TAG Heuer has embarked upon a new adventure. The hyperactive watchmaker, helmed by the equally hyperactive Jean-Claude Biver, was in London on Wednesday 28 June to announce a partnership with the film “Kingsman: The Golden Circle”. The boss of LVMH’s watch division (Hublot, TAG Heuer and Zenith) shared the stage with the film’s director and the CEO of online retailer Mr Porter. Why was this triumvirate assembled? Two reasons.
Two birds, one stone
The first is that TAG Heuer is making its first foray into the world of cinema – the world of the major blockbuster, in fact. This type of partnership is far from a novel idea in the industry. Hamilton has been a figurehead for half a century, and Omega epitomises the concept of product placement with the James Bond franchise. In fact, Jean-Claude Biver himself is familiar with this kind of goose and its golden eggs, because he initiated the strategy when he was with Omega. It was an unprecedented marketing coup that has resulted in a seemingly endless stream of publicity for the watchmaker.
TAG Heuer, on the other hand, is not an habitué of the silver screen, still less of any kind of product placement. This is a long way from its traditional stomping grounds of motor racing, football and cycling. So, why the cinema? Jean-Claude Biver explains: “In the watch industry, we committed two errors. The first was to hang on to what we had, without looking to innovate, and the second was to talk to our clients. In reality, what matters is not talking to people who already buy our watches – we need to talk to the ones who haven’t yet bought one. That’s who we’re interested in. They are the clients of tomorrow. They’re the millennials, the ones who’ll go to see Kingsman.” The TAG Heuer Connected Modular 45 plays a crucial role in the film, stuffed as it is with gadgets that would make 007 weep.
Room for improvement
The second reason for Jean-Claude Biver’s presence is the partnership with Mr Porter. The site will be the exclusive distributor of a “Kingsman” special edition throughout the month following the film’s release, which is scheduled for 7 September. After that initial period the watch will also be available from regular retailers.
While the limited exclusivity approach is not new, what is new is the choice of Mr Porter as a partner. Up to now, TAG Heuer has not had a strong online sales presence. In fact, many would agree that it is lagging well behind, particularly for a brand that targets a population segment who already make the vast majority of their purchases online.
“Yes, we are indeed behind,” admits Jean-Claude Biver. “We have three markets where TAG Heuer offers direct online sales: The United States, the UK and Australia. That’s it.” The American market is as strong as the British and Australian markets are struggling. Clearly, there is plenty of room for improvement.
Mr Porter was thus an obvious choice to hold TAG Heuer’s hand. The online retailer operates in a luxury segment that is a good fit with TAG Heuer. Also, the relationship gives TAG Heuer the opportunity to test its online sales through a third party site, an important step for an industry that has a longstanding culture of providing online sales only through retailers who also have a bricks-and-mortar store. Mr Porter, however is cut from a different cloth. It is exclusively online.
This approach will no doubt give the watchmaker time to fine-tune its offering for the countries it is targeting next for online sales through their local TAG Heuer websites. A company representative confirmed that these new sites will be rolled out gradually, “with a first wave of markets operational by the end of 2017.” Additional resources and teams are apparently still being put in place. “The idea is not to create a new client service architecture, but to build upon what we already have in each country. A centralised infrastructure would be needlessly complex. Whenever Mr Biver spots that kind of bloated structure, he gets rid of it.”
Mr Porter thus provides a turnkey solution for TAG Heuer who, in the meantime, can prepare for the next step. The online retailer already works with Oris, Junghans, IWC, Ressence, Bell & Ross and Bremont, which coincidentally partnered the first Kingsman film (though they are not involved with the second). As we know, wherever TAG Heuer decides to invest its marketing dollars, watches can be expected to fly off the shelves, virtual or otherwise. A few months from now, online watch sales might well have entered a new era.
Jean-claude Biver, Toby Batema and Matthew Vaughn © TAG Heuer