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E277 | Creating Luxury Brands: Mastering the Art of Emotional Engagement with Massimiliano Pogliani

This week on Mind Your F**king Business Podcast we learned from Massimiliano Pogliani, an Italian expert in brand and marketing with incredible experience in brand development. Throughout his career, he has helped turn Nespresso into a global brand. He has taken Vertu, a luxury Nokia product, continued its development and sold it on to private equity. Massimiliano was also the first Chief Executive Officer at Illy Coffee who wasn’t a family member. 

In this episode, Massimiliano shares the playbook he used at Nespresso to turn a locally managed product into a global premium brand, how they got to the point where 50% of their sales were coming through referrals, and how they built a community that was referring and acting as ambassadors and salespeople for their product and their brand. He also talks about the cultural transformation he undertook at Illy Coffee and how he found the promoters within the company that allowed him to do it. 

Massimiliano shares the essential pillars of building a premium brand, focusing on product excellence, emotional engagement, and consistent brand management. His insights, drawn from his roles at Vertu and Nespresso, offer valuable lessons on exceeding customer expectations, creating a brand community, and fostering emotional attachment with consumers. His emphasis on personal connections, team management, and the development of a cohesive brand culture provides valuable insights for luxury brand managers looking to create meaningful and emotionally engaging brand experiences.

A fantastic conversation about building and running three amazing businesses and brands.

Download and listen to learn more.

On today’s podcast: 

  • The pillars of creating a luxury brand
  • Positioning Nespresso as a global luxury brand
  • The importance of living your brand
  • Changing the culture at Illy Coffee
  • How to find the promoters within the business to change your culture

Follow Massimiliano Pogliani:

Px3 Partners


Who is Massimiliano Pogliani

Massimiliano Pogliani was born and raised in Milan (Italy) and has lived and worked across Europe, including Germany, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Massimiliano’s strength lies in his brand and marketing expertise, combined with his strong communication skills and a forward-thinking mindset that values diversity and innovation.

Currently, he is serving as a Strategic Partner and investor for the investment firm Px3 Partners. Before this, Pogliani had an impactful tenure as the Chief Executive Officer of illycaffè, the premium coffee brand. As the first non-family CEO, Pogliani implemented significant strategic, organisational, and cultural shifts during his two consecutive terms. Under his leadership, illycaffè’s enterprise value more than doubled, and he successfully facilitated the sale of a minority stake to a private equity fund.

Massimiliano’s career began at Vaillant GmbH, where he gained foundational experience in Italy and Germany. He then joined Saeco/Gaggia as Head of Global Marketing, playing a crucial role in preparing the company for its listing on the Milan Stock Exchange. His subsequent journey took him to Switzerland, where he joined Nestlé Nespresso. There, he contributed to its international expansion, managing the International Retail Network (Nespresso Boutique), Customer Service (Nespresso Club), and International Trade Marketing. His tenure at Nestlé culminated as the CEO of Nestlé Super Premium, a division created to boost the expansion of Nestlé brands in the super premium segment. His next role was in the United Kingdom, where he became the CEO of Vertu, a frontrunner in the luxury mobile phone segment, until its sale to a private investor.

Academically, Pogliani is well-rounded with a cum laude degree in Business & Economics from the Cattolica University of Milan. He has supplemented his education with post-degree studies at prestigious institutions such as the London Business School, IMD Lausanne, and MIT Boston.

What you’ll learn from Massimiliano

03:29 – What is Px3 Partners

04:10 – How to create a luxury brand

07:00 – The three pillars to developing a premium brand

10:15 – Understanding your customer to develop your product

11:40 – Becoming a reference brand

13:04 – From Nokia to Android: positioning Vertu as a reference brand for premium mobile phone

17:00 – The challenges of creating a luxury phone brand

18:57 – Developing the Nespresso as a global brand

21:00 – Shifting from a locally managed product to a globally managed brand

22:18 – Picking George Clooney as Nespresso ambassador

23:33 – The full Nespresso experience: selling like a luxury brand

24:40 – The importance of building a community around your brand

26:09 – What is Nespresso trying to make you feel?

27:17 – The challenges of joining a family business like Illy Coffee

28:06 – Changing the company culture at Illy Coffee

30:39 – Finding the promoters in the team to change the culture in your company 

32:52 – How long does it take to change the culture in a 1,400-person company? 

35:55 – Illy Coffee: trying still to make sense in a world of giant competitors

37:12 – The four magic H’s (head, heart, hands and humanity)

40:45 – Making tough decisions earlier

42:09 – Book recommendations

Book recommendations 

Who Moved My Cheese

Out of the Maze

Watch It on YouTube

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