Without parties, there’s no place to show off that expensive watch

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With so many people inundated with content streaming into their homes during the pandemic, brands are struggling to find a way to connect.

This has been especially true in the marketing of expensive luxury goods – the type of items that people love to be seen wearing and using. For a year now, parties and cultural and charitable events, where the rich can see and be seen, have not taken place.

“Why do I put on a $ 200,000 watch if I have a clock on my microwave and haven’t left my house in four months?” Said Chris Olshan, global managing director of the Luxury Marketing Council, an organization that promotes luxury brands. “What’s the value of a $ 10,000 Brioni suit when I’m not going out and no one sees it?” “

He said brands were forced to explain why a new product was worth their interest and their money. “It’s’ Hey, you can dive into this watch, and it has this button that if you push it we’ll come and save you from an island,” he said. “It must be more than another Swiss watch. There must be something more to justify the value.

Without the fancy parties organized by the brands, which often include the additional arrival of a celebrity or two, what should a luxury brand do?

Audemars Piguet, the Swiss watchmaker, who presents a $ 161,000 watch tied to a Marvel character – a project that has been going on for years – decided to try something he had never done before: an event entirely virtual Saturday to reveal the character. (The character is Black Panther, the superhero who is the king of the mythical African kingdom of Wakanda.)

The watchmaker has also hired tennis champion Serena Williams as a brand ambassador and to participate in the Saturday event.

She is a huge fan of Marvel Comics. “You don’t understand how excited I was that they were doing something with Marvel,” Ms. Williams said in an interview from her home in Florida. “I am the ultimate Marvel fan. I am obsessed with comics. And then the movies came out. I wanted to be a part of it somehow. (Asked about her favorite character, she said it was a connection between Iron Man and Black Panther.)

Audemars Piguet has a history of partnering with celebrities. She made nine variations of her signature Royal Oak watch with Arnold Schwarzenegger, the actor and former Governor of California. He also made watches with hip-hop mogul Jay-Z and basketball star LeBron James.

Marvel was more difficult. First, it was difficult to get Marvel to agree to the partnership, said François-Henry Bennahmias, chief executive of Audemars Piguet, adding that he had tried unsuccessfully for a decade to get a meeting with Marvel through him- same. He was finally able to get one, he said, thanks to his friendship with Don Cheadle, the actor who plays War Machine in the movies.

Creating the watch was also a challenge as it features a sculpture of the character inside the case. But Mr Bennahmias said the virtual introduction could be one of the hardest parts, especially since the limited-edition watch will sell for $ 161,000.

“When you think of all the launches we’ve done, it’s always with the celebrities and a lot of people,” he said. “Covid completely killed this. We are launching in a fully digital format.

That’s why the watchmaker was hoping to spark interest by keeping the character a secret until Saturday’s announcement and enlisting ambassadors like Ms Williams, who isn’t immediately associated with the comics.

For Ms. Williams, the character selection reinforced her decision to help promote the watch. “Your first thought is Iron Man or Captain America,” she said. “When they said Black Panther, I wasn’t surprised.”

Some brands have moved to attract customers by promising behind-the-scenes access. Or as Mr. Olshan put it, “You know what the time is, but you don’t know how the watch works”.

FootJoy, a shoemaker who dates back to the 1870s, has been the premier manufacturer of golf shoes since 1945, with a classic image close to Audemars Piguet. But that image has been called into question by social media influencers promoting more athletic golf shoes.

So the company has redesigned its shoes this year and introduced the Premiere series, classic shoes with more technology in the sole and shoe.

To get his message across to affluent consumers willing to pay $ 200 or more for golf shoes, he used a mix of pitchmen: Adam Scott, the 2013 Australian Masters champion, who embodies a classic take on the game, and Max Homa, a young professional who rose to prominence on social media during the pandemic with his softly sarcastic Twitter is tackling people’s golf swings.

“My brand is to take golf seriously, but also to play at a high level,” said Mr. Homa, 30, who won his second PGA Tour event in February at the Genesis Invitational in Los Angeles. “I want people to understand that there are a lot of ways to go about it.”

The shoemaker announced Thursday that he is also teaming up with Todd Snyder, a menswear designer who favors camouflage and does not play golf, but has many social networks and can attract different types of consumers.

“We contrast Adam Scott, who is not in the central cast, and overlays someone like Max Homa,” said Ken LaRose, senior vice president of brand and consumer experience at FootJoy . “But we’re also looking for style influencers outside of golf.”

Bob Shullman, founder and chief executive of the Shullman Research Center, a marketing research firm that focuses on the wealthy, said many luxury brands in the pandemic have almost pulled out to focus on their core populations.

“They’re marketing to very specific groups, not just on demographics but on interests, hobbies, location,” he said. “They’re looking for left-handed golfers who play Chinese golf clubs. There may not be many. But if they can find them and have the right offer, they can do reasonably well.

Bugaboo, which makes luxury strollers that can cost over $ 1,000, is focusing on a wealthy demographic of young mothers who live in cities and who will walk a lot in their strollers.

“People want to see real people using our product,” said Schafer Stewart, US marketing manager for Bugaboo. “We are looking for people who embrace our aesthetic. We never pay for it.

(Influencers like Bruna Tenório, a Brazilian model who just had her first baby, receive free products.)

“We’ve talked a lot about ways to market without spending a dime,” Mr. Olshan said. “A lot of brands panic at the thought of doing anything. How to get involved at low cost? “

Brands have also helped each other, with Le Creuset, the French kitchenware company, promoting General Electric’s high-end appliance brand, Café, and vice versa.

“Look, if you’re buying pots and pans from me, you’re buying someone else’s oven,” Mr. Olshan said. “We are seeing many partnerships with non-competing brands. “

In difficult times, even luxury brands have to rethink their age-old strategies.



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