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I Read the Meta 2022 Creative Forecast So You Don't Have To

Recently, I received an email from Meta, the umbrella organization that owns Facebook, Instagram, Occulus (VR headsets), WhatsApp, and probably a few other platforms I don't know about. The email announced Meta's "2022 Creative Forecast." The publication offers a list of suggestions for how businesses might alter their marketing and conduct novel outreach to buyers. These suggestions were drawn from "100 standout campaigns on Meta technologies from the last year." I'm not entirely sure what that means, but I'm assuming Meta had some kind of metric for the success of an advertising campaign and then reviewed the top 100 that were relatively strong by this metric.

Here, I'll share the report's five recommendations, describe them, and then give awards to the best and worst members of the watch industry when it comes to following these "five key creative behaviors." The best example of engaging in a particular "creative behavior" will receive the "Chronometer" award. An example of the industry engaging in the opposite behavior will receive a "Broken Mainspring." So, let's get into it:

1. Empower the Crowd

Meta describes this behavior as: "Push beyond simply seeking feedback and find ways to enable people to co-shape ideas and experiences." If I'm honest, I'm not sure the watch industry generally does very well with this, particularly when it comes to co-shaping watch designs. In fact, I've heard some brand representatives explictly state that they'd rather not react to collector preferences when designing watches. However, there are some brands that are at least trying to empower collectors.

A Cartier Crash watch I saw at a Phillips Auction preview recently.
Chronometer: Cartier

Earlier this year, Singapore Watch Club announced a collaboration in watch design with Cartier. They co-created 18 different timepieces with a wide range of case shapes. Legendary collector Roni Madhvani has also described his opportunity to collaborate with Cartier in designing at least one timepiece. Howeover, from his description, it sounds like participants could be "empowered" more if they were allowed to publicly share details about the collaboration.

I would also give Tudor an honorable mention here because they have worked with certain groups to create custom timepieces. However, my understanding is that they are winding down this program.

Broken Mainspring: Rolex

The crown is at the top of the game in so many ways. Throughout their ascendancy they've maintained a fair bit of secrecy and closed design process. There are historical examples of Rolex creating special editions of watches shaped by certain collector interests, such as this Panama Canal example. But let's face it: this kind of thing is more or less non-existent today.

2. Elevate Unheard Stories

Meta describes this behavior as "Identify and share authentic, meaningful stories from communities that are overlooked."

Chronometer: WAX for Collectors

WAX isn't a watch brand, but they are an adjacent business focused on insuring watch collections. I chose WAX because Complecto identifies them as a sponsor. Complecto, in turn, was "founded with the goal of building an inclusive community that reflects and celebrates the true diversity of watch enthusiasts and collectors around the world." Through sponsorship of Complecto, WAX has identified and supported possibly overlooked members of the watch collecting community. WAX also emphasizes the creation of an open community including collectors of "all types, interests and backgrounds." It is worth noting that ORIS, Bezel and Analog:Shift have also supported Complecto events.

Broken Mainspring: Any Brand Focused on Celebrity Ambassadors

Omega's Instagram account prominently features three celebrity ambassadors as I finish writing this post: Zoe Kravitz, Hyn Bin and George Clooney.
This probably applies to most of the industry. Ambassadors are generally famous and their stories are not overlooked. So, if a brand devotes a whole lot of marketing to ambassadors then they are necessarily not elevating unheard stories. There is certainly one possible exception: IWC has an ongoing campaign involving a well-known football (soccer) coach and a charity that helps "children and young people overcome violence, discrimination and disadvantage in their lives." This is perhaps a good example of using celebrity ambassadors to share stories from overlooked communities (although I find it curious that the watch brand itself has not advertised this year's activities through its media channels).

3. Shop the Moment

For this one, a brand should "tap into trends and create exclusive experiences so people feel part of something."

Chronometer: Audemars Piguet

I think there are two developments which place AP at the head of the pack when it comes to this strategy. First is the launch of the Royal Oak Concept Black Panther Flying Tourbillon in April of 2021. There is no question that the Marvel franchise, as well as the Black Panther character, are an ongoing, highly popular trend.
The Zenith "Master of Chronograph" exhibit.
Add to that a live drop on YouTube with an auction of a piece unique version of the watch and you've offered an experience that makes people feel part of something. I've previously written about AP House, and this is also a very unique experience that is also exclusive in the sense that, in most places, the visit is by appointment.

Zenith earns honorable mention here. This year, they offered a touring exhibition of their timepieces which included a watchmaking class. Their collaboration with Felipe Pantone also connected the brand to an exciting, and trending, modern artist.

Broken Mainspring: The Person in Charge of Retail Loss Prevention at Richemont

Every Richemont store I've visited requires that I stand outside while some guard eyeballs me until the door is unlocked and then I'm let into the store. It feels like an airport experience from 2003: a slowly ambulating TSA line ending with me taking off my shoes and belt. It's not exclusive and it's just not a good trend.

4. Solve it IRL

Here, Meta suggests that brands "Go beyond talk and use technology in innovative ways to help relieve the big pain points of your audience."

Chronometer: MING Watches

Probably the biggest pain point in the modern watch industry is the dreaded wait list. I've written a number of times about the fact that wait lists are what happens when a brand imposes production limits with a retail price that is too low. MING uses technology to solve the wait list problem. The brand follows a "just in time" model in which a design is shared with the public and those who want the watch must send a deposit within a certain order window. However, the brand pledges to deliver as many watches as are ordered. While this does not necessarily completely eliminate the wait list, it goes a long way towards addressing it. MING's approach takes place entirely online and does not involve retail sales.

Broken Mainspring: The Holy Trinity Plus One

A Vacheron Constantin Overseas Dual Time. This unique piece desin was later placedi into a limited edition production run by VC. The Overseas is one of the steel sports models with an unrelenting waitlist.
I'm not going to name names here, but let's just say each of the holy trinity have a steel sports model with a wait list process that remains unaddressed by technology. If we add in one more brand with an interminable steel sports wait list, managed by some chaotic decentralized process that only ADs understand, we pretty much cover the majority of "pain points" in the industry (there is also a pain point around long waits for servicing but I'm not aware of any brand that leverages technology to address this problem).

5. Unlock the you-verse

As far as I'm concerned, the term "you-verse" does not exist and nor should it ever. Meta put it in their report, though, so I'm reproducing it here. They describe this one as "Co-create emotional, immersive experiences with individuals that give them more agency and empathy."

Chronometer: Initium

I haven't personally experienced Initium's watchmaking class, but I've read many positive reviews. Initium invites watch enthusiasts to their workshop in Switzerland. There, each participant assembles a watch which they can bring home.
The canonical view of a student in a watchmaking class.
The experience is co-created because you can choose different components for the watch. You can also choose the length of your visit and whether lunch is included. I'd imagine this is fairly immersive because you're actually assembling your own watch. I'm not sure how much agency you have, but I suppose you can try a novel approach for installing the balance cock (if you bend the hairspring don't @ me). I'm quite certain the experience is empathy-building. Every time a tiny screw has rocketed out of my tweezers and across the room while I try to assemble a movement, my sympathy for watchmakers has grown.

Broken Mainspring: Contrôle officiel suisse des Chronomètres (COSC)

I don't know why, but this keeper of the chronometry rating just seems unemotional, non-collaborative, non-immersive and I really don't see the organization as empathy-building. Either the movement meets the spec or it doesn't. Honestly, I don't think COSC should bother with the you-verse and I'm actually happy they don't.

Conclusion

It is hard to determine if the watch industry really needs these novel marketing practices. They're certainly worth knowing if a particular brand or organization is interested in reaching audiences that aren't accessible through more traditional marketing. I was somewhat encouraged by the fact that I could find watch industry practitioners who seem to have achieved these novel forms of creative outreach. However, it is equally clear that there are many who have not.
My book on the history of Rolex marketing is now available on Amazon! It debuted as the #1 New Release in its category. You can find it here.

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