We regard luxury timepieces as the ultimate gift to last a lifetime, built with the kind of craftsmanship, authenticity, and state-of-the-art design that only a high-end brand can deliver. However, the new generation of watch buyers have a different purchase journey and brands need to adapt their sales approach to reap the rewards.
Now, consumers can buy products at the click of a button, meaning that social media influencers and behind-the-scenes videos are quickly becoming more influential than aspirational advertising in print media.
According to Warc, it is critical to communicate the emotional value of luxury goods to justify the price tag and entice consumers, particularly for millennial shoppers. Watchmakers need to adapt the way they interact with customers to build new lasting relationships and meaningful brand associations with this digital savvy generation.
Younger buyers are digital-first consumers that extensively research their purchase decisions in advance – surveying the latest trends, reading reviews, and exploring every bit of content they can find online. By the time these buyers reach the retailer, they’re only looking to confirm their own research – and that’s if they don’t buy the watch online, confident that they’ve been fully informed without even needing to see the product.
However, creating meaningful brand experiences online is the catch-22. With so much to see, how do you deliver the personalized, intimate experience expected from a luxury retailer?
Burberry, for one, is a brand that has truly embraced luxury innovation. The former home of Saddington Baynes’ very own Art Director, Burberry redesigned their flagship Regent Street, London, store in 2012 to incorporate elements of the online shop, creating a seamless customer experience. The brand has also begun live-streaming fashion shows, engaging with consumers via unique social media campaigns like the Burberry Acoustic and Burberry Kisses.
Furthermore, while big brands spend their enviable budgets on celebrity partnerships and influencer marketing, smaller and independent brands can’t match that kind of mainstream awareness. With less mindshare, independent brands require more time and effort to sell, although they can often create deeper customer relationships as a result.
How can these brands benefit in the digital era, with marketing that facilitates their craftsmanship and storytelling and builds awareness more effectively?
CGI is the answer. By harnessing the power of high-end CGI, timepiece brands can tell new kinds of stories without losing sight of their brand message, and without losing any hint of authenticity. It’s possible to create digital assets that are indistinguishable from real-life photography, and the benefits are immense—such as the ability to deliver thousands of customised assets at global scale, or make rapid changes to brand content in line with promotions, seasons and events, without the need to reshoot.
At Saddington Baynes, we worked closely with Bremont for the launch of the MBIII, helping them to reach that digitally-minded audience while emphasizing its brand story. With CGI animation, brands can more effectively detail the benefits of their products, even fusing in live-action elements as needed. It also allows for rapid touch-ups and model swaps, as needed.
More businesses take advantage of CGI product imagery than you probably realize. Ikea uses CGI for as much as 75% of its catalogue, according to CGSociety. Instead of photographing a real-like kitchen with plenty of IKEA furnishings, the brand saves time and money by creating the entire kitchen from scratch in CGI. Similarly, high-end appliance maker Gaggenau is fusing CGI with live-action footage to create a series of emotive brand films. Using this aspirational, picturesque imagery, Gaggenau can position their products as the ‘hero’ in a lifestyle narrative.
Also, in the age of augmented-reality shopping, brands can show consumers what their products look like on a mobile screen. The IKEA Place app takes a huge range of (bulky) products and positions them in the consumer’s home, without users ever having to leave their living room.
Simply put, there are stories you can tell with CGI that you can’t with a camera—or rather, that would be costly and exhausting to replicate in film or photography. Consider that a timepiece is physically a very small product with even tinier components within, and as cameras and lenses get super close-in, there’s a finite amount of detail you can show. A lens is a lens, and you start losing depth of field at some point.
We don’t have those constraints with CGI. With CAD data, you can get absolutely microscopic without the constraints of physical photography. We can also play with scale, sharpness, and materiality—things that aren’t as accessible for traditional filmmakers. The ability to articulate a timepiece in a different way makes CGI and new technologies essential for keeping up in this changing market.
This isn’t the first time that an industry has had to reconsider the power of its digital strategy. It’s similar to the position the car industry was in some years back. Most buyers today don’t hop from dealer to dealer testing out loads of cars. By the time they hit the dealership, they already know what they want. The automotive industry has had to adapt to the changing times by embracing more digital marketing, allowing prospective buyers to customize cars and get a strong, interactive sense of the product from the comfort of their homes.
The auto industry has led the way in that respect, and now it’s time for the luxury timepiece industry to harness that experience so they can revolutionize the way that watches are marketed online. The digital experience is key. It’s the first impression nowadays—it’s how buyers experience the timepiece before they actually, physically experience it.
However, there is one critical difference between these two markets: Cars have a shelf life, with consumers constantly on the lookout for upgrades to the latest in automotive technology. Whereas watches are timeless, the ultimate luxury. How do you hit the right balance between visibility and exclusivity?
Saddington Baynes’ Engagement Insights service allows brands to study the non-conscious reaction of viewers towards visual content, allowing makers to maximise their marketing efforts. Internally, we developed an accurate, detailed CGI model of Panerai’s Luminor timepiece. We tested three different finishes to see which scored highest with consumers for the brand values that watchmakers want to be known for. Using this data, watchmakers can make alterations based on what prospective buyers most gravitate towards, even before manufacturing their product.
Luxury brands in other sectors have already seen the benefits of CGI assets. Honda is using digital assets to drive its award-winning Real View Test Drive campaign, engaging with potential customers outside of the dealership – the creative possibilities are significant.
Creating assets using CGI production can help build a more tailored digital experience, which this new era of buyers often prefers to the physical, in-store experience. That’s true in the auto industry, and it’s just as true with timepieces. By embracing CGI production now, watchmakers can get ahead of the curve and devise new ways to tell their brand story to a modern audience, all while benefiting from the flexible, high output of digital content. Bringing the ‘luxury’, ‘exclusive’ storefront experience online – inexpensively.