Anish Bhatt, the man who created the Watchanish social media sensation, is an unassuming British watch collector who turned his passion for horology into a career that charges brands tens of thousands of dollars for an influencer campaign. WatchPro’s Rob Corder caught up with him at a Roger Dubuis Lamborghini track day to get his views on how influencers fit into the wider marketing mix in the watch industry.
WatchPro: It has been a dramatic time in marketing with so many big brands pulling out of the major trade shows and searching around for a different way to talk to customers, the press and retail partners. Do you think this is part of a much broader transformation of the marketing landscape with a dramatic rise in digital advertising and particularly social media spending?
Anish Bhatt: What social media has done is create a huge global platform where everybody can see new watches the moment they are released. Before people would have to wait maybe a month to read what was being launched at Baselworld in a magazine. Today, at 1am on the first day you can see pretty much everything.
You do not need to throw money at marketing watches to people outside the halls of Baselworld because social media does that for them. But for me Baselworld is more than just a tradeshow. It is a place where you go to interact with other people in the industry: retailers, brands, collectors, press, enthusiasts. There are people that I meet only once a year at either Baselworld of SIHH. It is like a pilgrimage and it would be a shame if we lose that.
WatchPro: If you were advising a brand pulling out of Baselworld and presumably saving millions of dollars that could be spent on other marketing activity, what would you suggest they do? Spend more in local markets? Spend more on social media?
Anish Bhatt: I think they have to. From where I stand the investment needs to go into analysing and evaluating social media success and making sure that the marketing teams really understand it. For a long time people in those departments have been trained on print, but the world has changed. Print is still important, I still believe in it. We have even launched out own magazine but people need to be educated and up-to-date with measuring the success of social media campaigns, not to be flummoxed by fake numbers. They should not rely on agencies for this type of information, they should learn themselves how to do it.
Instagram is saturated, but that is because it is the same ideas being done again and again; the same marketing strategies being regurgitated. People get bored of that
Things have improved, but there is a real lack of confidence in digital communication because people did not know how to measure campaigns, impressions, engagement or what these things mean. All they tried to do was apply what they knew from print which was cost per thousand readers for an advert.
Some industries are further ahead and the watch world needs to catch up with the likes of fashion and art, which are 5-7 years ahead in terms of their marketing.
WatchPro: If you were a retailer with one or two shops today, is there a way of taking advantage of social media so that it becomes a friend rather than a threat?
Anish Bhatt: Smaller companies do not have such a complex hierarchy for decision-making. They can take risks and be daring. They can do things that bigger brands and retailers cannot. They can definitely make an impactful campaign and it does not necessarily need to cost a huge amount of money, but it will take time, energy and research to get it right.
They should look outside their own markets to see what other brands and retailers have done and what has been successful. They cannot have tunnel vision on watches and what other people in this industry are doing. Independents can make big strides against the bigger guys because the big players are slow to get going.
We saw this in the watch industry when smaller brands like MB&F got onto social media way before Patek Philippe or Swatch Group brands. By the time the big players got started, the smaller ones had already built up a large and loyal following. And they had commercialized in an authentic way before the big boys started.
WatchPro: Is there a way to break in today when the social media platforms have been around for a long time and the major brands and biggest retailers are now investing in it and become more expert?
Anish Bhatt: Instagram is saturated, but that is because it is the same ideas being done again and again; the same marketing strategies being regurgitated. People get bored of that. Six years ago if I posted a picture of a watch in front of a supercar, everybody thought that was really cool, now it has been done so many times. Nobody can stay in one place. It is like swimming, if you stay still you drown.
WatchPro: If I was an independent jeweller used to providing for my family from one store, I would be terrified at the thought of spending £50,000 on social media marketing without knowing how effective it will be.
Anish Bhatt: It is a balance. In my opinion the biggest cost is not the money but the time to learn what to do. Even if you are not doing the social media execution yourself, you should be in a position to know if it is working if you hire somebody else. If you do not know about analytics, if you do not know how impressions work, if you do not know how to digest and process digital information from a campaign, then how do you know if they are doing a good job? Simply taking somebody’s word for whether a job is good or not is dangerous. Even if they are doing a good job, there will still be doubts about whether they should be doing better.
WatchPro: Are you feeling old in the social media world?
Anish Bhatt: There is certainly a lot of young talent. The more talent working in social media, the better it is for everybody. Competition is good because it pushes everybody to do better and do more.