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Editorial - Is Brand Activism in the Watch Industry a Good Idea?

Editorial Is Brand Activism in the Watch Industry a Good Idea?

As more and more watch brands are taking a stance on social and political issues, we take a look at the risks of speaking up as well as the risks of staying silent

Scrolling through my different social media accounts last week, news and comments relating to the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn women’s constitutional right to abortion were rife. The shock and disappointment at this step backwards in women’s rights was being relayed by everyone, from friends and family members right up to the United Nations and American President Joe Biden himself. But in this mix of posts, a number of luxury watch brands also started to join the discussion, stating their disapproval loud and clear. 

Is Brand Activism in the Watch Industry a Good Idea?

© Gucci

This isn’t the first time luxury watch brands have taken a stance on social and political issues. Things really took off with the Black Lives Matter racial injustice movement in 2020 when brands took to social media to offer support by posting a black screen. This was followed by support for Ukraine with many luxury brands stating their disapproval of the Russian invasion. 

A few years ago, taking a stance on social or political issues would have been considered more of a risk than a benefit. For all the people who agree about a cause, there will always be those who don’t, so should a brand take a stance? Or would it not make better business sense to stay quiet?

A recent report by Deloitte and the Society for Corporate Governance noted that there is a growing trend towards companies speaking out on social, political, and environmental issues, and even if this can alienate certain stakeholders, remaining silent was also a risk. 

Is Brand Activism in the Watch Industry a Good Idea?

© Kering

In 2017, when the former U.S. President Donald Trump pushed for an executive order for an anti-Muslim travel ban, the car-hailing service Lyft donated one million dollars to the anti-travel-ban lobby. Uber decided to remain silent and over the course of a single weekend lost 200,000 customers to Lyft. 

It is important to exercise caution, however. As an example of what can go wrong: In 2019, Daryl Morey, General Manager for the Houston Rockets basketball team published a tweet saying “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong”. Although it was a private comment, these seven words resulted in all of the NBA’s official Chinese partners suspending ties with the league, resulting in losses estimated at $400 million. 

The World Economic Forum makes a number of suggestions for companies wanting to balance their response to potentially divisive issues with financial growth. Not only should a company recognize inequalities both inside and outside of its organization, but also take action. In other words, “put your money where your mouth is”. 

Is Brand Activism in the Watch Industry a Good Idea?

© Linde Werdelin

Posting a black screen, a Ukrainian flag, or support of women’s rights is not enough and can be easily conceived as greenwashing. However, companies which take actions to improve diversity within their own companies, offer financial support to Ukrainian refugees, or offer to fly their American female employees to a different state if they need an abortion, show that they are committed to upholding their values and can dramatically reinforce brand credibility. Reinforcing important values can also help companies remain relevant, create engagement with clients, and most importantly, make a positive difference in the world. 

It is always a brave move to stand up for what we believe in, and at the end of the day, doing the right thing is always the right thing do, even when sometimes it can be detrimental to business. 

What do you think?

 

Lecture 2 Comment(s)

5 July 2022
Sophie FURLEY
Merci Matthieu. J'apprécie vraiment TON COMMENTAIRE sur ce sujet intéressant.
4 July 2022
Matthieu Moser
Article très intéressant ! Merci sophie Furley ! il soulève beaucoup de questions que l'on se pose...d'un point de vue marketing comme sociétal.

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