The first thing that came to mind when I first saw this image in an e-mail from Hublot was "wait, what?" I didn't get it. What was this? At first I thought the image of Bernie Ecclestone was some type of painting. I am not familiar with his face, but I do know of his work as the guy who runs Formula 1 racing. The British Billionaire's face was distorted with a painful looking black eye and other facial bruises. The 80-year-old was recently violently mugged, and among other things, his Hublot King Power F1 watch was stolen.
None of this information was placed in the above image send out by Hublot. In fact, it is entirely cryptic in its messaging. The point of it is simple I think. A beaten up elderly man along with the statement of "See what people will do for a Hublot." Furthering the concept that the watches are so in demand, you'd punch your grandpa for one.
Since the release of this image a few days ago, the media has been all over it. Mostly admonishing Hublot for its audacity and lack of good taste. While this is happening, Hublot CEO Jean-Claude Biver is likely reading such commentary from his desk in Switzerland with a big smile on his face. I am sure that he could not be more pleased.
He couldn't ask for a better response. The Swiss brand is known for its unconventional tactics for getting media attention - and this move secured a healthy volume of mentions from many forms of popular media that would never spend time discussing the luxury watch industry.
The story gets thicker. It was Bernie Ecclestone who provided the image to Hublot and suggested its use. In an odd form of machismo, Bernie thought his abused visage would prove a provocative marketing statement for Hublot. The quote of "See what people will do for a Hublot," is from his own mouth. Hublot and Formula 1 have a current business relationship. The two companies got together and gave Hublot a unique responsibility. That of being the "official timepiece maker for Formula 1." Not the official timekeeper, but the sole licensee of the F1 logo for use on watches. Clever, and it sounds impressive - another "Biverism," if you will.
I can only imagine the conversation internally at Hublot when someone suggested to send this message out to the media. It is undeniably bad taste at first. Bernie's black and blue face draws your attention like a train wreck, it is shock advertising at its finest. You can search Google for more stories about Bernie's fateful night to see dozens of stories on the situation and countless comments.
When asked why he decided to do ad this Mr. Biver needed to come up with a cohesive sounding response to the question. He always does. The clever CEO is a man who understands that people follow your lead if you appear to always have a larger plan associated with your actions. He also knows how to construct statements that leave people unable to argue in return. Mr. Biver commented that this is part of a larger campaign by Hublot to denounce violence. Those whose need a "larger" answer explaining the ad have one.
In response to the announcement, Hublot needed to defend itself and take a bit of 'less than positive' commentary on "how could you suggest this and show this image to the public!?" What it got in return was a lot more valuable. On the downside, people seeing the ad are not exactly going to think that Hublot is condoning violence, but rather, that Hublot is placing their product in the precarious situation of "people will rob you for it." On the plus side, Hublot products get a perceptional value boost, because "people will try to rob you for it." The move subtly adds value to the brand. Among some groups, one of the largest complaints regarding Hublot is that Hublot products are very expensive. Knowing that someone would risk hard time in jail to steal one ups the community's perception of the value for each Hublot product, and thus makes it easier for them to sell watches as the price that they charge. A few weeks from now no one will recall Bernie's battered face, but the underlying message about Hublot watches will still be there. Mr. Biver knows this quite well from his years of composing publicity worthy events and messages.
Hublot's decision to run the announcement was at least calculated enough, and Mr. Biver knew exactly what to expect in response. None of the commentary I have seen in regard to the ad surprises me at the least, but it does amuse me when people yell at Hublot's poor judgment. This is business, not art (well it is "the art of fusion"), and when it comes down to it Hublot will continue to innovate when it comes to getting world attention for the brand and its products. If these need to "shock and awe" a bit, then at least someone is having a good time constructing the message. In this instance, the media fell right in to their lap thanks to Mr. Ecclestone, so it was a 'no-brainer.'