As I approach a concealing-revealing wooden structure, I discover the Hermés stand.
“Hi, can you please help me out with some information?
“What does Hermés have to do with watches?”
“Well, Hermés is a fashion brand, right, so what does that have to do with knowing how to build watches?”
“Nothing. Our watches division is completely separate from fashion.”
My surprised look may have hinted that there was something not quite right with her answer, so she immediately regrouped: “Well, it does, in a way… please wait a minute, I will call someone who can give you more details.”
While waiting I have a look around—there’s an exhibition with very few items at the ground floor and seemingly many rooms at the second floor.
The rooms are for sales activities—clients are invited there to strike the deals. It is a pattern I will see repeated with many stands, this is one very important sales point—even more than the Geneva Motor Show.
I look at the exhibits–for every one there’s a story connecting them to their origins as leather craftsmen or hand-made fashion designers.
“Bonjour,” says the Hermés rep.
“Bonjour. Anglais ou Français?”
“Français, s’il vous plaît“.
The impeccably dressed lady speaks very clearly, so I manage to understand mostly everything. Their origin was in saddle manufacturing, then expanded into leather goods, that’s where the core lies, but they started making watches from the 1930s, they have their own movement produced by a company in Switzerland, following the highest standards of quality and manufacture characteristic to everything Hermés does. “Watches are not accessories to us, they are a distinct business getting the utmost attention to detail and quality as all our products.”
She knows her thing very well. Finally someone doing it right. Quite pleased, I carry on—there is so much to see, so little time.
I shake my head in disbelief as I pass by this scene—objectifying women carries over from the Geneva Motor Show. Guys, stop it.
Stopping at the big Swarovski stand, ready to ask the same question about the connection between their brand and watches.
Hosts at the reception don’t even let me ask it though—they just want to know what kind of question it is: sales? marketing? “We’ll get the right person for you.” They don’t find Sabrina unfortunately, I leave my number behind and they will call. Will they? I wonder…
Meanwhile, I learned this is what a Swarovski watch looks like.
On we go—ok, I have to stop at Sandoz and ask if they are related to the chemical business.
As expected, the young lady answers “no,” with a slightly condescending smile, adding that they’ve been asked about the Viceroy cigarettes as well. And that’s it. No context for the brand, no details, no story, no taking advantage of the opportunity to have a visitor in the otherwise empty stand to try to lure him into the brand world. You may be tired after a few days at the event, but this is not a brand experience motivating me to go back or to even look for you online.
As I continue, I wonder how much engagement Calvin Klein is getting with their very ostensibly “young” #ckminute gig.
“What is a ckminute?” I ask.
“It’s an ‘ash tag,” I’m told in a strong Italian accent. “You can put it on social media.”
From her reaction I deem it pointless to investigate further. Why should I be interested?
I become more and more befuddled at how little effort these companies have put into the details of their communication efforts—as in, explaning to and engaging with the audience through one of their key assets on the floor—the people.
The sophisticated presentation of a Dior watch does more to trigger my curiosity, but I’m done with fashion brands, I want to get to some “real watch makers.”
Victorinox! Well, originally they made something else, we all know well. But in this context I’m curious to see how they answer the brand extension question. I don’t get to find out, though, as they only talk to people based on appointment. Interesting inflexibility—it’s not like their stand is bursting full with visitors.
I am drawn toward a curious curtain of tiny blinking objects. Turns out they are what I suspected: watch mechanisms.
Cool. Even cooler once I find out what it is about: Citizen is presenting the thinnest watch in the world by exposing its inner parts. Fascinating.
I spend much more time here than I’d have initially allocated. Finally, a non-Swiss watch brand giving you a compelling reason to consider them and not feel “downgraded.” It starts with a unique achievement. How elementary, and yet how few get it right.
The product is the core, and the story must match, highlight, fascinate. Someone tell that to the people addressing visitors at Tutima.
“Hi, how do you pronounce the name?”
“Tutima, how it’s written.”
“Thank you. Are you a sub-brand of Glasshütte?”
“Glasshütte. It’s written there. Are you part of the same company?”
“Oh, no. We are just headquartered in Glasshütte, it’s a town in Germany.”
“Ok. I thought… because it says ‘Glasshütte S/A’—I thought it’s the name of the company.”
“Ah, no, S/A stands for Sachsen-Anhalt, the name of the land where it is located.”
Then she smiles beautifully and stops. I’m increasingly annoyed by the outright refusal to inspire through people and stories. An anecdote, something: What’s with Glasshütte? How come you have more than one good watchmaker there of all places? Why should I consider them over Swiss watches? Anything, give me anything to latch my imagination on to!
I wonder if the experience with the Swiss makers will be any different.
Calin Hertioga is Brand Valuation Director for Interbrand CEE (Central and Eastern Europe). His interest in clocks and watches developed at an early age when he learned to tell time before he learned to read.
See more of our Baselworld 2016 coverage