Swatch for Pakistan

To me there’s a world of difference between marketing a product and branding it. In simple conventional marketing, you do market research to determine whether the consumer needs the product or not and what features excite him. Irrespective of whether there’s a need or not for the product, the overly ambitious marketer sugar-coats the findings, makes a standard marketing plan mostly comprising of a plethora of ATL (Above the Line) activities, executes it, and then prays like anything that it works, just enough so that he has something to show in front of the next prospective employer.


In branding, yes, the ‘brandsman’ still prays like crazy, but he knows his strategy is based on influencing the psyche of the consumer, and if that doesn’t work, maybe something’s seriously wrong with the product itself. One other thing the brandsman knows is that it’s not about the consumer needing the product, but the consumer wanting the product he doesn’t need. To me, 99% of successful brands in the international brandscape subcribe to this truth.


Think about it. Consider me for instance. I’ve got a decent watch by a well-known designer ( At least that’s what I think) which was given to me by a cousin of mine as a gift. I use it only on formal occasions and usually don’t wear a watch, relying on my cellphone for time and alarm. Now why on earth would I want to buy another watch, let alone an expensive one? (Unless I’m a watch freak) It doesn’t make sense. It’s not rational.


Fortunately, for the brandsmen, humans are not rational beings by any stretch of the imagination. So in order for you to make me buy your brand, you’ll have to appeal to my irrational side. That’s what Sigmund Freud’s nephew Edward Burnays, considered to be the father of branding, taught the world, and that’s precisely what has to be done in this case as well instead of reinventing the wheel.


Two important things. First, there has to be a storytelling element embedded into the brand communication.


Do you know the difference between a good speaker and a bad one? Most will say clarity of thought and conviction in what he says. And yet we have come across scores of such speakers who bored us to death, isn’t it? So what gives? It’s the ability to weave stories into the speech to make what is being said relevant and interesting to the audience.


Same goes for branding. If there’s no story behind and around the brand, you might as well be selling fish for all the consumer cared.


Taking the storytelling element to the next level, there also has to be a behind-the-scenes tactic embedded into the strategy. How an event came to be. What insurmountable problems had to be faced and how were they tackled. Who were the people who made it happen. The humane element has to be there if you want brand evangelists and ambassadors being born on their own rather than being grown artificially.


Secondly, word-of-mouth still reigns supreme, no matter how sophisticated and complex the brand game may become. Coming back to myself, did you know what were my motivations for buying each of the watches that I’ve bought in my entire life? Peer pressure.


I would notice a watch on the wrist of a friend and before I know it, I had bought the exact same watch. Although I had bought all of the watches based on the functional features and not the emotive appeal, the underlying reason for buying had been the peers and not some advertisement.


That’s all good, but where to start, you ask? The traditional way – ATL. There’s no way around it – it’s a necessary evil. Without the support from the ATL, the BTL activities will face problems in being effective. So there’ll have to be a TVC and print ad in select channels and magazines/newspapers.


Therefore the start will have to be standard material. But how to determine what in include in the ads? One-half will be foreign ads of the brand, in order to appeal to the foreign-is-authentic mentality of ours, and for the other half, a brand audit will have to be carried out. The aim of the research will be to glean words out of the subjects that they associate with the brand essence of this brand. In fact, what do they associate with a wristwatch? These words will be the basis of the brand communication.


However, the modus operandi will be different from the industry norm. There will be a number of brand audits which would constantly change the strategic plan. In fact, some of these brand researches will be deliberately biased. Why? To subtly influence the consumer. For instance, there will be a special focus group comprising of the brand managers of various brands. Although on the face of it, it would be a genuine research with authentic results, in the background, subliminal messages will be relayed to the participants to influence them.


How? Simply put, invite these people to a focus group and then entertain them in a subtle way that they go back in love with the brand, which of course, would gifted to them at the end of the session. If they’re shrewd enough, they’ll surely recognize the tactic, but even then they couldn’t help warming up to the brand. That’s the magic of the irrational side of our brain. It has the amazing ability to override the rational part, something which has been proven both in mob mentality and consumer behavior.


The same tactic is going to be used with another important but ignored class of professionals: bloggers. They’ve emerged as a potent force and yet brandsmen in this part of the world fail to harness their energy and enthusiasm.


But this tactic won’t end here. All the participants in every focus group conducted will be given a challenging activity. The winner of that activity will be awarded the honor of being sent on a 4/7-day trip to Switzerland to witness the manufacture of the product behind the brand.


The idea behind all this is to ensure the consumer has a great experience and comes back to rave about the brand in front of family and friends. Unfortunately, this is something intangible- not measurable and hence ignored by most of the brandsmen. In reality, activities like these slowly make the difference between a lovable brand and a good brand. You need brand evangelists to create this difference, and the strategy that creates them is difficult for the brandsmen to justify to their bosses. Only a few gutsy souls dare to venture into this territory, but those who do it consistently are richly rewarded.


Service Magic is another vital aspect to focus on. All the sales and customer reps will be considered service magicians. They’ll be given a script to follow in customer handling but will be free to improvise depending upon the situation. Special incentives will be set aside for reps for observing and noting down anything out of the ordinary, gleaning customer insight and suggesting ways to enhance the offering.


Where to get these magicians? The task will be given to Rahila Narejo’s HR firm to find young energetic people with a sunny disposition and the willingness to learn as much as possible about the product.


Advertising is the main tool of Pakistani market for every single brand tactic. With such overuse, it has lost a major chunk of its potency. What needs to be done is to restore some of its potency by making it a bit interactive. The way this is going to work is that people are going to be enticed to send intriguing pictures of swatch in action, accompanied by witty captions. These would be used on the internet as well as print ads in magazines and newspapers. Special incentive will be set aside for capturing a celebrity wearing Swatch.


All the prizes will be in line with the strategy of reinforcing the brand in every conceivable way.



To make the target market further involved in the brand, all the universities would be invited to make a marketing plan for Swatch. Select entries would be required to present in front of a jury, comprising of – and that’s the interesting part – brand managers from  select organizations. The aim is to have a 360 degree involvement – it doesn’t matter how this is achieved.  The event can be telecast on television – it will definitely be uploaded on Youtube. All of the participants would be given Swatches as gifts. Again the aim is to subtly promote the brand. Subliminal advertising will also be done at this event.


Then seminars and workshops sponsored by the brand ought to be organized. But about what? Simply, things that are associated with the brand essence. Keywords that support and enhance the brand essence will determine what sort of events to organize. They won’t be for free, mind you. However, for the selected few it will be, as a reward for some activity or it may be random based on some lucky draw. After each event, the chosen ones will be treated to a wonderful dinner in line with the adage: ‘All’s well that ends well’.  Clichéd? Yes it is. But it’s also an extremely powerful tactic used by none other than the legendary Richard Branson for his Virgin Atlantic Airlines. Unable to compete with other airlines on convenience and comfort, he decided to give gifts to disembarking passengers as a way of offsetting any unpleasant experiences on the flight. And the tactic worked like a charm.


One other strategy which has been utilized to some extent is the brand alliances and cross branding. This strategy needs to be elevated to the next level by creating synergies composed of a number of brands. The aim of this strategy would be two-pronged. One would be to lend all the participating brands an aura of greatness by associating with each other. Remember, the resultant of a synergy is greater than the sum of the individual parts. Secondly, and this one is more important, all these brands would be coming together to serve one purpose: and that is to shock-and-awe the consumer into having the time of his life at this brand junction. That should be the ultimate aim of any alliances of brands. Unfortunately it doesn’t happen this way in this part of the world.


What usually happens is that the leading sponsor or organizer brings all the co-sponsors together just to make some quick buck instead of ensuring a rocking experience for the participants. What actually should happen is that the brand initiating the alliance shouldn’t  charge any sponsorship money from the other brands. The only requirement for the other brands should be to do something great free of cost for the participants. Of course the benefit will be felt mostly by that brand, but brandsman don’t think in intangible terms.


But where to make use of these stupendous brand alliances, you ask?  At the events, workshops and seminars, where else?  Do anything just for the sake of getting people together and ensuring they’ve a rollicking time. Hell, why not go for a Guinness Record Breaking Event by building a huge working replica of the brand? Even if you fail, you’ll still end up making a lot of noise and giving a tremendous time to the target market, provided you don’t mess up the event itself.


What I’ve revealed till now is the essence of the swatch brand strategy and as such is by no means comprehensive. The nitty-gritty of it will be an ever-lasting iterative process based on the ground realities. What works will be diligently incorporated into the plan even if the idea came from a service rep, and what does not will be discarded right away.

However the brand essence once established should not be tinkered with. That’s because brand is a single idea in the mind of the consumer. The moment you try to be all things to everyone, you confuse the consumer and hence throw the brand into brandscape oblivion.


Keeping your brand above the brand clutter in today’s marketplace is a daunting challenge. It requires a strategy which is rigid and yet flexible at the same time.