Watch brand TAG Heuer is opening up, and it’s getting noticed.
Communications people are storytellers. In simple terms they decide what the story should be, who to tell it to and when to tell it.
But ‘how’ an organisation communicates can send a message that is just as strong as the content of the story.
Often, communicators have a sense that we need to shift gear in terms of how we go about our work but it feels like there needs to be a compelling reason to make the change. It has to be more than gut feeling or professional intuition.
Most often, it comes with a change of personnel, strategy refresh or operating environment.
New world, new approach
For the Swiss watch industry, this last point is especially relevant. Fluctuating currencies, political shifts and less-than-booming economies are all contributing to tough times that are compounded by the threat (as some see it) of the smart watch.
In a recent article on watch blog/shop Hodinkee, Louis Westphalen reports on a recent visit to a collector’s meeting at the Heuer headquarters in La Chau-de-Fond.
His report contains lessons for communicators grappling with political and economic headwinds who are learning they need to find a new approach in the face of extensive uncertainty. If in doubt, open up.
TAG Heuer invited a dedicated band of hardcore followers – brand ambassadors in business speak – to an event that had been designed just for them. Making them feel ultra-special, the day was hosted by Jack Heuer himself, also starring the brand’s master watchmaker.
In between sessions there were opportunities to visit the closed-to-the-public museum – a rare treat for international enthusiasts.
They were shown technical drawings and plastic prototypes of next year’s new product. Crucially, in a first for the industry, this watch was actually deigned by Heuer customers.
They were on a tour of the factory when they came across (although carefully planned, I’m sure) a working prototype of the new timepiece.
This is the first time anyone had seen it and it was a complete surprise to the visitors so – of course – you fetch up with the brand’s biggest fans snapping away and posting their pictures online for the world to see.
They were given another exclusive with the announcement of an additional limited-edition watch that would be produced to mark Jack Heuer’s 85th birthday.
Your audience wants transparency...
Westphalen comments in the blog: “Transparency and insights like this from the big Swiss brands is unusual but was present throughout the whole event.”
Under the same considerable pressure that is being felt across the market, TAG has decided to open up.
Starting with a campaign to get its customers to help design a watch was inspired. Why wouldn’t you want something that you helped create?
They made a notable change to their communications approach, switching out of the super secret, long-build up communications approach with major announcements made only on the stages of major watch fairs.
The risk with secrets and big reveals is a feeling of let-down and anti-climax. Better to secure success by keeping customers close to product development all the way through the process.
...and they'll pay you back double
Rewarding their biggest fans with VIP access is a great way to go about introducing your new, open and transparent communications strategy.
The pay back for this special treatment comes in the form of active and excited blogging and photo posting. Now, the broader customer base also feels like they got the exclusive and can share in the excitement.
If you're really lucky, the journalists may even comment on your new plans.
So, if you want to get noticed, think about how you communicate, not what you communicate. Reward your biggest fans with unique experiences and they will help spread the word.
Be open about what’s coming up and give detail generously. Find ways to release the details when people least expect it and capitalise on the upside of surprise. Finally, if at all possible, make your customers part of your product design process.
If you feel like your communications strategy needs a refresh but didn’t have a good enough reason to change it up, the market is doing the job for you.
Time for a change?