forums/clubs published on The Watch Lounge
the original article can be found here
the French version can be found here
Clubs: A Work in Progress
Traditionally a number of brands have created exclusive clubs for their clients where they could gather and discuss their watches, sharing their unique passions and interests. In fact, clubs were the very first expression of communities.
Over the past few years, however, the astronomical growth in popularity of the various social media platforms has led to the evolution of these clubs and the consequent creation of “web 2.0 communities”, the official playground of Community Managers. Powerful, rapid in their growth and most importantly of all uninhibited by boundaries of time or location, these online communities can present a powerful marketing tool for savvy brands, and indeed well-run web communities appear to be the ultimate version of Customer Relationships Management.
Is there still a use then for these traditional clubs, these places where owners used to have a privileged access to the brand, especially now that this access is seemingly wide open to all through other channels?
Unfortunately it seems the answer is no.
Competition and Cannibalization
In fact, what was originally designed to be complementary has ended as competition. Web communities appeal to so many clients and prospective clients that the idea of traditional clubs suddenly sounds old-school. Moreover, at these times when the return on investment of each dollar is closely tracked, Marketing & Communication Directions don’t want to spend (waste?) money on two overlapping initiatives.
Nevertheless, some brands, such as Vacheron Constantin, have chosen to convert their club into a forum, for one main reason: while a number web communities are based upon public platforms like Twitter or Facebook, the Vacheron Constantin forum is hosted by the corporate website. Consequently, it brings the (potential) customer directly into the universe of the brand, much closer to buy than any other physical space.
For its part, Jaeger-LeCoultre and its “LeClub” have chosen to adopt a more traditional approach: one space, access through registration only, with exclusive previews, invitations and other VIP events. Nothing really special but basic items working well, and a brand new version expected in Spring 2011.
Hublotista – The Personalized Experience
Meanwhile, Jean-Claude Biver (CEO of Hublot) has recently launched his own version of the on-line club; Hublotista. The concept is clearly centered around exclusivity, as it is not available to anyone but Hublot’s owners, who must authenticate their membership through a chipset and a USB card reader provided with the (new) watch. According to Mr Biver, the Hublot tribe already existed : “It’s wide and well spread around the world. With Hublotista, we simply gathered it, centralized it, and provided it with tools”.
Jean-Claude Biver highlights the importance of the “user generated content”, but really it’s not much different from the traditional way of running any forum or public web space, generally speaking. In fact, apart from the Secure ID Card and the encryption process provided by WISekey, there’s nothing really new on Hublotista.
Hublotista goes one step further : as each client is identified by his watch (serial number, date & location of purchase, etc.), it’s quite easy then to target him with watches that have a similar design and will be soon be available in his location.
The Final Word
The internet is full of sponsored but so-called ‘independent’ forums. As a matter of fact, and almost as a surprise, in-house forums and thus transparency (at last) sounds to be a good way to attract customers without anything left unsaid. However, this is largely dependent on the brand’s communication strategy and their willingness to disseminate accurate information to their community members.
The on-line platforms are still largely unknown places for many brands, and often the tendency is to misuse them; for example Facebook has a tendency to become ’Brandsbook’. Thus while the industry continues to open new channels of communication via social networks, it might be time to remember that in-house and sponsored communication had its advantages. Clubs are clearly sponsored places, and thus provide customers with the requested transparency and accessibility they crave, as well as the exclusivity.
Perhaps, therefore, the way web 2.0 communities and traditional clubs can co-exist for mutual benefit has still yet to be invented?
forums/clubs published on The Watch Lounge
- Alex for leading the charge and creating this virtual Lounge
- VC for providing the platform and support - now if they would be willing to let us in on more of their many secrets,
- All of the members for creating the content, interaction, and quality of this forum - "Vacheronistas" to the end!
Best Regards, Dan P.S. I felt ill when I read "Hublotista"