A Tale of Two Watch Companies

Today I want to tell you how your tech company can learn an important lesson, thanks to wrist watches.

Wait, what? I know, I know, I’m as surprised as you are. I haven’t worn a wrist watch in years, I use my iPhone to tell time, if I’m not sitting in front of my computer. But watches have been a part of our lives for more than a century, and by looking at two industry leaders and the decisions they made during the economic downturn, we can learn a lot.

Seiko Watches was founded way back in 1881, and soon established themselves as creators of affordable, reliable watches. In 1930, Citizen decided they wanted be the Pepsi to Seiko’s Coke, the Chevy to their Ford. They also created affordable, reliable watches (even today, people have drawn-out debates over who is better, and it boils down to which features are most important to you. I Googled it!), but Seiko had a 50 year head-start on them.

Things continued in this fashion for almost 80 years, until 2008. The economic downturn had hit businesses hard (we might suppose watchmakers were also feeling the crunch of people like me using their phone to check the time!), and Seiko and Citizen both found themselves with reduced budgets and some hard decisions to make. Seiko decided that their reputation was strong enough that they could do away with marketing to save money, whereas Citizen opted to continue marketing even through the tough times.

The results? Two years later, with the economy back on the upswing, Seiko was ready to begin marketing again and wisely started with some market research. They were startled to find that not only had their brand suffered – people had assumed they had gone out of business during the recession!

And what’s the point of all this? Simply that it doesn’t matter how ubiquitous you are, you always have to budget for marketing. You may have noticed I mentioned a few household names in this post – Pepsi, Coke, Ford, Chevy, iPhone, Google. Iconic brands. Everyone knows who they are. But even they advertise! I see commercials for Android phones, billboards for Chevy trucks when I drive down the highway, people still post “Share a Coke with…” bottles on social media even though that campaign has been going on for months.

Never take your status as an industry leader for granted. Consumers are a fickle bunch, and if you don’t keep reminding them of who you are and what you make, they’re going to get distracted when your competitor comes along with an exciting new product and a flashy ad campaign to go with it.

Don’t be like Seiko. Don’t let your customers forget about you. Be smart like Citizen, and keep your brand at the forefront of the consumer’s mind.


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