Thursday, September 28, 2017

A Fun Night Out - And What Joseph Abboud Could Teach the Watch Industry

So last night after work, I found myself across the hall at the Boston Public Library listening to Joseph Abboud give what he referred to as a "stream of consciousness" talk about his life and experiences in the world of fashion.

The talk was very entertaining, and I got to ask my question during the Q & A, but perhaps the one thing that stood out the most (and should be of particular interest to those pulling the strings in the various HQs in Bienne, Tokyo and Glashütte) was the answer he gave to a young aspiring designer's question.  Essentially, how did he prepare himself to enter into the world of fashion and succeed at the level that he has, and where did study design.  And what he said echoed something that I have always believed about working in the watch business.  He said that where he really gained the most insight about fashion, where he really trained?  

Working in RETAIL.  

And truthfully this should not be such a radical thought or concept, but it speaks volumes as to how Mr. Abboud has managed to remain relevant for so many years.  The majority of guys and gals calling the shots in the watch business HQs have not rolled up their sleeves and worked a six or seven day week under florescent lighting and hustling for the sale.

But the importance of this is not just about hard work and paying your dues.  It goes well beyond that because, as he himself pointed out, it underscored the importance of knowing your customer, and making it a priority to know what that customer wants.  And that doesn't mean the VIP customer dinner or boutique event.  And in relating these stories he was humble, charming, and very real.  While he did share stories of success and mentioned some of his famous clients, the anecdotes were not so much about the fame, but about the character of these people.  And I am not going to lie, it was pretty damn touching.  Think about how the celebrity ambassador is is talked out by watch executives, all too often their "new best friend" for as long as the contract lasts, and then they are off to the next "new best friend".  But Mr. Abboud spoke thoughtfully and at length about several of these folks with a fondness that was touching, and an enthusiasm that was infectious.

So today's message for the big dogs - stop making and trying to market watches based on what YOU like and want.  Take a bit more time to consider what your customer might want, and try to design and manufacture watches for them.  And consider that what makes an ambassador compelling is when that ambassador is someone that you actually have a relationship with, and not just someone that you wrote a check to.

Enjoy your Thursday!

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