Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Transfer Window Opens - With Resolutely Modern Aplomb!

At Ulysse Nardin.
Courtesy of HBO and The Wire
Despite what longtime readers might think, I am full of mixed emotions as I write this.  Yes, I had already received the word that the CEO of Ulysse Nardin had dropped his papers and was off to pursue new opportunities.  Or as the somewhat antiseptic press release informed us, Ulysse Nardin had found a new CEO who at least spoke French as a native language - Patrick Pruniaux:

He replaces Patrik P. Hoffmann who, having played a key role in Ulysse Nardin’s development for many years, and ensured a seamless integration into Kering from 2014, is looking to move in a new direction for personal reasons.

I think you should take that missive with as much salt as you feel necessary to get it down. Let's face some hard facts -

To call the integration of UN into Kering as seamless is a bit like calling the relationship between the Dassler brothers (Adi of Adidas and Rudolph of current Kering company Puma) as cordial and fraternal. And I am sorry if that sounds harsh, but this is a press release that is a wee bit disingenuous.

But I come to praise Caesar, not to bury him.  When you work on the other side of the BaselWorld table, and you look at brass tacks, it is hard not to understand that certain forces were brought to bear on Mr. Hoffmann.  And in fairness, that pressure was not unreasonable and not unfair.  Ultimately we have ask ourselves, what built Ulysse Nardin 2.0?  It was Rolf Schnyder and Ludwig Oechslin.  Mr. Hoffmann was platooned to Florida back in the boom days where (in fairness) he built a strong US business.  

But even before he moved back to Switzerland to take the helm of the good ship UN following the passing of Mr. Schnyder, the business in North America was already shifting and losing traction.  And not only in North America.  Business was drying up and the business as a whole was changing.  But he and his communication team continued to spool out the same message, the same ideas, and the same hot air that had been produced for the past 10 years.  While a racing yacht, and a wonderful (but commercially unviable) collection of watches can be sexy, they do not necessarily convert into sales.  And ultimately?  Sales move the needle.

At Tempus Fugit I have made fun of their latest marketing catch phrase:  Resolutely Modern Aplomb!  And I have done it because, frankly, it demonstrates a disregard for the basics of commercial communication.  It demonstrated a failure to understand the language being used, the nuance and the basic meaning of the language itself.  In fact, it demonstrated a willful disregard for the people being communicated with.  And when I look at it now, it seems that it was a harbinger.  A harbinger of a willing disconnect with the customer.  Which, I guess, is why Mr. Hoffmann will be pursuing other opportunities beyond Ulysse Nardin.

But as I said at the outset - I am torn.  In fairness to Mr. Hoffmann, he has not done anything different from Biver, Hayek or others who have navigated the rocky shoals of the watch business with more success than (given his abrupt departure) he has.

Truth be told, who are the people REALLY suffering from a poorly performing Ulysse Nardin?  Maybe Mr. Pinault the younger (although he is married to Salma Hayek and has more money than God, so this is a First World problem on steroids), or, perhaps the actual employees of UN who may or may not be losing their jobs if things don't improve.  Yes, the people who actually make the watches and do the day to day business, they might pay the price for lesss-than-hoped for performance.

Mr. Hoffmann?  He will go on to another brand, or another opportunity in a different industry.  And in fairness to him, it is his opportunity to show that Kering (via UN) made a mistake. 

Whether they did or not remains to be seen.

But the Carousel calls everyone, sooner or later -


1 comment:

  1. Kering does not have a good hand in picking managers. Look whom they took for GP. The guy has not the faintest clue and I wonder how those incapable personalities keep recycling themselves. Maybe they have a good relationship with the current headhunters and as you point out Pinault maybe does not follow this at all as the watch business for their group is a rather tiny percentage.
    GP really needs to have a new an capable manager or otherwise it will end like DJR.