What makes a luxury brand “luxury”? And how is it created and managed? These are fundamental questions for luxury marketers to answer—which is why it takes more than good marketing skills to work for a luxury brand, Sonja Prokopec, Marketing Professor at ESSEC Business School, says.

“Luxury marketing is about having a long-term vision and the ability to create a story in a nuanced way while staying true to your brand DNA and visual identity,” she elaborates. “It’s about innovating without letting the brand lose its soul.”

This is a message Prokopec reiterates to MSc Marketing Management and Digital (MMD) students taking luxury brand management each year. To help them grasp the concepts learned, she orchestrates opportunities for them to work directly with brands on real-world challenges.

Here are some highlights over the years.

Uncovering the Art of Luxury Brand Marketing

Museums may seem worlds apart from luxury goods, so it was a surprise for the 2021 batch when they were tasked to help the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) drive traffic for its Edo x Russel Wong in Kyoto exhibition and cement the museum’s reputation as the go-to for luxury, lifestyle, and fashion.

But for Prokopec, the similarities between luxury and museums run strong. “Appreciation of a luxury item, like a piece of art, requires cultural understanding. Both are exclusive, high in value, but struggle with a disconnect from society,” she explains, adding that she wanted students to broaden their perspective of a luxury good and how luxury branding can be applied.

The message hit home.

“We realized that luxury doesn’t have to be an actual good; it can be an experience or lifestyle as well,” MMD alumna Yue Ning Ng recalls, noting that the lessons learned now serve her well in her role at L’Oreal.

A Gem of an Experience with Tiffany & Co

For the MMD class of 2022, it was the opportunity of a lifetime to be able to work with Tiffany & Co. on one of two challenges: the first, to help the brand retain its position as the top luxury jewelry brand, and the second, to market bridal products in Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.

The stakes were high, but the payoff from having such a renowned brand on their portfolio was worth it, alumna Ziyang Wang says.

“I gained valuable knowledge of the sector during these projects and was able to share my unique insights on the luxury industry with my interviewers,” she explains. This ultimately gave her an internship with Christian Dior.

Diving into Trends with Macallen and Vogue

Projects in 2023 again took on a different dimension, bringing students into the world of spirits and fashion magazines.

They worked on a year-long marketing plan focused on sustainability for the Macallan Harmony 2 and strategies for Vogue Singapore to bring print subscribers into the metaverse—in the process, gaining a clearer understanding of how trends like sustainability and digitalization play out in the luxury field.

So what can MMD students of the future expect?

Equally unique experiences that challenge and enrich. Because although the brands and challenges vary each year, Prokopec’s criteria remains constant: “I want something that’s a current challenge and needs new innovative solutions and ideas. I want students to work on something that doesn’t exist yet,” she says.

After all, that gives students a chance to make an impact, making their time at the ESSEC MMD program extra valuable.