Kate Spade New York's marketing director: 'Having a life outside is essential'

Sushma Sagar shares her lessons from the career ladder.

My career has blossomed since the Power 100 Next Generation article. I moved into the international division of Banana Republic. I visited places I had always wanted to: Panama, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Turkey… too many to mention.

My eyes widened and my mind grew, but there is only so long you can live out of a suitcase. After leaving, I landed a dream job at Kate Spade New York, leading its European marketing. It was on a similar journey as Banana Republic – a US brand with heritage, new in the UK, with big ambitions.

The mission involves inspiring the customer to lead a more interesting life. This has meant that I have led some beautiful projects, from Chelsea In Bloom, a floral display with Wild At Heart, to a window display by Design Haus Liberty with 7,000 crystals currently in our Regent Street store, to a partnership with the English National Ballet for our "#Starofyourownshow" fall campaign.

When I visit our show in New York Fashion Week and I see the best version of the brand presented to the press, it inspires me and reminds me why I do what I do. I take that feeling back to the UK.

Be the customer

It’s ideal when you have a personal affinity with the brand you are working on – marketing decisions become natural. You never have to "imagine" how the customer will think – you are her.

Spread good energy

I believe in energy and how it impacts people, work and relationships. Good energy is infectious. By applying positive energy – be it in the product, events or campaigns – you enhance the emotional connection with your customers. We do this across the board and the loyalty we enjoy is testament to its effect.

Find your fit

Company culture is everything. I’ve never liked a cut-throat environment; it doesn’t suit my management style. I’m fortunate to have found a brand that celebrates interesting people. Be quirky, be different, be yourself. Finding a company whose culture fits your way of working will mean you can flourish.

Building relationships

People skills in marketing are arguably more useful than actual qualifications. Building relationships both internally and externally is key. I am often faced with differences in opinion, situations where US and UK sensibilities may not be aligned, or heightened creative discussions. Remembering that everyone is on the same side helps iron out any tensions.

Keep your brain fresh

Working "smart" and being effective is not proportionate to hours at the desk. Fresh air and regular walks help problem-solving. Consuming culture and having a life outside to draw on are essential.

Celebrate

Remember to look at what you are achieving and feel proud. I spent more than a decade running into the next project/job without reflection. Americans tend to have a more positive outlook than Brits, and they have taught me to celebrate wins, both big and small.

I regularly receive hand-written notes of encouragement from my leaders – it’s a small thing but incredibly motivating.

Sushma Sagar is the director, marketing and PR, Europe, Kate Spade. Sagar was featured in Marketing's Power 100 Next Generation in 2011.

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