My recent post about the effect of marketing contained a hypothesis about serious watch collectors: they will buy the recently released Furlan Marri (FM) watches but won’t wear them much. Following a chat with Francisco (@scaramanga__), this post is about the brand, and why it represents a masterclass in product launches and marketing. Header Image Credit: Furlanmarri.com
An older case study
To explain why FM is such a clever concept, let’s draw some parallels with another low-price watch which has become a global phenomenon – Daniel Wellington (DW). According to this business insider article from 2014: In 2011, Filip Tysander took $24,000 out of his own pocket to start a watch brand. Now he’s 31 and his 100% self-made company is making $180 million annually from selling watches, with a margin of more than 50%. According to ecommerceDB they remain in the top 1000 online stores in the fashion category, and still have first party net sales over $60m – this is 10 years after launching… but worth noting that back in 2015, DW was ranked the fastest growing private company in Europe by Inc. It turns out, the company’s breakneck 3-year revenue growth amounted to about 4,700% gain up to the end of 2015.
The same BI article mentioned above goes on to say: His campaign was built around actively getting influencers with lots of followers to showcase his watches. We’re getting used to seeing this strategy applied by now, but a few years back it was cutting-edge. Now the brand Daniel Wellington has more than 2 million followers on Instagram, dwarfing competing watch brands. Other articles on the topic mention similar points to this. Here’s an article by a watch guy about how Daniel Wellington got so popular, and why he would never buy one. Many of these arguments could apply to FM, but more on that later.
What is the genius of Furlan Marri?
Worth a reminder at this point, I don’t know the founders, and I have no vested interest in the brand succeeding or failing. I don’t even own one. With that being said, this is all my own opinion, and I could be proven wrong!
Like DW, FM focuses on the “story” aspect with regards to their branding. In fact, the FM website uses stories as a focal point for their product strategy – the website even states: “We are currently working on 5 new stories (new developments for 2021-2023) and we wrote 11 new stories for the next years to come, some of the stories will include special projects and advanced researches or limited edition movements.” It is all rather sentimental, and watch people love their lore (Rolex diver stories, Omega moon landing, Panerai italian navy… etc), so it is perfectly targeted.
The design aspect is also based on something already popular. As my previous post suggests, there are a few prestigious watches which the FM looks like – and the DW design is clearly Bauhaus inspired. No gamble there.
Where the real genius lies, is in the rest of the marketing. Sure, FM did the usual Clubhouse chats, and social media pre-launch hype – but the activities were calculated and targeted to perfection. Wei Koh, whose reach in the world of ‘serious collectors’ is well known, wrote a glowing review about why it is such a good brand and idea. Wei even introduced the founders to Auro Montanari, aka John Goldberger during a short livestream, where they gifted him a watch. This is legendary exposure for a watch which Auro probably wouldn’t wear even if you paid him. That doesn’t matter because perception is everything. Even being associated with him, regarded by RobbReport as “one of the world’s most important watch collectors”, is good enough.
Beyond Goldberger, there is a watch collectors’ WhatsApp group filled with affluent watch collectors from many GCC countries – these folks are all naturally proud of their heritage, and proud of one another’s achievements. When it was announced that a Saudi national was about to launch a watch brand, of course everyone was willing to support it. Why wouldn’t they? Again, this is natural behaviour, but I really hope they all bought shares in the company too – because their purchases and the perception they created, would go on to be hugely beneficial to the success of the company reaching other seasoned collectors.
If that wasn’t already enough, FM is now a GPHG nominee for 2021 in the “challenge” category. Whether they win or not, doesn’t matter at all – it would be the icing on the cake, but henceforth, they will always be a GPHG nominee. Now one can argue about the relevance of GPHG and the credibility of the judges, or the impartiality or lack thereof – I don’t think it matters – again, perception of the masses is what matters the most.
Well, hopefully it is clear by now that what we are witnessing is the laying of a foundation to take the world by storm. Think about what Daniel Wellington has achieved, and then compare that with the increased appeal of Furlan Marri, given the above.
The #watchfam represent a tiny fraction of FM’s potential client base, but they are a perfect starting point. Think about a high school kid looking for a nice watch – no serious money to burn, but if they can buy a watch which Auro owns, or which they’ve seen some rich person on Instagram wearing – of course they would like to have one! In fact, the choice is easy – plus they can buy into the brand’s story or stories – and be enticed by the romanticism of it all.
In conclusion, I don’t think this is easily replicable by a new brand, since it requires insanely deep pockets and a huge amount of influence and reach within the rich collector community – and given this has already happened, people might be wise to the concept the next time around. That being said, I still think it’s genius.
After my previous post many people misunderstood my intent – I don’t hate the brand at all, I was simply pointing out that the serious collectors who were buying it, were never going to wear it much, and they were being used as pawns in a much bigger plan. Maybe they’ll enjoy it, and maybe they truly love it – I’m happy for them. I do not have an issue with the brand, and while it is not something I would wear, I can still admire the fantastic business they’re building.