Digital media, while clearly important, are not the one-stop solution when addressing the youth market. According to Antonio Calce, CEO of Corum which uses mobile devices, blogs and forums to engage customers, it’s products that must make the difference. “We are growing our brand around two flagship lines, Admiral’s Cup and Corum Bridges. Thanks to these very different environments, we can cover every customer segment and age group.” Brands also need to talk young people’s language, hence why Hublot is putting its money on new materials that young consumers are likely to find sexier than grandpa’s steel or dad’s yellow gold.
Shortfall in statistics
Patek Philippe takes a different tack. “The next generation, who are tomorrow’s customers, has always been present at Patek Philippe whose advertising states, “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.” The transmission of knowledge and the passion for fine watches, primarily through the Patek Philippe Museum, and continued investments to improve quality, are further aspects of our determination to capture young people’s interest,” says Jasmina Steele, spokesperson for the family firm. She also points out that the brand has no specific or one-off strategies as it is, by nature, intergenerational, recruiting most of its customers in the 35-55 demographic. Meanwhile, Hublot, which belongs to LVMH, has its finger in plenty of sporting pies. “Being seen in football, basketball or Formula 1 is all part of this strategy,” comments Jean-Claude Biver. And the strategy seems to be paying off as young people – which Hublot defines as ages 25 to 35 – account for more than 60% of its clientele.
This is certainly a higher percentage than for many other brands, even though there are no official statistics on the subject. An IFOP survey, carried out in France in the last quarter 2010, of an internet panel of 2,000 high-income individuals aged 18 and above, does show a clear correlation between age and the number of watches owned, which increases with the years. 74% of respondents aged 65 and above own at least two watches, compared with 48% of the 18-34 group and 54% of the 35-49 group.
Targeting youth through parents
Yes, brands want to seduce young people but not at any price. Says Antonio Calce: “What matters most is that products keep pace with trends. It’s important to keep a finger on the pulse without ever straying from what makes a brand unique and legitimate.” Kalust Zorik sees marketing to youth as a trans-generational challenge. “Owning a Swiss Made watch has to become something to which young people aspire. We have to instil in them a passion for beautiful mechanical timepieces. One way to achieve this is to work on parents, to convince them that a Swiss watch is the ultimate gift, a way to pass on a tradition and a vision of quality, as well as a keepsake for life.” On these lines, the IFOP survey revealed that 45% of watches were purchased by their owner compared with 55% which were received as a gift.
One characteristic of Generation Y which watch brands have globally failed to exploit is their penchant for products that express their individuality. Brands such as Louis Vuitton and Nike have caught on to this and invite consumers to customise the object of their desire, whether a bag or trainers. Watchmakers are clearly lagging behind on this trend.
The rules are changing and much is at stake. Young people, and this means almost half of consumers, don’t have the same wants and needs as their elders, as a Nielsen survey shows. It concludes that “companies which successfully adapt their products and customer relations tools will gain a serious competitive edge.” A fact watchmakers need to take onboard.