Without Parties, There’s No Place to Show Off That Expensive Watch

With so many people in the pandemic flooded with content pouring into their homes, brands are struggling to find a way to connect.

This is especially true when marketing expensive luxury goods – the kind of items that people enjoy wearing and using. Last year the parties and the cultural and charitable events where the rich can see and be seen did not take place.

“Why do I put on a $ 200,000 clock when I have a clock in the microwave and haven’t left my house in four months?” said Chris Olshan, global executive director of the Luxury Marketing Council, an organization that promotes luxury brands. “What is the value of a $ 10,000 Brioni suit if I don’t go out and nobody sees it?”

He said brands are forced to explain why a new product is worth their interest and money. “It’s” Hey, you can immerse yourself in this watch and it has this button that if you press it, we’ll save you from an island, “he said.” It has to be more than another Swiss watch. It has to be a little more give to justify the value. “

What can a luxury brand do without the fancy brands parties that often include a celebrity or two?

Audemars Piguet, the Swiss watchmaker who is introducing a $ 161,000 watch tied to a Marvel character – a project that has been in the works for years – has decided to try something it hasn’t done before had done: a purely virtual event on Saturday to reveal the character.

The watchmaker also hired tennis champion Serena Williams to be the brand’s ambassador and to attend on Saturday.

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

Audemars Piguet has a long history of celebrity partnerships. With Arnold Schwarzenegger, the actor and former Governor of California, nine variations of his signature Royal Oak watch were made. It has also made watches with hip-hop mogul Jay-Z and basketball star LeBron James.

Marvel was more challenging. First, it was difficult to get Marvel to agree to the partnership, said François-Henry Bennahmias, executive director of Audemars Piguet, adding that he had tried unsuccessfully to meet with Marvel himself for a decade. He finally got one through his friendship with Don Cheadle, the actor who plays War Machine, he said.

Creating the clock was also challenging as it contains a sculpture of the character in the case. But Mr Bennahmias said the virtual introduction could be one of the most challenging elements – especially since the limited-edition watch sells for $ 161,000.

“When you think of all the starts we’ve made, it’s always with the celebrities and lots of people,” he said. “Covid killed that completely. We start in a fully digital format. “

Because of this, the watchmaker hoped to spark interest by keeping the figure a secret until the announcement on Saturday and hiring ambassadors like Ms. Williams, who is not immediately associated with comics.

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

A shoemaker from the 1870s, FootJoy has been the leading manufacturer of golf shoes since 1945, with a classic image that resembles Audemars Piguet. However, this image has been challenged by social media influencers promoting sportier golf shoes.

That’s why the company revamped its shoes this year and introduced the Premier Series, classic shoes with more technology in the sole and shoe.

To get the message across to wealthy consumers willing to pay $ 200 or more for golf shoes, she used a mix of pitchmen: Adam Scott, the 2013 Masters champion from Australia, who embodies a classic approach to the game , and Max Homa, a younger pro who rose to social media notoriety during the pandemic with his gently sarcastic Twitter, takes up people’s golf swings.

“My brand is to take golf seriously, but also to play at a high level,” said 30-year-old Homa, who won his second PGA Tour event at the Genesis Invitational in Los Angeles in February. “I want people to understand that there are many ways to do this.”

The shoemaker announced Thursday that he has also teamed up with Todd Snyder, a menswear designer who prefers camouflage and doesn’t play golf, but has a large social media following and can appeal to different types of consumers.

“We’re facing Adam Scott, who’s not on the central casting stage and is focused on someone like Max Homa,” said Ken LaRose, senior vice president of branding and consumer experience for FootJoy. “But we’re also looking for style influencers outside of the golf world.”

Bob Shullman, founder and chief executive of Shullman Research Center, a market research firm focused on the rich, said many luxury brands almost pulled out of the pandemic to focus on their core demographics.

“They market to very specific groups, not just based on demographics, but also based on interests, hobbies and location,” he said. “They are looking for left-handers who play with Chinese golf clubs. There can’t be many. But if they find them and have the right offer, they can do it reasonably well. “

Bugaboo, which makes luxury strollers that can cost more than $ 1,000, caters to an affluent population of young mothers who live in cities and who will take their strollers for frequent walks.

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

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

“We talked a lot about ways to market without spending a red cent,” said Olshan. “A lot of brands panic when it comes to doing something. How do you get involved inexpensively? “

With Le Creuset, the French cookware manufacturer, brands have also helped each other and promoted the high-end appliance brand Café from General Electric and vice versa.

“Look, if you buy pots and pans from me, you are buying someone else’s oven,” said Mr. Olshan. “We see a lot of partnerships between non-competing brands.”

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

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