Seven Tips For Starting Micro-Brands

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Every week several new watches are launched on crowd funding websites. Often they are being introduced by a micro-brand that is less then a year old, and this is probably their first product. When you have already started your journey as a micro-brand owner, good for you, for people looking to start, here are a few tips:

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1. You are not alone!!

The world is not waiting for your watch, in fact, we don’t even need your watch! You are going to create something that will enter a market place that already has too many offerings, and that market place is even a shrinking as we speak! Sounds mean? Yes, but it is absolutely vital that you realize this before you start. This is as much a challenge, as it can actually guide you on how to run your project. When knowing this discourages you, please stop reading and don’t even attempt to start your own watch brand! When you find this challenging….read on!

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2. Find your niche

Even in an overcrowded market place, there are nooks and crannies that are less crowded. They are often of interest to a smaller group of consumers, but since there are also less offerings, you have a higher chance that they will actually buy them. Actually, you might even find a loyal customer base for your second and third watch, if you play your cards right. To discover a niche you do need to do your research. See, which groups are forgotten in the bigger scope. Then find out what they are looking for in a watch. This is quite the reverse of what most micro-brands currently do: most of them make a watch that they really like and try to sell it, but when you are able to combine your vision, with a “forgotten” target group, things might go a little smoother and easier for you.

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3. Marketing and PR are NOT optional

I have seen many great watches not meet their funding threshold on Kickstarter of Indiegogo. Why not? Because too little people knew about it. Just because the word micro is in front of brand, doesn’t mean that some activities an established brand does are optional to you. Products don’t sell themselves. Of course you can hope that your one post on Facebook just happen to be seen by the editor of Vogue or GQ, who shares it and it goes viral, but when you wake up from that pleasant dream, it is important to realize advice No.1…you are not alone! Don’t invest all your money in the watch, but keep a generous amount aside to fund your marketing-plan. Yes, before you even start thinking about making a watch, you are going to sit down and determine your target-group, find out what they are looking for in a watch, and then plot a course of action on how to actually reach this group and tell them about the great watch you made especially for them.

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4. Think Long-Term

Design one watch, sell thousands of them, and report to the local Porsche-dealership to get yourself a new Turbo S from the earnings…..not going to happen. There was a time when you could have actually make a simple, cheap single model, hype it, sell it and make a bundle, but that window has passed. If you want success, you need to build a brand. A brand is not a single model, but a string of models that are connected to each-other with a common theme, and a common design language. They can evolve, as a matter of fact they need to evolve, but like a Porsche….evolution, not revolution.

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5. Quality, Quality, Quality

Customer is King, especially in a marketplace that is already overflowing with watches all competing for his/her favor. Mediocre quality is not something you will be able to get away with. Of course your customers will only see your watch in the flesh after they committed their money already on the crowd-funding platform, but you don’t want to disappoint then unless you like to become a one-day-fly. The competition on quality is fierce among the micro-brand watches, and I am very happy to say that it has been a while since I have seen one offering mediocre quality. Actually, many of them are at the same level, or sometimes even higher, as the established Swiss, German and Japanese brands. Get a few bench-mark watches, from micro-brands as well as from established brands, and compare their quality to your prototypes. You will probably are going to have to float around a few prototypes with the press before you start production, and they will most certainly make comparisons, so you might as well beat them to it, and make sure you are on par with the competition.

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6. Don’t forget the strap

Many micro-brands pour their heart and soul into their watches, yet get cheap when it comes to the strap. The result is often like having a nice sports car, but instead of having invested in equally good sport seat, you put in a cheap, plastic lounge chair with the legs saw off. As with the seats in a car, the strap of your watch will GREATLY influence the pleasure your costumers will experience when wearing it! Wearing comfort can never be overrated, your customers have probably more then one watch, and the more comfortable it sits on the wrist, the higher the chance that your watch is frequently on their wrist and in their minds! So as tempting as those colorful and inexpensive NATO-straps may be….go the extra mile and invest in a good strap for your watch.

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7. Get outside counsel

You have spend countless days, and sleepless nights, working on your watch. It has to be perfect now right? No! We are all conditioned to think that when you invest a lot of time and effort on something, it has to be great. Of course such an investment most certainly helps, if you are going into the right direction! Better is to get someone who is completely independent from your brand and product, but knows the industry and markets very well, and act as an outside counsel. This is not an easy job, and often you might not like what the counsel has to say. Recently I advised a micro-brand to get back to the drawing board because I thought their choice of movement spelled trouble. That is a harsh reality to deal with, and often viewed as an utter disappointment, but in the end it is much better, easier, and more successful to tackle these issue’s in the development phase, then being confronted with it when you already have put your watch up for sale.

Following these seven tips will not guarantee success, but it might makes it a bit easier to get a foot on the ground in the fascinating world of watches.

One Comment

  • Patrick Centanni

    Great advice! Is there a good a list of firms that one can hire in Switzerland to prototype and ultimately build your watch. I would like to offer a “Swiss” watch is possible. But, to be safe, is there a similar list of Chinese firms that can help to produce a bespoke watch that will use a Swiss movement. I am very interested in using a Swiss movement.
    Thank you.

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