Saturday, December 14, 2013

Flush! The Gilded Age of Watch Marketing

I get a LOT of press releases.

Celebrity "games" tournaments with hundred thousand dollar watches being handed out to "famous friends" who are crowned the "winner" of the game?  And this is supposed to be a charitable event.  And the winner wears the "vaunted prize" for the photo op, and then never wears the damn thing again?  Not to mention the tens and thousands of dollars flushed down the toilet on food, drinks and "entertainment" for people who never write about the event, and will never be customers?

Quarter million dollar press junkets to attend and "cover" a charity event?  Oh, and here's the best part - a staggering five-figure amount generated for the charitable cause… and the outlay for press, "friends" and product?  Get out your calculator and start multiplying.  Let's just say that the brand could have taken 1/3 of what they spent on shuttling people to and from Argentina and would have multiplied their charitable donation by a power of 3.

And then there are the "partnerships" - most specifically I am referring to the now ubiquitous car partnerships.  And as the "fan" or follower out there, we suffer from a certain lack of incredulity.  We assume that these are master strokes of marketing brio, but what we are not really grasping is the back story.

Imagine - you're the CEO of a big watch brand, you've climbed to the top, you want a nice car - dammit you deserve a nice car!  Maybe something with a bit more horsepower that is (perhaps) a little less carbon neutral "friendly".  Unfortunately, your parent company has a policy about such items as "company cars".  Hmm…. what to do…. what to do….Aha!  If you can create this partnership with a car company then it might kill two birds with one stone.  Really, it only seems like good form that you would accept a "loaner" to drive around.  Okay, granted, the "loaner" cost more than most of your employees will earn over several years working for you, but I mean, let's be honest, you are supposed to be partners in this thing, right?  It really wouldn't look right if you didn't accept it, I mean it's not like you asked… and hey, I mean, if you MUST drive one of these…

I guess what I am getting at is that it has been more than a bit of a gilded age for watch marketing and pr.  There is no sense of proportion with many of the big brands - essentially if you throw enough money at the problem, that will most assuredly solve it.  Meanwhile, sales are not keeping pace, retail partners are slow in paying, customers are more and more looking to grey market or previously owned via the Internet.  The game has changed, there is less money coming in, so it seems only logical that you would adjust your plan...

Now point of disclosure, I do work for some smaller, independent brands in terms of marketing and sales.  There is NO budget so we have to make it on the product alone, and when we do put the message out there - it has to be clear, and not clouded.  I sometimes fantasize about what I could do with the type of budgets some of these brands have… I sure as hell wouldn't spend it on myself.

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