Thursday, January 15, 2015

Place Holders

As the old saying goes - You've Been Fired, you just don't know it yet.

With the week leading up to SIHH various "transfers" have happened in the industry.  Some lauded, some left us scratching our heads.

What I think is painfully evident is a clear loss of sense by many people in the industry.  CEOs that are in place for 18 months or so then cut loose.  Brand managers in the saddle for 24 months or so who have moved mountains carrying water for the brand and then "Switzerland" deciding that a 200% increase is simply not good enough and by golly they could do it better themselves from thousands of miles away.  Trusted and proven company men with a decade or more of proven sales results getting pushed out by newly minted brand managers in New York who simply assume it is the territory, not the person that made that region so strong.  And my personal favorite, the brand going on their third marketing/pr firm in a five year time period and essentially hiring the sort of agency which will (sorry to say) produce the same results.  Which begs the question - If you keep hiring the same sorts of people, why were you expecting a different result?

Wrong, wrong and wrong again.

Let's look at a brand that I personally really like and admire - Girard-Perregaux.  With the announcement of Mr. Calce I have to say that I am a bit flummoxed by this decision.  Under Mr. Sofisti a new, streamlined, clearly communicated GP was starting to roll.  Granted, sales were lagging behind, but at least there was a discernible direction.

So we now welcome Mr. Calce - as another writer put it (much more eloquently, I might add), Mr. Calce represents the number 1 requirement for working with GP - he is Italian (Swiss).  Think that is coincidence?  The two previous US PR firms fit that mold as well.

And by the way - there's NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT.  But from a personal perspective I have to wonder - with all of the talent out there currently "footloose and fancy free", GP have essentially done what so many other brands do - found someone who fits a mold.  Not too scary, familiar, etc.  Because they clearly want big changes and an improved situation, but they went back to the well of familiarity.  Which begs the question - if you want a different direction, why are you taking the same path and expecting a different outcome?

Prior to his unceremonious departure from Corum I have been led to understand that Mr. Calce did quite a bit with/for Corum.  I would have to say that I remain unswayed one way or the other.  If I am honest, I attended a Corum event at a Los Angeles area jeweler where the sales manager had failed to erase the instructions for the evening - i.e. sell!  Incentives, spiffs, and instructions as to how, when and what percentage to discount.  Say what you want about Severin Wunderman not being tuned into "true horology" but the man knew what would excite people and what they would buy.  While Mr. Calce might have tidied up quite a few loose and messy ends, what he and nobody else at Corum ever got their heads around was the need to PUNCH THEIR WEIGHT.   Saying your the "dog's bullocks" is one thing - but you have to get your team, your retail partners, your customers and the press saying it as well.  Otherwise it's just noise.  You can price your watches at $20,000.  But three years later when they are selling for 30 - 60% off at online grey market "dumping grounds", perhaps it is clear that you had over priced and over estimated.  Or more plainly, you were trying to fight "up a weight class" and you got your ass handed to you.

There are TOO MANY brands thinking that they are Patek Philippe.   I am sorry to put it so bluntly, but let's just be very honest here - There is ONE Patek Philippe.  They did not get to be that by sponsoring yacht races.  They got that way by recognizing who their customer was, what the real value was that they represented - and F*(&ing sticking to a plan for more than an 18 month period.

I really admire Girard-Perregaux.  For me it's personal, but they represent a true identity, true tradition and genuine achievement.  But they also need to learn some patience, stop replacing CEOs every few years, and ask some honest questions about the US market - brand managers have come and gone and the sales stay flat.  Sales staff in the field have to a large extent remained unchanged.  What are the two constants here?  The marketing for GP is TOP NOTCH!  The message is great.  The delivery of that message on the sales front (at least in North America), is clearly not happening.  Visit a retail partner carrying the brand (at least that I've visited on the west coast), you get the feeling that nobody from GP has been out in some time, or if they have it has not been a memorable experience.

Ultimately, as any good mental health professional will tell you, you are only ready to make the necessary changes when you are in enough pain.   As near as I can see, the Swiss watch industry has just not experienced enough pain to be able to really pursue, and implement change.

But don't worry, their are always plenty of wonderfully "comfortable" people you can hire to do exactly the same thing that their predecessors did - and who knows, maybe the law of averages will go out of the window and doing things exactly the same way as everyone before you has tried and not succeeded with will magically produce the opposite result...

Lather, rinse, repeat.

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