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Ippolita's New CMO Wants to Make the Jeweler a Household Name

Psst: It's pronounced Ip-pol-ita, accent on "pol."

When Moda Operandi's former Chief Marketing Officer Ashley Bryan first took a meeting with jeweler Ippolita, she had no intentions of finding another job.

But thanks to a great product -- and a meeting with designer Ippolita Rostagno herself -- Bryan found herself lured into a new company, excited about the chance to work with them as they move the brand further.

"I was so impressed with how the company did such a great job really getting the product piece right, and setting up the supply chain piece to make this beautiful product -- it just struck me immediately, they've got so many things done so well," she tells Fashionista. "The next piece is building the brand, making it a household name."

That's precisely what Ippolita brought Bryan on to do. ("And making sure everyone can say it right too!" she adds jokingly. "Because it's Ip-pol-ita, accent on 'pol.'" Noted.) Bryan is a veteran in the luxury digital space, having worked as the U.S. director of marketing for Net-a-Porter before helping build Moda Operandi from scratch.

Since Ippolita has been around since 2000, Bryan's task will be a bit different. "They built a good site, it's functional and it looks good, so I think the next step is to put some marketing behind it to promote it," she says.

Bryan plans to get started with improving both the site's SEO and SEM, and raising the profile of the company's website. But before she can do any of that, she needs to know who the Ippolita customer is -- her first official challenge in her new role.

"I think really defining who the customer is will be tricky -- who she is and how she's using the brand -- because she's met the brand mostly as she's been shopping around for other brands at department stores," Bryan says.

Which is why, before she's even started, Bryan has been conducting what she calls "informal polls" to figure out who the Ippolita customer might be and what awareness for the brand is like. And once she does officially start, she'll help the company put together a data warehouse of customer attributes to better reach her. This will help increase Ippolita's e-commerce sales, which right now account for just 5 percent of total sales for the company.

"Ippolita has done a great job with the wholesale partners -- Bergdorf's, Neiman's, Saks -- and they've been great partners, but it's kind of time to say, outside of the partners, this is what Ippolita is, using the website as great branding and voice for the brand," she says.

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As a veteran of the online space, I ask Bryan how she's seen companies adapt to the ever-changing, but very important, digital landscape.

"I still think people aren't quite sure how to allocate the dollars to each channel," she explains. "As CMO, you have to keep maintaining that both channels are important: you need to spend in digital and you need to spend in the traditional advertising."

Bryan says the challenge is that, with digital investments, you see an almost immediate ROI; since that's not always the case with traditional spending (which could include events, outdoor marketing, or ad space), it's harder to convince people to spend on those.

"It's kind of tempting to say, let's do more [digital]," she says. "But that's not going to happen unless you really invest in the brand, so you really need to keep balancing both of those, and that's really the trick to hitting that optimization of the channels."

Mobile is the final piece of the puzzle for Bryan -- for now, at least -- that she feels will follow naturally once the rest is in place. But she's also got her eye on international growth, an area where she sees great potential for the brand.

"That's one area at Moda Operandi that we had a lot of success in doing -- events, especially in the Middle East -- so that's one of the focus areas for Ippolita too," Bryan says. "Bringing the experience that I've had internationally will be great, because there's tons of opportunity there to get the brand out." 

Overall, Bryan expressed a lot of excitement at getting started. "I can't wait to get the conversation going more about Ippolita," she tells me, and, true to her word, starts talking about the brand's fall line.

"I haven't seen it yet, but what I've heard from the team is that the new line is really beautiful," she adds, smiling. "So building some more momentum and getting the word out about the new fall line is really exciting too."

She's hitting the ground running.