Friday, April 26, 2019

The Group that Saved BaselWorld

Shamelessly borrowed from the worldwide infoweb
By now, the management of the MCH group (responsible for the management of the BaselWorld fair) have fully absorbed the relief of LVMH confirming that they would, indeed, be moving forward for another year in Hall 1. Here is the official release -

Bvlgari, Hublot, TAG Heuer and Zenith will exhibit at Baselworld 2020. Collaboration on concept for 2021 and beyond.
BASEL, SWITZERLAND, 25 April 2019 – The LVMH Group has confirmed its participation for Baselworld 2020 within the current framework for its Bvlgari, Hublot, TAG Heuer and Zenith brands. For 2021 and the following years, Baselworld is collaborating with the Group and its brands on new presentation concepts and formats.

“We are delighted to be cooperating with LVMH and the Bvlgari, Hublot, TAG Heuer and Zenith brands again in 2020 and jointly shaping the future of Baselworld,” says Michel Loris-Melikoff, Managing Director of Baselworld. Baselworld will support each LVMH brand in the design of innovative exhibition formats for their presence in 2021 and beyond. The purpose of these new formats is to let each house express its creativity and provide an outstanding brand immersion.

“This is a creative and completely open process with no constraints or thought restrictions, that we are tackling together,” says Michel Loris-Melikoff. “Our concept for the Experience Platform is precisely that: enabling brands to flexibly present themselves to their various target audiences”. 

“A common decision was reached today, together with Bvlgari, Hublot, TAG Heuer and Zenith, to confirm our presence in Baselworld in 2020. We support Michel Loris-Melikoff and his team in their project to redefine and renew the concept of this major event for the Swiss watch industry,” says St├ęphane Bianchi, CEO of the LVMH Watchmaking Division and CEO of TAG Heuer. “Our discussions and the changes that will be implemented will allow us to reassess our future involvement after the next edition.” 

So as the collective sphincters at MCH return to normal sizes after the stress of this latest game of high stakes chicken, now is the time for them to focus on (believe it or not) what the bigger problem is.  And just what does that mean?

Well, I think for far too long the previous as well as the current fair management have been distracted by "shiny objects" (i.e. big brands on the ground floor of Hall 1) and as a result they have lost a lot of the other players necessary to have a fully-functioning fair.

If you had attended BaselWorld for the past three years, you would be forced to agree that there was quite a bit missing in terms of brands who had been there before.  Eterna, Corum, Favre Leuba (which held court in a semi-circle of chairs in the Hyperion lobby), Graham (holed up in a hard to get to hotel room), Eberhard, and too many others to count.  These are all brands that have, in the past, had fairly prime real estate in Hall 1 or at least nearby.  And these are just a small sampling.  

So, just as an unlikely group of random basketball playing Pisces saved the day in "The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh" (1979 film staring Dr. J and featuring some of the era's forgotten stars, such as Norm Nixon, Kevin Porter, Cedric "Cornbread" Maxwell among others), an unlikely group of brands could save BaselWorld.  But it would require a few things to happen:

Shamelessly borrowed from the world-wide infoweb

1.  "Lighten up, Francis!"  (Stripes, 1981) - simply put, stop taking yourself so seriously, and lower the f#$*ing prices.  We had a rather embarrassingly painful lesson on market economies -
an economic system in which production and prices are determined by unrestricted competition between privately owned businesses.
Simply put?  The hotels and restaurants around the BaselWorld fair had no real motivation to lower their prices, despite what the fair organization promised.  Suffice it to say, you come to Basel, you get fleeced.  And what the fair organizers still don't seem to understand is that getting hosed on hotels and meals is not really the great deciding factor for most journalists, retailers and distributors.  And it certainly isn't for the brands.  It's whether or not the fair, as a whole, is solid enough to attract the crowds.

2.  Stop sticking it to the public -  Whether we admit it or not, what makes fashion, music, cinema, and yes watches sell?  The PUBLIC.  Stop charging the public usurious rates to come to the fair to look in some windows.  It's ridiculous, and the majority of the brands, big and small do make any effort to engage with the end customer.  

3.  Start punching your weight in terms of what you are going to charge for brands to participate.  It is better to have full halls for less per brand and still make more money, than to charge the type of amounts usually negotiated with the aid of a loaded pistol.  Less, in this case, would actually be more.

4.  Stop chasing after stars, and focus on the majority - in terms of brands, in terms of media, in terms of retailers.  And ESPECIALLY in terms of fans and enthusiasts.  BaselWorld has always been fairly democratic, unlike it's snooty, estranged partner the SIHH.  Keep it that way, focus on being inclusive?  You will only  benefit.

5.  Make it FUN again.  A fashion show, some cars up on a stage, and the same tired old press conferences conducted by tired old white men?  News flash - not so much fun.

With the confirmation of LVMH, you've got a fighting chance!  Like the hopefuls trying out for the Pittsburgh Pisces, this could be your "Chance of a Lifetime!"


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