Richard Palk, Head of Customer Marketing at British luxury watch manufacturer Bremont, unpacks his approach for Little Grey Cells: how to balance resources with ambition, marketing watches that last a lifetime and the Bremont mission to reinvigorate the British luxury watchmaking tradition. Brought to you by Worth Your While (wyw.agency)
What inspired you to pursue a career that embraces marketing?
Richard> I’ve been marketing things – physical & digital products, services, music, B2B, B2C – since long before I had “marketing” in a job title. But I didn’t consider myself a marketer by trade until I’d put some formal structure and commercial understanding around what I intuitively knew I was good at professionally – as part of doing an MBA.
Since then, I’ve made conscious decisions to target roles with either a high, or an exclusive, marketing focus. I wouldn’t for example feel optimally-suited to a COO role – if you have the option, play to your strengths.
What are the biggest challenges currently facing your marketing team?
Richard> Many are generic, especially within a small but swiftly-growing company – balancing resources with ambitions; taking care of critical details while keeping the big picture in view; driving process improvement without eroding creativity, imagination and fun…etc.
Others are more industry-specific. For example, providing upfront samples of bespoke, high unit price wristwatches for assessment by key brand and retail partners, involves many decisions that mass-manufacturing consumer product companies simply don’t have to make.
Science vs Art: With scientific data-driven marketing at one end of the spectrum and genius creative ideas at the other - which side do you lean towards?
Richard> I’m not sure data and creativity are really opposites – I’ve used numbers for many years as a key creative asset to tell a compelling business story. Numbers can work as paragraphs or chapters, as black & white vignettes, or as colourful canvases - depending on how and with whom you’re using them.
Truly impactful marketing campaigns draw heavily on the skills of both Creative Directors and Data Scientists; successful senior marketers navigate quite a long way down both ends of that “spectrum”.
The Metaverse and web3: are you ‘in’, ‘out’ or ‘not sure’? And please tell us why.
Richard> They’re not synonymous. Web3 (as much as it can be defined) is the inevitable evolution of a collection of enabling technologies in our increasingly connected lives, as between people, devices, and systems. So I’m “in” for Web3 - as the opposite means trying to hold back a tide unstoppable by people, companies, brands, or society.
As for the Metaverse, which I think of as an AR/VR experiential platform built on Web3+ and with a myriad of end use cases, of which the vast majority no-one has yet thought of – I’m in “wait and see” mode. The optimal speed of entry onto this platform for exquisite analogue wristwatches is yet to be seen – and timing is critical. In that context I’d be as happy to be a fast second, as to be a first mover.
How do you adapt a business and marketing strategy to embrace the latest trends and keep ahead of the competition?
Richard> Business strategies that are fit for purpose work on cycles that allow for many changes in “latest trends” – as those trends themselves are subject to huge macro cycles (economical, technological, societal…). Sudden changes of business strategy don’t instil confidence.
Marketing strategies by definition support business strategies, but should be more adaptable, more quickly. In SOSTAC terms, if the first “S” (Situation) changes radically, you need to adapt your marketing - fast.
The obvious recent example is in early 2020, when for whole industries their offline B2C routes to market suddenly shut down – so marketing strategies had to change radically. I personally witnessed CMOs suddenly scrambling to learn the language of ecommerce search ranking – both amazing and entertaining!
What role does your company’s environmental strategy play within your marketing strategy?
Richard> Bremont manufactures and markets products in intentionally limited volumes, all of which have a useful lifecycle of decades - no in-built obsolescence. They consume almost no virgin plastics, and even their form factor (small and beautiful wristwatches) mitigates to some extent their environmental impact.
At the same time, the role is currently fairly limited, and absolutely needs to increase - our vision for sustainability was explicitly raised by our MD as a key topic in a senior leadership meeting only this week. It’s incumbent on Bremont as it is on all companies to strive continuously to be better global citizens.
How important is storytelling when maximising your customers’ engagement with a campaign?
Richard> Absolutely essential! With luxury brands in general, and with luxury timepieces in particular, the end customer’s purchase decision is generally very considered, with brand truths and authenticity being critical top-of-mind drivers, as well as product truths and excellence.
Bremont is deeply fortunate in being a young watchmaking company, with its business and brand roots strongly linked to the lives and passions of its founders. As well as supporting a rich range of experiential options – our customers can and do meet and have coffee with those founders! – their passions for aviation, adventure and engineering excellence provide continually rich storytelling opportunities for us as a brand.
Creative agencies rail against the time and resource spent working on pitches to win accounts: is there a realistic, fair alternative to the pitch process?
Richard> The pitching process isn’t particular to suppliers of creative services. Speaking as someone who was client-side with a large multinational for 15 years, during which I attended many pitches for multiple departments and functions, I can assure LBB readers that companies ranging from tech platform giants, via facilities management services, all the way to small branded clothing suppliers go through comparably painful B2B journeys to win business.
Pitching in one way or another is necessary for corporate procurement to be “fair” – perhaps a better question, is “how can we make pitching as efficient as possible for both sides?”
From a marketing perspective, what’s coming up for your brand or business in 2022?
Richard> Bremont’s stated mission extends beyond selling and marketing its own product range; we want to reinvigorate the British watchmaking industry itself, which over recent decades and even centuries has lost some of its original uniqueness and competitive advantages.
Some genuinely unique British brand and product marketing activities are in the pipeline for the rest of 2022. Stay tuned!