Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Pre-Thanksgiving Leftovers

This piece first ran back in January.  I have had a bit of time to reflect on it, on the way the industry is moving and the continued pursuit of ideas that simply don't work.  I go on a few press junkets per year.  As I have a day job making the world safe for students to go to college, I am not on the "full-time circuit" that many of my more pampered colleagues travel.  I despise horse racing owing to the high number of horse casualties each year, so I am not weeping about not being on the Longines "go-to-guest-list".  I also work for a growing number of brands as a consultant and therefore appreciate time, effort and expense that a brand goes through to set such things up.  It is not a simple endeavor.  Long hours, too much hand-holding, little to no personal time, and you are always "on".

Press junkets can be fun, and by and large they give you a unique opportunity to bond with brand insiders and get a better understanding as to what makes them tick.  And when you are traveling together with other journalists, retailers and North American staff, you are somewhat trapped in a mobile "summer camp" of sorts.  And you get to see the good, the bad and the... well, not so attractive side of things.  But what continues to fascinate me is the obsessive need to follow shiny objects.  By that I mean the unfailingly understanding that if "influencer X" tells you that they are the "Dog's testicles", by golly you'll believe it!

While I am by no means a "lifer" in the watch game, I do feel that I can honestly say I have been to the city and I have seen the rodeo.  And there are a handful of people who are the real deal in terms of communication, knowledge, belief and appreciation.

Mike Pearson - Brand Evangelist Extraordinaire.  This guy could probably go to the Middle East and solve the crisis in an afternoon.  He is that friendly, that engaging, that engaged, and that passionate.  Any brand with any sense should be picking up the phone and trying to hire him.

Another Mike - Mike Margolis.  A man who proved that passion and commitment actually do count for something.

Manon Vauthier - A true loss to the watch world, she flew the flag for Eterna and Porsche Design, often single handed. The watch world's loss is the real world's gain.  Since leaving the world of horological communication she is doing amazing things by all accounts.

Xavier Markl - Someone who actually took the time to listen to everyone - from the small to the mighty.  GP would be a lot better off if he were still there, but sometimes companies have to learn the hard way.

Dan Lewis - Of all the people I have met in the industry, I have to say that Dan is someone I always look forward to seeing.  Honest, kind, patient, and someone I am truly proud to call my friend.

In many ways, these folks are the old guard.  Which seems weird because many of them came up at the same time as me.  Many have moved on to other things, a few are still there and in many ways demonstrating what can be right about the watch business.  

I guess I've gone on about the good, now let's re-heat the "not-so-good".

Happy Thanksgiving!


This continues to be a hot topic, and it will continue to be so long as brand CEOs, managers and marketing folks keep dipping into the till to pay off popular boys and girls in the hopes of being relevant to the Millennial demographic. 

It has now seeped so far into the public awareness that various sources beyond the Urban Dictionary are defining it.


1A person or thing that influences another.
‘he was a champion of the arts and a huge influencer of taste’
‘genetic factors are key influencers of your metabolic rate’
‘Frank's been a teacher and cultural influencer for years’
1.1Marketing A person with the ability to influence potential buyers of a product or service by promoting or recommending the items on social media.
‘influencers can add serious credibility to your brand’

Ultimately, brands will push the envelope as far as they can until the FTC or the public at large gets tired of the never-ending game of Manchurian Candidate Kabuki theater that is the "influencer trade".  It is false, it is deceptive and it is manipulative.  And I would like to think that the powers that be could be a little less disingenuous (lacking in frankness, candor, or sincerity; falsely or hypocritically ingenuous; insincere: Her excuse was rather disingenuous.).

But I'd like to propose that the guys and gals writing the checks at HQ consider a different way to go about this whole influencer thing.  Now back at the turn of the century, there were a few people out there who were influencers before such a thing existed.  And they did it in a way that was honest, forthright, and understandable.

While it is very true that Hublot became a sensation through the tireless work of Jean-Claude Biver, there was another guy who made Hublot and its story his passion, which then became his career.  While Mr. Biver can be thought of as the father of Hublot, in many ways Mr. Margolis is the American uncle.  This did not simply happen because Mr. Margolis demanded several thousand dollars to feature Hublot in his communication.  It happened because Mike was passionate about Hublot, and his passion was contagious.  And here is the key thing - YES - he became an employee of Hublot - but that did not make his passion any less real, or his communication any less honest.  In many ways it did just the opposite.  It was a way of saying - yes, I work for these folks but I'm also a fan.  And I am going to go to every event, pour coffee, shake hands and kiss babies to spread the word because I believe in it.  

It is safe to say that in many ways Mike was the prototypical brand evangelist for the watch industry.   And I think that is the way many watch buyers and fans would like to see things evolve.  

An instafamous influencer is a gun for hire.  While they may appear in a brand's SIHH video with other instafamous influencers, they will then turn around and cash the check for yet another brand to feature them in their social media feeds.  So if you bought brand X based on the desire to be like them, you will then not be like them in next week's instagram feed ; )

Guy Kawasaki became Apple's evangelist.  And in his way he did as much (and in some cases more) than Steve Jobs in spreading the good word.

At a time where things are in flux, the industry does not need more bullshit.  It needs more transparency.  And it needs some sincere people who are truly passionate about what they are promoting, not merely bottom feeding for the next instafamous check.

Bring back the evangelists!

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