Personal branding – between temptation and opportunity

Class Group has been established in 1994, as luxury division of Mobexpert. In 2006, ownership has passed to Camelia Sucu, after having divorced businessman Dan Sucu, owner of Mobexpert. In press she is known as “the business woman with most cash in her account from Romania”; Camelia Sucu has gained property of Class by selling her shares of Mobexpert (40%) – estimated at 40 million Euros – and keeping Class at the same time.
With 5 showrooms in the country and 3 only in Bucharest, according to Class more that 3500 clients need their services and more than 28 luxury brands are in their portfolio. Only the investments in Bucuresti, Cluj and Constanta are worth almost 1,2 million Euros, and from that 600,000 are only for Bucharest. We agree that this kind of investment can only be sustained by a personal desire to see it happen, as Ms. Sucu’s fortune is estimated at more than 60 million Euros. Ms. Sucu has also invested money in real estate, by buying a number of premium properties, including the current Class office building, a villa worth 1,6 million euros.
For Class Living Ms. Sucu estimates a rise of up to 10 percent in 2009, while all luxury industry segments recorded important losses in Q1 2009. Following current trends, we find it hard to believe that these are realistic estimates. For 2009, Class Living has announced an aggressive expansion strategy, planning two more showrooms in Timisoara and Cluj.

We doubt that success follows Class Living as easily as it is advertised in their PR campaigns. We are talking about a multibrand who distributes furniture and interior decorations luxury brands. Preferred conditions cannot be offered to customers, including terms related to price and delivery. We cannot see why somebody who knows the market and who has a lot of money would not simply contact the brands directly and buy from them. In this case, they could even benefit from a discount and high class customer service.
Concerning Natuzzi, a franchise owned by Ms. Sucu, we cannot agree that the same advertised success also applies here. It is well known on the market the fact that some parts of the furniture is made right here in Romania. The notoriety of this makes it hard to believe that Romanians are not aware of what is on the market and that it would see the brand as luxury – as it is positioned on the market in Romania.
Camelia Sucu has created strong awareness around herself and her name, looking like she is trying to create a personal brand. Lately, her exposure in press got her on the cover of magazines such as Luxury and Tango. We have even noticed her association with the brand Bentley – by tradition a masculine brand, making us believe that she is trying to create some controversy. Her efforts of trying to create a personal brand are typical to a person who loves to have all the attention from the press, especially when associating with Class Living and thus becoming brand image. Positioning however is not the best, as we have noticed ads placed on city locations where her image alone in advertised, associated directly to Class Living. This looks like a personal desire to Ms. Sucu, who mentioned that she is counting on her image as a star-manager, following the American trends. Ms. Sucu also hires a team who takes care of her image counseling, promoting her image and associating every aspect of her with Class Living. Unfortunately, she is mostly associated with events that took place in her personal life and less associated with the performances of Class Living.