Saturday, February 25, 2017

From Microbrand to Brand

So point of full disclosure, I have grown to greatly admire and appreciate the work and efforts of Pierre (Pete) Brown with Hager Watches.  I meet a lot of brand managers, brand owners and, well, gas bags, so I tend to not take too much at face value.  But I can honestly say that Mr. Brown is doing something with Hager Watches that is different, interesting and aiming towards something more than simply owning a micro brand.

And it seems that word has gotten around.  This past week the newly opened Hager Boutique enjoyed a formal grand opening, attracting not only the local gentry, but the regional news channels -

Pierre Brown Interview

And to give you some further flavor of the boutique -

Courtesy of Hager Watches

Courtesy of Hager Watches

Courtesy of Hager Watches

Courtesy of Hager Watches

I got the opportunity to spend the day as a bit of a "journalistic" fly on the wall with the Hager Watches founder back in November at a get-together in the DC Metro area and I was somewhat taken aback by the genuine enthusiasm that the folks had for his watches.  But I would also say (and realize that this might piss a few people off), I quickly assessed what is perhaps the one element that has been missing from some of the other small or microbrands trying to make a go of it.  And what I am about to say is (maybe) going to sound a bit harsh.  Mr. Brown runs Hager like a business, not like a hobby. 

What exactly do I mean by that?  It's actually pretty simple.  Yes, the microbrand fan loves the camaraderie, the friendship, the connection that they feel  when they support the little guy (or gal).  And that is understandable.  Unfortunately, it is more often than not unsustainable as a business model.  Because it is frequently a case of going from collection to collection, discounting and dumping to raise enough money for the next series (or order) from the supplier.  Now on the one hand, that certainly lends a "we're all in this together" feeling between the brand and the customer, but how long can that good will be sustained?  Moreover, how consistently can that really convert into an actual sale?

What was interesting in watching Mr. Brown interact with the fans and customers was that he was genuine, approachable, everything you would hope to see from a a brand owner/manager.  He certainly out "friendlied" a lot of the other brand owners present at the event.  BUT - and this underscores what I think has and will continue to set Hager apart - Mr. Brown treats Hager Watches like a business that has earned and needs to continue to earn the trust of its customers. 

And what do I mean by that? 

Ask yourself a simple question:
As a potential customer who is drawn to Brand X because of the small nature, friendly rapport and feeling of community that doing business with a small microbrand lends, how would you feel if you bought a watch from Brand X at full price only to see it on Mass Drop, Touch of Modern or some other discount site at 30% less than you just paid for it?  Still feeling warm and fuzzy about Brand X?

I didn't think so.  You probably feel like you got the fuzzy end of the lollipop. 

And while many brands will say that they discount as a business measure, they end up undercutting and potentially alienating the very customers who helped get them to where they are now.  And that further distances them from the very customers who chose them because of their perceived "proximity".  

There is a reason why discount sushi and a cut-rate colonoscopy are not items actively sought out.  But hey, the choice, as always, is yours ; )
Courtesy of Hager Watches
So yes, it is not likely that you will find Hager watches being offered on some of the favored "light grey" market sources.  And some things are actually worth the price being asked.

No comments:

Post a Comment