In October and November of 2019, aBlogtoWatch held a large audience survey, which was designed to provide answers to a number of questions. A primary purpose of the survey was to collect data for an academic study about watch enthusiast consumer sentiments. 2,000 aBlogtoWatch audience members provided data that gave empirical merit to the theory that watch brand marketing efforts are not effectively targeting likely customer groups. Clear data suggest that up to 80% of watch enthusiasts are not being effectively reached by watch brand advertising messages. Subsequently, brands that may have historically enjoyed close relationships with the highly important watch enthusiast group of consumers are missing out on relationships with their most important customer group. While the purpose of this article is not to discuss the full findings of that research project, indeed, we found that watch brands are mistargeting their marketing efforts in a number of important ways.
Specifically, the study results encountered what can only be referred to as “aspirational marketing targeting,” the notion being that watch brand marketers are sending their message to groups of consumers they “hope” will become customers and eschewing populations of consumers who either already are, or are likely to be, buyers of their products tomorrow. The situation is sort of like trying to court a mate you know is a bit too good for you but that you really think, with effort, you can earn favor with — as opposed to a more practical choice of mate who would be interested in you if only you showed interest in them. Various flavors of this practice are happening at most major watch brands today. Not out of malice, of course, but merely because of educational gaps in marketing departments. Watch brand marketing for the 21st century is still an evolving field. I thank the aBlogtoWatch audience for participating in meaningful academic work. Also thank you Kirk F. of Plymouth Meeting, PA, USA and David B., Switzerland who are the winners of the Marathon General Search & Rescue Diver’s Automatic watches we provided as incentives to participate in the survey.
One of the key findings of the survey was that watch enthusiast consumers are not being spoken to very well by watch brands (more on that later). This is ironic because watch enthusiast consumers are also key drivers of luxury watch sales even for non-enthusiast consumers. That’s right, it turns out that watch lovers who mess around online commenting about watches and sharing content are a key driver for watch sales to mainstream luxury consumers. Sorry to break it to you, aBlogtoWatch audience, but you are all influencers. That’s in part due to some of your behavior. 81% said that you specifically gave someone advice about buying a watch recently, and another 53% actually bought a watch for someone other than yourself in the last year.
You also spend a lot of time reading up on watches and checking reviews. 72% view watch media daily, while 96% of you pray to the Internet horological gods at least weekly. Virtually none of you buy watches without doing a hefty bit of research, and it also takes you time to consider purchases. The majority of watch enthusiasts take 6-12 months (63%) to make a decision to buy a watch after you’ve first become interested in it. 46% of you seemed to prefer watch brands that have been around for a while, and 44% of you are equally interested in both historic and newly founded watch brands.
What I found very interesting about aBlogtoWatch is that it has evolved into a platform for mature collectors. Only 25% of the audience has been collecting for fewer than three years, and only 4% has been collecting for less than a year. It should not be surprising, then, that 98% of you own more than two watches and 59% of you own five to 30 watches. A reported 2% of you own more than 100 watches.
In addition to being physically active (85% currently or in the past have regularly played sports or engaged in some type of demanding physical activity), you also travel quite a bit (71% of you traveled internationally in the last year) and live all around the world. aBlogtoWatch audience members typically live in large economic centers, love to view and own art (over 80%) and are largely male (98%). Since the last survey of this type in 2016, the aBlogtoWatch audience age has shifted slightly older (59% of you are aged from 36-55 years old), as I suspect social media is where most novice watch collectors are starting more these day as opposed to reading long-form reviews and digesting details of horological minutiae. But novice watch collectors who stick around and end up getting some education mostly seem to find their way to aBlogtoWatch. Here’s what else you are interested in…
I actually don’t think it would be incorrect to refer to the aBlogtoWath audience’s other tastes as being a bit on the predictably conservative side – but that’s probably because watch enthusiasts typically have a number of overlapping interests. From the choices offered, it was interesting that most aBlogtoWatchers these days would be more than happy to enjoy watch conversation over an alcoholic drink (the number one shared interest), but few would share a joint (cannabis was the least shared interest). You also mostly seem to like sports cars, photography, cooking, computers, clothing & fashion, shoes, video games, and bicycles in that order. You are a sporty bunch too (as mentioned above) with a lot of physically active audience members who seem to all really like hiking (the number one shared physical activity interest). That said, no matter what your interests, there is a strong chance the watch brands you like are not marketing to you based on your interest in those activities (a missed opportunity, indeed).
aBlogtoWatch watch enthusiasts are also independent-minded and self-assured. You are also charitable (81% of you have donated to a philanthropic organization in the last year). When it comes to why you like watches, the majority of you are entirely confident to choose what you feel is an attractive design to meet your tastes. The audience also predominantly chooses watches they find are nice to look at before they consider them as status symbols. We do, however, see real differences in being open-minded to new designs when comparing different age groups. Watch enthusiasts under 40 appear to be more open-minded to original designs, whereas watch enthusiasts above 40 may be a bit more set in their ways (on average) when it comes to taste.
When it comes to what types of watches you like, aBlogtoWatch audience members seem to all like a good classic sports watch. Aside from that, there are wide variations in taste and preferences. This is especially evidenced by sentiment toward brands whose primary product offerings are not classic tool watches. For the first time ever, we noticed actual signs of negative sentiment toward otherwise really popular watch brands. Old names in watchmaking that should have better sentiment among watch enthusiasts appear to have lost much meaning to serious timepiece buyers. The message for many of today’s watch brands is that they need to reexamine how regular watch customers feel about their brands, as they might be surprised how few of those people actually identify themselves as fans.
In summary, from a market health perspective, the 2019 aBlogtoWatch audience survey found that the watch enthusiast as an active consumer is alive and well. A healthy number of watches are being purchased on a regular basis (27% of you bought a watch in the last month, 85% in the last year). 56% of you want to spend more money on buying your next watch versus your last watch (a bit lower than in 2016, probably due to the poor economy. That said, 29% simply said you aren’t sure whether or not your next watch will purchase will be more expensive than the last), and 77% are currently looking for your next watch to buy. Among that group, 59% actually haven’t decided what they want yet.
The bad news for the watch industry is that data is now emerging to show that they have been mismanaging marketing. Watch brands seem to be neglecting groups of regular buyers (watch enthusiasts) who themselves are key drivers of purchases for mainstream consumers. Watch enthusiasts notice watch brand marketing, but a lot of it seems to actually be turning them off. The results of the study seem to strongly indicate that watch brands would be economically wisest in the long-run to invest in dedicated marketing campaigns that speak to watch enthusiast consumers concurrently next to whatever other marketing campaigns they are investing in. Watch brands are also probably wasting money on too much “aspirational marketing” that targets appealing though unlikely groups of consumers.
Thank you very much to everyone who participated in the 2019 aBlogtoWatch audience survey. I think the audience should take great pride and comfort in knowing that so many of you have so much in common. That means when aBlogtoWatch audience members meet, friendships can form. I’ve been doing a lot of watch industry research work of this type and will continue — especially when brands or the industry come to us with interesting questions to help them answer.