Men are more easily governed through their vices than their virtues
The halls of BaselWorld are littered with swag bags erupting with every type of nicety from silk ties and scarves, to iPad minis, to wireless headphones. The all expense paid trip to Geneva, to Glashutte, to the Napa Valley, to Sag Harbor. So when a brand PR office says they don't have money for advertising, well that's bullshit. Because they clearly have money for trinkets, travel, steaks and wine.
And when certain blogs, influencers and writers claim that they "painstakingly curate" their content, well, that is also bullshit. Because they know that the brands have the money to pay the backhanders requested (and oftentimes required) in order to ensure that their new watch, partnership or campaign will receive coverage, and that they will pay it. It is a lovely example of co-dependency.
Men are moved by two levers only: fear and self interest
Now I've said it before, and I'll say it again - I like free sparkly things, I like comped travel to exotic, exciting locations. And I would love to be included in these little vacations disguised as press junkets. But as with any game, you are expected to play by certain rules. So that is one way to move the press - self interest.
But let's talk about fear. It goes without saying, the people who hold the strings to the advertising funds, or more crucially grant and withhold access to the brand can, and often do, use their position as both a spur and a bridle. It is the perfect way to ensure that you get what you want, and to stifle any contrary voice out there not in line with your program.
This, of course, is not how a free press is meant to work. And although it might be standard operating procedure in fashion, etc., I would again point to the automotive press. It can be particularly brutal in its honesty. Yet the level of passion that auto enthusiasts have for cars and car brands completely eclipses that of the watch enthusiasts. And the auto enthusiasts count on the auto press to offer honest, unvarnished feedback. So what is the luxury industry so afraid of?
It doesn't need to continue to be this way. Particularly with the currently wretched state of affairs in the watch industry, maybe things can change. So let me turn to the former Emperor for a final idea -
The people to fear are not those who disagree with you, but those who disagree with you and are too cowardly to let you know.
What I constantly hear is that I say the things that other people are thinking and wish that they could say, but can't for fear of professional damage.
So a modest suggestion to you pr and brand managers out there - rather than dumping tens of thousands of dollars to continually feed the barking seals around you to ensure that you hear what you want, maybe listen to some honest, albeit uncomfortable feedback.