"We want to try and get a better handle from an advertising and promotion point of view, establishing specific areas for each brand to compete in," said Mr. Karo, the new exec VP-operations for the Limited Brand & Creative Services unit of Limited Inc.
The $9.2 billion retail holding company also encompasses Lane Bryant, Express, The Limited, and Limited Too, while holding a majority interest in Intimate Brands, which includes Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works.
"It's a huge undertaking for Limited to be doing this corporately," said Mr. Karo, 43. "We're basically doing this from scratch."
CALVIN KLEIN BACKGROUND
Not that Mr. Karo, doesn't have experience building a well-known retail brand: He's the former senior VP at CRK Advertising, New York, the in-house Calvin Klein shop.
Mr. Karo said his new post gives him more control over the retail environment, the product itself, and branding with The Limited because there are no franchisees and licensees -- as Calvin Klein had with its underwear, jeans and fragrances -- to slow down the process. He said he'll also have more opportunity to completely evolve the brand franchises at Limited from the bottom up into very identifiable brands -- as has already been done with Victoria's Secret.
That's a switch from Calvin Klein, where the challenge was to take an already strong brand franchise and extend it in fresh ways. Although some have been critical of Calvin Klein's more controversial campaigns -- which predate Mr. Karo's arrival -- there is little doubt that brand carved out an image for itself. And that's what Limited wants to do. Limited handles advertising in-house.
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"The brand work we've been doing on Victoria's Secret has really paid off and has been enormously profitable for the business," said Ed Razek, president, Limited Brand & Creative Services, in explaining why he hired Mr. Karo. "We decided to formalize the process and bring the expertise to other areas of the company."
In seeking someone with expertise in global marketing, as well as analytic skills and an understanding of creative, "Alan was the only candidate I ever considered," he said.
Mr. Karo also is an accomplished strategist, having worked in strategic planning posts at ad agencies including Campbell Mithun Esty, N.W. Ayer & Partners and the former Wells Rich Greene and Doyle Dane Bernbach.
Mr. Karo said he first will put together a competitive marketplace assessment for the Limited and begin to outline an advertising strategy for the company's myriad units.
That will include more than traditional advertising; it will encompass disciplines including direct mail and promotion marketing. He said he'll also begin to target ways to take advantage of the company's 55 million-name database to cross- market where appropriate.
Mr. Karo will split his time between the Columbus, Ohio, and New York offices.