Q&A with Robert Triefus, Chief Marketing Officer of GUCCI

Today, 57 million primary school-age children around the world are out of school.  Girls represent over half this number.  About 774 million adults – two thirds of whom are women – cannot read or write. [i]
GUCCI is addressing these challenges by mobilizing its consumers and the broader public through its CHIME FOR CHANGE initiative – a community of people working to promote education, justice, and health for girls and women everywhere.  By building partnerships, leveraging technology tools, and engaging high-profile influencers, the campaign has raised nearly $5 million to support more than 280 projects in 81 countries through 87 non-profit organizations.
The Global Business Coalition for Education sat down with Robert Triefus, the Chief Marketing Officer of GUCCI, to discuss CHIME FOR CHANGE and how the company is leveraging cause-marketing and technology to drive change in global education.

Q. Why did GUCCI develop CHIME FOR CHANGE?

A. We are committed to women’s empowerment – a concern that the brand has and, in fact, that our parent company Kering has had for a number of years.  Our parent company set up the Kering Foundation specifically dedicated towards the issue of violence against women. GUCCI has been actively pursuing programs that help empower girls and women through UNICEF and other initiatives.  We saw a groundswell of people building behind this issue.  As a global brand, GUCCI recognized the momentum around girls’ and women’s issues and realized we could help bring people together, resulting in the creation of CHIME FOR CHANGE.

Q.  Describe the moment when this became a movement.

A. That’s interesting because when we first conceived of the idea – of this action let’s say – it was based around a musical event.  Frida Giannini, GUCCI’s creative director – who was the inspiration behind CHIME FOR CHANGE – wanted to replicate an event that she had mounted with Madonna in 2008.  She had seen that through music and involving high-profile people, you could get people engaged in an issue.  So our original premise was to start and create a “Live Aid” for women’s empowerment (which we did in London on June 1, 2013), but we realized that through technology, people actually want to be engaged beyond a moment.  Yes, you can get people involved because they become aware of a moment, but they want to see the follow through.

Q. Why not just stop at the concert?  Why create a larger movement? 

A. Because today, if you are a brand that just did one event and walked away, it would be seen as something opportunistic. I think people see through that very easily.  That’s not what we do.  We tend to identify an issue and really address it.  If you look at the relationships we’ve had – our partnership with UNICEF will be in its 10th year in 2015 – you’ll see they are long-term. Girls’ and women’s empowerment isn’t going to be sold by one concert.  It’s going to be a multi-year focus.

Q. How did technology mobilize your consumers and the public in support of education?

A. Today you cannot avoid technology.  We saw technology as having an empowering capacity for the campaign.  We were particularly interested in the possibility of social media – specifically Facebook and Twitter. We also wanted to create our own platform, so we built a dot-org website that became a portal for information and stories, but more importantly a platform for donating.  While working with the Gates Foundation, we became aware of the crowd-funding website, Catapult, which is dedicated to girls’ and women’s empowerment projects.  They had just launched a few months before, so it was one of those serendipitous moments, and we’ve had a strategic collaboration with them since. The great thing about Catapult is that 100% of what you donate goes to the non-profit organizations.

Q.  CHIME FOR CHANGE focuses on “Education, Health, and Justice.”  Why is education one of those three pillars?

A. Education is at the heart of everything, and if you don’t have education, you ultimately don’t understand why health is important and you don’t think about why justice is fundamental.  In a way, education is at the foundation of everything that we do.   It’s really the starting point for CHIME.  Our commitment to education is also reflected in our involvement with UNICEF, where we support their programs, Schools for Africa and Schools for Asia.   Education is Frida’s particular pillar and she believes in it passionately – she just had a baby girl and thinks about it even more as she contemplates her daughter’s future.
GUCCI’s CHIME FOR CHANGE was featured at The Global Business Coalition for Education’s eventTech4Ed: London – Harnessing the Digital Power of Business for Education Campaigns alongside leaders from Intel, HP and the nonprofit sector.

[i] UNESCO.  Education for All Global Monitoring Report.  Paris: UNESCO, 2012.