Watch Branding

25 June 2018

Branding? Try Harder Than This…

by Freddy J. Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango LLC + Guy Who Likes Watches And Brands…

Knowing I love watches, Amazon recently recommended an Italian brand I’d never heard of: Brismassi Esetti. At least it sounds Italian. And at first glance, it looked pretty sharp: a clean design, only 8mm thick, with an Italian leather band and a Japanese movement.
Brismassi Esetti Watch

Yet at only $45.88, the low price waved a red flag — why so cheap?

So I started scrolling and, underneath the header “Customers who viewed this brand also viewed,” my eye caught another brand I’d never heard of: Adam Gallagher… featuring the exact same watch.

Adam Gallagher Watch

And just to the right, yet another one: Monschau.

Monschau Watch

All three had the exact same photos and exact same features with only minor pricing and wording differences. In fact, the “Brismassi Esetti” and the “Monschau” watches both had “Adam Gallagher” stamped on them. That means two of the marketers — or maybe it was the same marketer triple-dipping — hadn’t even bothered with original photos.

Now clearly, this was just another case of someone buying watches wholesale and rebranding them. And sure enough, a brief search of Alibaba (a massive Chinese wholesale site) turned up the manufacturing source, Shenzhen Jonson Technology Co., Ltd., with “Adam Gallagher” in the featured image. The price: as low as $4.30/piece, depending on the volume.

Shenzhen Jonson Technology Watch

Now brands have been tattooing their names on other people’s products for decades. Chinese manufacturers have just now made rebranding products so affordable and easy that anyone — you or I or the guy hawking loot on the sidewalk — can launch a brand and start selling within weeks.

And I’m all for it. Why should giant corporations have all the outsourcing fun? And apparently, everyone’s getting in on it.

I recently attended an ecommerce conference in China, where thousands of resellers were learning strategies for selling on Amazon and their own websites. I later visited YiWu International Trade City with its 75,000 manufacturer booths kaleidoscoping through 5 multi-story buildings. I only managed to stroll by a few hundred booths that pitched everything from dog toys to talking dolls before I wore out. Unfortunately, no one was selling feet replacements.

But I got it: importing and selling products has never been easier.

Now building a strong brand — as the Brismassi Esetti/Adam Gallagher/Monschau/Shenzhen Jonson Technology Co. example shows — is much, much harder. It involves far more than stamping a logo on a product:

  • It means differentiating yourself from the competition, so you don’t blend in and wind up in an everyone-loses price war.
  • It means creating trust and signaling superior value, so customers willingly pay you a premium (mmm... profits).
  • It means evoking positive emotions and emoting prestige, so the mere mention of your brand sparks interest among customers… and investors and partners and journalists and potential employees.

At the least, it means you can’t have the same product selling under three different names on Amazon. Sure, you might get sales, but sorry, you won’t build a brand. Even if you sound Italian.

So Brismassi Esetti… or Adam Gallagher… or Shenzhen Jonson… or whatever your name is, we need to talk. Given that a young Swede named Filip Tysander recently managed to turn inexpensive Chinese watches into a $200 million international brand called Daniel Wellington, you can certainly sell a lot of watches. Just don’t sell yourself short.

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Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

4 Responses

  1. Hey Freddy….I don’t think brand building is the point here!! Seems like it’s about buying low and selling a big higher than low…

    • retro

      Oh yes, I agree. They put barely any effort into branding, other than made-up Western sounding names. But the fact that they went for those names — instead of calling it a Shenzhen Jonson watch — made me think they had a smidgen of an inkling of the possible value of branding. My article suggests that they could have accomplished so much more, if they gave it any thought.

  2. A real stunner, Freddy. I never fully appreciated the concept of “rebranding” until now. Startling to think there are multiple “brands” all selling the same low-cost, Chinese-manufactured product. I’d missed the Daniel Wellington phenom entirely. You have to admire the vision, chutzpah, and ingenuity involved, but it seems to cheapen the whole idea of a brand.

    • retro

      Indeed. It cheapens, scales, guts, fillets, batters, and deep fries the whole concept of branding. What you have left may be called “fish” but in no way resembles the real deal.

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