It’s an amusing, even intriguing process to observe. In 2006, black PVD cases were everywhere. In 2007, ceramic bezels swept the board, followed by chocolate-brown dials in 2008, just before the spectacular “back to basics” of 2009. But watchmaking doesn’t pluck its trends out of thin air: more often than not, this tendency for brands to make the same choices at the same time is guided by the voice of competitive intelligence. Put together by specialised marketing teams working behind the scenes, competitive intelligence compares a new model in the concept stage with rival products already on the market. It’s an invaluable resource, as well as a long, drawn-out process of patiently tracking down information. Now Watch Analysis intends revolutionising this little-known aspect of horological marketing with a fully automated, computerised system. As of October 1st, this new platform promises brands substantial savings of time and money. Provided they get onboard.
The marketing brief
A new product doesn’t reach the market overnight. In the watch industry, the long launch process usually begins with a marketing brief, a kind of “birth announcement” for the new timepiece. Each brief comprises a concept, targeted markets and sales figures, price positioning, specifications, and the future product’s competitive environment. The aim being to make the right strategic decisions in terms of both trends and price.
All these documents are drafted from in-house information, with the exception of one: the competition analysis. It is based on hours of manual input to paint a picture of the market. Once the price segment has been set and the future product’s direct competitors identified, it’s time to go out into the field and gather information, item by item. Currently, this means wading through brands’ catalogues and leaflets in search of model specifications, which aren’t always up to date. Prices are gleaned straight from retailers, in several countries and a range of currencies, usually by posing as a potential customer. The end results are riddled with inaccuracies and hardly a reliable basis for future decisions. Furthermore, the least change in criteria can add days to the process.
Two watch industry executives, Jérôme Morel and Giuseppe Sturchio, have decided to fill this gap. After two years’ preparation and a year of development, they are about to launch Watch Analysis, a computerised competitive intelligence tool in French and English. The platform, which is accessed online via a personal login, gathers all the essential data for existing watches. In a few clicks, 26 criteria from price range to movement type, materials and case shape position the virtual new model in its competitive environment.
“This analysis is then presented as an infographic, enabling you to compare your product with those of your competitors at a glance,” explains Jérôme Morel, a former logistics and production manager with various watch brands. “Clicking on a model opens its specs sheet. The system is extremely user-friendly. In a meeting, for example, you can make on-the-spot adjustments to speed up the decision-making process, and gain valuable time.”
The generation gap
Technically ready to roll, Watch Analysis nonetheless needs the industry’s support. Its basic principle is the automatic and mutual exchange of information which, as Giuseppe Sturchio, ex-product manager at Gucci Watches, is at pains to point out, is already publicly available in catalogues, but still highly sensitive. “One brand told me, in all seriousness, that it didn’t wish to make its prices known to a manufacture in the same group,” Jérôme Morel recalls, slightly put out. He puts this down to the generation gap: “Some young marketing managers are ready to sign up right away, whereas the older generation are under the impression they are divulging the company’s entire strategy!”
Undeterred by the wariness that surrounds any true innovation, Watch Analysis opens for business on October 1st. “We already have two brands for which we’ve entered 24 watch firms with between 200 and 400 product references each,” Jérôme Morel reveals. The system will be updated several times a year to incorporate new models. Future versions could provide analyses based on geographic criteria, perceptual graphs on two axes, or archive statistics. Watch this space.
Article published in BIPH