Dynamic Marketing Communiqué

This fashion industry icon built a multi-billion dollar brand after leaving Gucci. Find out how he pulled this off! [Monday: Marketing Marvels]

May 1, 2023

Miles Everson’s Business Builder Daily speaks to the heart of what great marketers, business leaders, and other professionals need to succeed in advertising, communications, managing their investments, career strategy, and more.

A Note from Miles Everson:

Happy Monday, everyone!

We hope all is well in both your personal life and work life.

Let’s start the week strong by talking about one of our “Marketing Marvels.” Every Monday, we feature outstanding people in the fields of business and marketing, and highlight their experiences, contributions, and insights in their respective industries.

Today, we’ll focus on a fashion icon who created and built a multi-billion dollar brand in less than 2 decades.

To know more about this “Marvel” and what he can teach us about marketing and business, continue reading below.

Miles Everson
CEO, MBO Partners
Chairman of the Advisory Board, The I Institute

Marketing Marvels

Tom Ford, a luxury fashion brand that sells high-end men’s and women’s clothing, eyewear, watches, cosmetics, and fragrances, has been one of the most recognizable names in the fashion industry for almost 2 decades now.

Due to the brand’s success, cosmetics giant Estée Lauder acquired it on November 15, 2022 for USD 2.8 billion.

If you want to understand how and why Tom Ford achieved that valuation in less than 2 decades, it’s important to examine the business and marketing strategies that enabled the brand to attain the success it currently enjoys.

One of the ways to do that is to look into the person responsible for those implementing those strategies in the first place.

His name?

Thomas Carlyle Ford!

Photo from Vogue

Thomas Carlyle Ford, a.k.a., Tom Ford, is an American fashion designer and filmmaker. Before starting his career in the fashion industry, he enrolled at New York University, initially attending courses in art history. Later on, he transferred to The New School’s Parsons School of Design in New York to pursue a degree in architecture.

After working multiple jobs in the fashion industry in 1990, Ford joined Gucci as the brand’s womenswear designer. Subsequently, he became a design director in 2 years and in 1994, he was appointed as the creative director of the firm.

As creative director, Ford was responsible for overseeing the design of all of Gucci’s products ranging from clothing to perfumes. Additionally, he was in charge of the brand’s corporate image, advertising campaigns, and store designs.

During his tenure at Gucci, the brand’s sales went from USD 230 million in 1994 to nearly USD 3 billion in 2003. Because of this, the fashion house became one of the most profitable brands in the world with a valuation of over USD 10 billion in 2004.

Despite helping Gucci achieve such a feat, Ford left the company to pursue other things on his own based on his visions and career goals.

He then took some time off to consider his next career move. After taking a break, he decided to establish a brand that bore his own name in 2005.

Building the Tom Ford Brand

Photo from From Luxe with Love

In the beginning, Ford only focused on selling eyewear and beauty products like makeup and fragrances in his new business. Eventually, he decided to make a return to the fashion industry, adding menswear and womenswear in his company’s product portfolio in 2007 and 2010.

Photo from Tom Ford

Since its founding, Ford’s business has become an industry powerhouse. Throughout the years, his company has enjoyed success in the market segments it competes in. In fact, the designer label recorded USD 1.7 billion in sales in 2021.

So, how did Ford build a multi-billion dollar brand in less than a decade?

Here are a few answers to that question:

  1. Identifying and targeting the right customer

In an interview with CNBC International TV in 2015, Ford explained that his target customer is cultured, well-traveled, and has disposable income.

By having a clear vision on who he wants to sell products to, he was able to create offerings that best reflect the needs, taste, and sensibilities of his clientele. Moreover, having a clear grasp of who his target market is helped him create a strong brand identity that allowed his company to carve out a place in the highly competitive fashion and beauty industry.

  1. Partnering strategically

After establishing his own brand, Ford needed to manufacture the products he wanted to sell. He had to come up with another way to produce the luxury goods he wanted to offer to his customers since he wasn’t flush with capital.

To solve that challenge, he entered into a licensing deal with eyewear giant Marcolin and beauty company Estée Lauder in 2005. Once Ford expanded his offerings to include men’s clothing in 2007, he partnered with renowned menswear brand Zegna

Through these agreements, Ford was able to produce the luxury goods he wanted to sell at a lower cost since his partners were in charge of advertising, manufacturing, and selling products. Additionally, these partnerships expanded his reach to his customers. 

  1. Establishing his brand’s footprint through retail

Even though Ford secured partnerships that enabled him to bring his products to his customers’ hands, he still needed to build brand awareness. 

To do that, he opened his brand’s first flagship store in New York in 2007. Subsequently, he set out to create a chain of retail stores around the world. To accomplish this feat, Ford partnered with retail giants in Asia, United Arab Emirates, Russia, Canada, U.S., and U.K. 

At present, there are 110 Tom Ford stores and shop-in-shops around the world.

Aside from these strategies, part of what made Ford successful is because as a leader and creative visionary, he understands the importance of learning from past failures and avoiding making the same mistakes in any business or creative venture.

According to him:

“I thrive on failure. I thrive on things that are not perfect. It sends me back into the ring to get it right.”

Through this mindset, Ford was not only able to build a multi-billion dollar business, but was also able to establish a brand that’s widely recognized for fulfilling its customers’ sensibilities and needs.

We hope you enjoyed the story of today’s “Marketing Marvel!”

By knowing your target market and partnering strategically to achieve your business or marketing goals, you’ll also be able to do what Ford did—build a brand that his target market actively remembers and patronizes.

Have a great start to the week!

(This article is from The Business Builder Daily, a newsletter by The I Institute in collaboration with MBO Partners.)

About The Dynamic Marketing Communiqué’s
“Monday Marketing Marvels”

Too often, industry experts and the marketing press sing the praises of some brand or company’s marketing strategy.

… only for the audience to later find out that its product was a flop, or worse, that the brand or company went bankrupt.

The true ROI in marketing can’t be separated from the business as a whole.

What good is a marketing case study if one can’t prove that the company’s efforts actually paid off?

At the end of the day, either the entire business is successful or it isn’t. And the roles of marketing and communication are always paramount to that success.

Every Monday, we publish a case study that highlights the world’s greatest marketing strategies, marketers, and communicators.

However, the difference between our articles and the numerous ones out there is that we will always make certain that the firm really did generate and demonstrate earning power worthy of study in the first place (compliments of Valens Research’s finance group) in keeping with a person’s leadership skills in the area of marketing and/or communication.

We’ll also study the greatest marketing fails and analyze what they did wrong, or what they needed to improve. We all make our mistakes, but better we learn from others’ mistakes—and earlier, rather than later.

Hope you found this week’s marketing marvel interesting and helpful.

Stay tuned for next week’s Monday Marketing Marvels!


Kyle Yu
Head of Marketing
Valens Dynamic Marketing Capabilities
Powered by Valens Research

View All

You don’t have access to the Valens Research Premium Application.

To get access to our best content including the highly regarded Conviction Long List and Market Phase Cycle macro newsletter, please contact our Client Relations Team at 630-841-0683 or email client.relations@valens-research.com.

Please fill out the fields below so that our client relations team can contact you

Or contact our Client Relationship Team at 630-841-0683