Grégory Marande is a France-based headhunter specialized in luxury across cosmetics, fashion, wine & spirits, hospitality & retail and industrial design. He speaks with Luxe Packaging Insight about the impact of the health crisis on recruitment in the luxury realm and why hiring packaging profiles is a challenge in the current market.
How has recruitment in the luxury sector been affected by the crisis?
Basically, recruitment came to standstill at the onset of the pandemic. The market was stunned and brands chose to concentrate on maintaining their activity and their current staff. Phase two came at the end of 2020 when things began to loosen up a bit and we’ve now entered a third phase: recruitment is picking up, but remains sporadic and focused on very specific areas of expertise with strong added value.
As the entire retail sector basically ground to a halt, and fewer product launches were in the pipeline, hiring in the areas of marketing and product development has slowed down considerably.
How has the development of digital in luxury had an impact?
While luxury brands’ strong attachment to traditional physical retail will persist, the rise of online sales has meant that their development strategies are now more heavily weighted towards digital then ever before.
The younger generation luxury consumer was already shopping online, but due the shuttering of retail stores, older generations are now also getting on board. As a result, brands are actively recruiting digital professionals in the areas of brand content and social. We’re seeing strong demand for profiles like Digital Journey Manager, whose role is to ensure brand consistency in its messaging and image across all touch points: desktop, mobile, email, retail, Instagram, SMS...
Luxury was cautiously moving into digital before the crisis, but has greatly accelerated the pace over the last 12 months?
Yes, the crisis has been an incredible boost to digital in the luxury space. Companies already knew that they had to go there, but in the context of the crisis they simply had no choice, it was an obligation. However, not all luxury groups are at the same level of maturity when it comes to their digital strategies; some are more anchored in tradition, while others excel in online retail, but they are all accelerating across the board.
Why are luxury players finding it challenging to hire packaging profiles?
This is in part due to the fact that job opportunities in packaging lean much more towards the food sector, and more specifically to private-label food brands, so those that might be tempted to go into packaging aren't necessarily aware of the potential in luxury sectors. Another factor is that most students coming out of design school today are eager to work in UX/UI Design (user experience/user interface) and brand identity.
In the school environment, the students exploring fragrance and cosmetics or spirits packaging are few and far between, and yet there is a real need in the job market and ample opportunities for packaging designers — including in luxury.
What specific positions are seeing recruitment challenges?
There is significant demand for graphic designers (branding and identity) and volume designers, those that conceive the product itself. Engineering, innovation and R&D profiles are also in demand, but less so than designers.
So is packaging design the 'poor relation' compared to other design sectors?
You could say that packaging has seen somewhat of a 'fall from grace’ and suffers from a negative image, meaning that creative profiles don’t see the segment in a particularly positive light. But there are fantastic opportunities out there, even in food. Just look at some of the winning packs from the Pentawards, or other design competitions for items as basic as eggs or milk — we’re seeing some brilliant and disruptive designs.
Has the rise of eco-design made the packaging profession more attractive?
Eco-design is certainly boosting the sector’s image as within the profession, a new generation of designers is looking to make a positive impact on the environment — this is something I'm seeing in the classes I teach both in packaging and in retail. And we’re not talking green-washing or marketing opportunism here; designers are increasingly sensitive and sensitized to environmental issues.
Today’s brands need to connect with younger consumers and much of that can be done through packaging. After all, the pack's main raison d’être is to give coherency — a brand can no longer tout being sustainable if their packaging doesn’t reflect that message.
What can be done to make packaging professions more appealing?
I believe in the potential of partnerships between schools and companies, which is quite an Anglo-Saxon approach. Design schools that organize workshops and other collaborative initiatives to foster communication with the work world are extremely beneficial as they show the student what the profession is all about and how creative the field can be. While graphic professions are very much about digital today — I’m doing more recruitment in the area of digital than ever before and I think this will only progress in the future — educators need to hammer home the idea that branding is also about the pack and that its potential for creativity is boundless. These two facets of design — digital and packaging — need to be treated on equal footing in the educational realm. Students simply need to be inspired!