Seiko Ad Campaign Aims at Luxury

Seiko is expanding upward in the U.S. watch market from the under-$500 segment to the luxury watch level, supported by a new global $20 million “Me” ad campaign. The U.S. part of the campaign uses print, TV, and the Internet to promote new lines retailing from mid- to luxury ($1,000-plus) prices.

“Most watch advertising today is celebrity-driven, using borrowed interest in a name to sell a watch,” says Bob Swanson, Seiko Corporation of America vice president of marketing. The “Me” campaign, however, seeks “a connection with consumers through lifestyle ads,” each with a photo of attractive young adults in relaxed surroundings looking directly at the viewer; a picture of a watch with the word ‘Me’ above it and a brief description beneath, and the question: ‘Is it You?’

“By asking that question, we’ve allowed the reader and viewer to think about what they actually want, rather than telling them,” says Swanson.

The campaign promotes four ‘Elite’ collections by Seiko, with each watch shown retailing for more than $500. They are Coutura, the company’s best-selling collection ($350-$850); Sportura precision sports chronographs ($650-$5,700); Premier, a top-selling European collection making its U.S. debut ($575-$1,350); and the new Velatura line ($725-$1,195), with Kinetic Direct Drive (Seiko’s newest Kinetic technology) and several watches over $1,000.

The print segment (full-page color ads in magazines, like GQ or Self, aimed at up-market consumers) began in September; the TV ads premiere Nov. 19. Both run through the holiday season.

The ‘Me’ campaign builds on Seiko’s “It’s your watch that tells most about who you are” campaign (2003), which “opened an entirely new market for us in the U.S.,” says Swanson. “Now, rather than being viewed as a lower-price, mass-market watch company, Seiko is seen as a much higher-end watchmaker with world-first technologies and sophisticated designs.

“We’ve won over a whole new echelon of watch buyers, and now we want to build on those relationships by emphasizing the emotional connection between watch and wearer. We’re aiming higher and focusing deeper.”

SCA officials say Seiko has seen sharp rises in its share of the upscale U.S. watch market since 2003, from six percent in 2004 to 24 percent of the $500-$800 market now, and from almost no presence in the women’s $500-plus category, to 13 percent now. SCA officials contend that shows Seiko is now a leader in the mid- to high-price range and, they say, “a very strong contender” in the $1,000-and-up category.

Aiding this expansion upward, says Les Perry, SCA executive vice president of marketing, are Seiko’s innovative Spring Drive technology (2005)—combining mechanical watchmaking and electronic micro-engineering—which “helped elevate the brand in a big way”; Seiko 360°, which uses the Web to support retailers with training, marketing materials and updated information; and successful Seiko limited editions (retailing for thousands of dollars), all fueling interest in the brand.

Now, says Perry, “We’ve our sights aimed squarely at the $1000-and-up level.”