How Zenith is Capturing Today’s Digital Natives


Genna Meredith | September 20, 2016

Zenith, a watch brand of the LVMH group, has been capturing the attention of a younger and younger audience thanks to smart digital activations and influencer partnerships. Digital Luxury Group’s Genna Meredith reports how.

Zenith, a watch brand of the LVMH group, has been capturing the attention of a younger and younger audience thanks to smart digital activations and influencer partnerships. Digital Luxury Group’s Genna Meredith reports how.

Let’s go back to 2011, when watch industry sales were booming. The timepiece sector of the luxury industry was way ahead of other categories, achieving a 21.2 percent jump in export sales from June to July that year, and was one of only three of the ten largest industry sectors to post growth. By 2012, the average export growth was an impressive 17 percent, outperforming any other Swiss industrial sector.

Fast forward to December 2015, and the Swiss watch industry was preparing for its fourth straight year of little to no growth. “Swiss Watch Industry Calls Time on Booming Growth of Prior Years,” reported Bloomberg, and industry experts predicted that only the strong brands would survive.

Added to the financial struggles, the traditional watch audience had grown older and the size of potential buyers had decreased significantly, meaning opportunities for growth had to come from a new pool of people. This younger, digital-savvy audience have higher expectations of brands – expecting them to be available online and provide a seamless experience.
This was the scenario the 150 year old luxury Swiss watch brand Zenith, owned by LVMH and best known for its El Primero watch movement (a movement which was used by Rolex for its iconic Daytona timepieces for years) faced, and tackled head-on, as it approached its biggest moment of the year; Baselworld, in 2016.

With over 200,000 people flocking to the city of Basel for the occasion, Baselworld is the most important marketplace and trendsetting show for the world’s watch and jewellery industry. As previously reported when Luxury Society covered the digital rebranding of Carl F. Bucherer, standing out from the crowd during this key industry event is a challenge for all brands, and digital is a key lever.

For watch lovers, Baselworld is renowned as being the greatest show on earth. With a reported 80 percent of global watch sales for the year ahead generated at the fair. The annual exhibition hosts over 1,800 watch and jewellery brands and welcomes aficionados as well as press to see what the industry has to offer.

On the first day brands rush to unveil their latest products to the global press, pieces worked on over the past year, sometimes even longer. The show itself is a marketers dream, covering over 140,000 square meters with each hall housing structures reminiscent of flagship stores. And although members of the public can buy a ticket for the remaining days of the show, most of the brand booths are accessed by invitation only. In other words, this is window shopping in its most extreme form.

How can a watch brand that is well known to specialized press and collectors appeal to a younger, more digital audience? – An audience who would not even be allowed to walk into these treasure trove style booths, and probably isn’t even aware of the shows existence. And not only this, but how can the brand maximize its investment so that potential clients around the world will be reached by the activities around the show?

In order to address these challenges, Zenith reached out to Digital Luxury Group (also known as DLG, and parent company of Luxury Society), a digital strategy and execution agency dedicated to luxury brands, in order to help modernize what they were doing digitally and in turn tap into this newer more digital audience.

Just like many other watch brands, Zenith had historically been focusing its Baselworld marketing and coverage on product-centric communications. However, for a brand to both stand out and connect with a non-watch audience, particularly without alienating its traditional watch connoisseurs, it was crucial to think outside of the watch box; that is outside of the product itself. Together with the Zenith team, DLG developed a plan to maximize Zenith’s online visibility whilst ensuring communications appealed to both its current and new audiences.


As part of communicating the brand values, and connecting with this new audience, Zenith teamed up with Uber during Baselworld to offer classic car rides for free during the fair. Friends of the Zenith brand were also invited to experience the atmosphere of a classic barber shop of the past with the famous Milanese barber, Bullfrog. Known as the king of Italian barbers, Baselworld goers were treated to a style refresh with a shoeshine and shave, right in the heart of the exhibition.

Using DLG’s Influencer Identification Process, the team identified artists, bloggers and publications whose personalities aligned with Zenith’s core values and could help promote the partnerships even further.

The lead partnership involved renowned tattoo artist and designer Luke Wessman. On top of owning an “invite-only” tattoo studio inspired by the 1930’s speakeasies in Los Angeles, Wessman is passionate about taking the best from the past to forge the future -the perfect mirror image of the Zenith brand identity.

Wessman was the ideal embodiment of Legends, Manufacture and Vintage. Just as with watchmaking, the art of tattooing is all about craftsmanship, creating wonders using your hands. Vincent Steinman, Communication & Marketing Director for Zenith agreed, “When we met him, he oozed soul and style – the two things we really wanted to portray with Zenith.”

Of the partnership Wessman said, “Zenith’s craft of watchmaking is second to none, and their rich heritage, tradition, passion and pursuit of excellence are reflected in the legacy of its slogan – ‘Legends Are Forever.’ When the opportunity arose to work with them, I was proud to unite my brand with theirs.”

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Concretely, Wessman was present at the Zenith booth, indulging in the full barbershop experience available and sharing his experience of being at Baselworld for the first time with his social audience. His presence at Baselworld meant that press who were interested in learning more about the novelties could also speak to him, getting an even deeper view into the values that Zenith stood for.

Wessman attended each of the events put on by the brand, including posting live from The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride (DGR) event where Zenith’s president and CEO, Aldo Magada, along with DGR President Mark Hawwa made the exciting announcement of the partnership between Zenith Watches and The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride. This partnership will help in raising both funds and awareness in the battle against prostate cancer, an important issue for the millennial luxury generation, with reported research showing that “88% of UK and US millennials and generation Xers believe brands need to do more good, not just ‘less bad.”

Of the partnership Magada said, "Mechanics eternal, timeless aesthetic, fun and sharing, Zenith could not fail to join this large organization…This is a great initiative and we are happy to be able to participate.”

Mark Hawwa shared in the sentiment stating, “Zenith is the ideal partner for us, we share common values related to style and leisure, Zenith is a legendary brand. It’s authentic, just like Triumph (Motorcycles) our historic partner. Our passion for style and mechanics are perfectly reflected in Zenith watches.”

In order to further capitalize on the power of human-to-human communication, Digital Luxury Group also reached out to other carefully selected influencers such as Cool Hunting and the Copenhagen-based bloggers and instagrammers, A New Kind of Love; a couple who quit everything to share their everyday lives online and now boast a following of over 240,000 individuals around the world.

As a couple with strong values and a chic vintage rock touch, Caroline and Anthony were the perfect fit for the occasion. The couple documented their first time at Baselworld through beautifully shot images of themselves styling the watches, on their Instagram pages and blog, even taking a ride across Basel in one of the Zenith branded Uber classic cars. They and their audience fit the Zenith aesthetic perfectly enabling the brand to touch an audience who would not have otherwise been privy to the Baselworld hype.

On their experience of being able to attend Zenith’s partner event, The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride’s at Baselworld, Anthony states with great emotion, “Perfectly turned out gentlefolk arrived sitting astride a classic motorcycle, wearing finely tied cravats and well pressed tweed suits. Being raised around motorcycles and having a similar sense of style really got my heart racing.”

The engagement from Wessman and A New Kind of Love fans cemented how important it is for a brand not only to communicate on its products, but to convey its core beliefs – the passion points that a younger audience could relate to.

In addition to working with influencers such as Wessman and A New Kind of Love, the team developed a dedicated micro-site, a search engine advertising program, and a strategy for activating on social media platforms. Each digital touchpoint effectively brought to life the key values of the brand in an emotional way, as well as highlighting the new products – an important factor in retaining the traditional watch connoisseurs.

Zenith’s ‘human-first’ social media content was a major contributing factor to the exceptional results seen in terms of increased awareness of the brand and partnerships. The posts during the Baselworld 2016 period reached over 15 times more fans than usual, with 11 percent of traffic to the microsite coming from social media channels. In addition, thanks to an efficient targeting strategy, the community size increase by 7.5 times in less than one month.

Together DLG and Zenith successfully created a digital journey where both product and brand information stood out from the sea of industry messages, and thanks to this value-first approach, a digital word-of-mouth effect was created amongst a new younger audience.

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Now that Zenith have started their relationship with this digitally-savvy audience, it’s imperative they retain the momentum and passion as this audience is eager to be impressed and have a plethora of other brands they can connect with, all fighting for their attention. One way of doing that is with their continued partnership with The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride.

The upcoming Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride event, an annual motorcycle event in September 2016 of over 40,000 gentlefolk around the world, is a celebration of the art of being dapper, and Zenith are poised to be a big part of it.

United for one cause; men’s health, over $2.3 million was raised in 2015 with people from 89 countries getting involved. Zenith this year hope to help raise more than ever before and have created 5 special edition pieces to help with the ambitious fundraising target.

If you are interested to follow the new milestone of the Zenith Digital Native Journey, you can join the team:

More information about Zenith and the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride:

Arts | Influencers | Watches