Thursday, July 8, 2021

What I've Learned - The Summer Vacation Edition

Have you ever had a few weeks of experiences that really make you question the sanity of the people you are dealing with?  Well, gentle reader, this past fortnight has been a trip!  So as life is a journey with several "teaching opportunities" along the way (not unlike Howard Johnson's along the interstates of 1970's North America) I thought I'd take this opportunity to offer a summer bonus - a double-scoop serving of "What I've Learned". 

1.  You only get to be the Prom Queen once
It's exciting to feel popular, to feel like everyone thinks you're the greatest. And the owners and managers of watch brands are just as susceptible to fits of ego as any teenager. It is exciting when the quarterback or the captain of the cheerleading squad asks you out. It's important to understand that one date (even to the Homecoming dance, with dinner at Sizzler and a limo), does not a relationship make. 

More simply put, the doors of success tend (by design) to swing both ways. It's great when you land front and center in a big-time watch media outlet.  And this tends to lend the impression that your champagne wishes and caviar dreams are all about to come true. The fact of the matter is, wonderful brand though you may be, the only reason you were noticed by a big-time outlet is because they found you through a smaller one. Not unlike how footballers get discovered and moved along the ranks from non-conference Sunday park players, to the Premiership. The only difference is that your brand is not a world class striker dating a Spice Girl. Believe it or not, as you are not a huge and well-established brand, and you are not (despite what you might think about yourself) a unicorn, you are likely to have a good pop out of your turn in the spotlight, but unless that big, sexy outlet keeps writing about you, you will be right back where you started from (hopefully a little richer, and a little wiser from the experience).  Or to quote that other great commentator on the watch business, Barry Hearn -
"The day you think you're the 'nuts', is the day you're disappearing down the toilet. Complacency in business is a killer. When you think you've made it, that's the beginning of the end. You have to drive yourself every day, every hour to be better."

2.  Nobody Remembers James "Buster" Douglas, but they should.
Permit me to take you back in time to 1990. I was finishing my last year at the U, getting ready to graduate, and I had finally made it onto the best football club in the city - NFZFC. I had played for a few years without much success in the city leagues. I was known, the opinion around the leagues was that I could play a bit, but I wasn't truly a "baller". That year I scored a boatload of goals, and NFZFC won the title outright. I had arrived after a long and circuitous route. But that's the funny thing about journeymen, they tend to surprise you when you least expect it, and the reason why they can do it is because the big swinging dicks fall prey to what the author of Moneyball warned against -
“The inability to envision a certain kind of person doing a certain kind of thing because you've never seen someone who looks like him do it before is not just a vice. It's a luxury. What begins as a failure of the imagination ends as a market inefficiency: when you rule out an entire class of people from doing a job simply by their appearance, you are less likely to find the best person for the job.” 
― Michael Lewis, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game

I received a communication from a brand owner recently that underscored this very backward thinking.  He essentially told me that his brand would only be sending their English language press releases to outlet X because outlet X had the biggest coverage and fit their perceived demographics as to who would buy their watches. He further said that he had worked with a "PR Professional" and they wanted to "cut down" on the amount of press coverage and focus on only this one outlet.  Now I realize, that I am a bit older and more conventional, but I was always under the impression that the entire goal of PR and marketing was to get your product in front of as many eyes as possible. So I am curious how the "RASPUTIN PR" group convinced the brand owner on such a dip-shit marketing concept. But from my own selfish perspective, it's one less brand that I need to worry about ; )  

But what this brand and their soft-headed pr agency are failing to grasp, is that while Mike Tyson was once the champ, and seemed unbeatable, he was knocked out in the 10th round by someone they didn't rate or respect. In this case, I think the most apt metaphor involves eggs and baskets. If you are a brand, you should want as much coverage as possible. Moreover, you shouldn't tell 99% of the media outlets to go and piss up a rope, because sooner or later, just like Mike Tyson, big sexy Media Outlet X is going to replaced by someone else. Quite possibly someone the brand snubbed before. And suddenly, it's prom night and Brand Y is sitting in the limousine with the corsage for big sexy Media Outlet A, watching as the geeky kid from the math olympics team hops out of his mother's station wagon, and picks up the Prom Queen ; )

Long story short?  It's a relationship business. Relationships take time, and they don't happen overnight. But they can be ruined pretty quickly without too much effort.

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