euros ($184 million) last year. Since then, the company has pushed into some surprising new areas.
How has the luxury clientele evolved in China?
Chinese luxury clients are becoming more sophisticated. They don’t buy luxury products just because they are expensive but because they really appreciate the sophistication and savoir-faire behind. Chinese customers understand what they’re buying and are less interested in buying things that are status [symbols]. [For them], luxury is about] quality and heritage.
Baccarat has invested in many categories from crystal to hotels and jewelry. How do you expand into different categories without diluting the brand?
When I first joined the company three years ago, I studied what would be appropriate – close to our DNA and roots and yet still bring the brand into different domains. We launched our fragrance about the same time when we decided to work on hotels. I worked on a design in the 1930s by our first artistic director, which I found in our archives. The reason we did fragrance is that historically Baccarat has been making flacons of the most luxurious fragrances from Guerlain, Chanel, and Schiaparelli. Strategically, what’s important is that [the different things we branch into] are connected to the essence of the brand. Baccarat is a lifestyle brand.
What’s your strategy to tap into the millennial clientele without sacrificing your existing customers?
For our loyal customers, we’ve always taken a more personalized approach. We have modernized our database and approached them through various communication channels that they prefer. For new clients, we have launched our Instagram channel and we’ve also been engaging customers through WeChat. We are focusing on the experience. When we do events, we also invite young customers who might not have big houses to decorate with Baccarat products, but they understand and feel the difference drinking Champagne in a Baccarat flute.
What was your first job?
After college, I obtained a fellowship in marketing at Yale University in the United States. While I was there, I had an eye-opening experience during an internship at Pepsi. I witnessed the energy and leadership of top management and the diversity of the organization, and I knew that was what I aspired to do. When I returned to Italy, I applied to a number of multinational companies. Procter & Gamble was the first to answer and I spent 25 amazing years with assignments in numerous senior operating roles.
If you couldn’t have your present job, what would you want to do instead?
I have never thought about it, but I would probably be working on my personal projects for the future: supporting dance, studying for a Ph.D., teaching branding and strategy, writing [about] my life or creating Maisons de Charme.
Can you share some tips of being a successful female executive?
There are two main things. The first is to never give up on your dreams. If you believe in something, [set yourself free]. Once you know what you want, go ahead and pursue your dream and it will happen. The second tip is to do things your own way. When I started my career, I felt like I needed to dress like a man or behave like a man. I never liked that. But soon I understood that I didn’t [have to do that]. I think we all have to do things our own way and each of us, as individuals, brings diversity.