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For a company to grow, big changes must often be made. Such has been the case for Lively, a digitally native lingerie brand founded in 2015 by Michelle Cordeiro Grant. Since its inception, Lively has had much success navigating the crowded undergarment space, thanks in part to its prioritization of inclusion, community and connection, according to Cordeiro Grant.
A few years into the brand’s existence, Lively was acquired by Japanese lingerie company Wacoal in 2019 for $105 million. In August 2022, Cordeiro Grant announced she was stepping down. Kristin DiCunzolo, previously vp of marketing and direct sales at Wacoal America, was appointed Lively’s president and CEO.
In her new role, DiCunzolo has ambitious plans to catapult Lively’s steady growth. That includes expanding the brand into new categories, diversifying its retail channels and launching it in international markets. Lively is launching e-commerce in Canada later this year.
“Our community has grown with [Lively]. They’ve aged with us also. But what [the customer] liked when she was 25 might be different almost 10 years later. So we want to be sure [our products] continue to [excite her] while also igniting a new fresh audience,” DiCunzolo said on the latest episode of The Glossy Podcast.
Below are additional highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.
Differentiating the brand in a crowded market
“One of our biggest differentiators is our community. We’re not a big-box corporation. We are a startup that has grown into quite a good business, but it’s definitely with the support of our community and where they’re guiding us. We’re listening to our customers and that feedback. The other piece of it is that Michelle [Cordeiro Grant] … created a space called “leisurie,” where it’s leisure and it’s also lingerie. It doesn’t feel like a bad word, and it doesn’t feel so private — [bras] should be comfortable [to talk about]. What you’re wearing underneath is going to give you that confidence for the rest of the day. … [Finding the perfect underwear] is part of confidence boosting and what’s going to make her feel a certain way. At the end of the day, everything is about feeling, emotion and connection.”
Stepping in for a brand founder
“Michelle and I partnered really well. … We spoke often, and we talked a lot about her team — that was the most important part of the transition. I made it a point to have one-on-ones with every single person at [Lively], so they could feel that connection with me, and I could feel that connection with them. [I made sure] to get to know them as people, as opposed to just [kn wing] their role in the company. … The work and what had to be done [to smoothly transition] was self-evident, in terms of getting back to basics, getting back to our community and ensuring the [internal] trust both ways. … I had to make sure that they had the trust in me to do [the job]. … Checking in [with employees] and letting them know when I think they’re doing a great job and giving them real-time feedback has been a big part of the transition period. Transparency on the business — where we stand, what we’re doing really well and where we have some room to fix and to play — [has also been a big part]. … Michelle and I did that together in the short term, and then we realized it was quite challenging for the company to have two leaders at the same time. She made [the transition] pretty seamless for me, and I made it pretty seamless for her, so that she could get back to what she really enjoys doing as part of Lively.”
Evolving digital strategy to resonate with consumers
“Digital is constantly evolving, so we need to make sure we’re constantly evolving also. All the research shows that, if you put a photo on a product page, [our customer] will look at it all day long. She’ll look at 1,000 photos, if you put 1,000 up — so [now we’re asking], ‘How can we make sure [the content] is digestible and that we’re gonna see conversion, from that perspective?’ And: ‘What content, videos, features and benefits are we putting out there that really resonate with [our customer]?’ The customer wants to know the why: ‘Why is this for me, and why do I need it?’ We need to make that digestible for her. … [The customer] is like, ‘Does it feel good? Is it gonna give me lift?’ That’s really all she wants to know. We need to make sure we’re giving [those answers to her] right away, so that when she’s seeing it, she understands the differentiator.”