Elie Bernheim, CEO, Raymond Weil
The demand for luxury figureheads to break into the realm of e commerce has never been greater; and never more under utilized. According to a recent report from Business Insider, luxury consumers are expected to spend $37.4 billion of fashion alone in the next year, while a recent report from McKinsey & Co. indicate that the digital influence among luxury shoppers accounts for over 20 percent of their purchases. So what luxury figureheads are making strides to fill the gaps in the market? What brands are embracing digital culture with a forward thinking perspective?
Raymond Weil : Last of the Independents?
In the world of luxury watchmaking, Switzerland has always been virtually synonymous with the region. And few brands have as consistently set the bar for craftsmanship and style as Raymond Weil. Though less than forty years old, the Geneva-based watchmaker has always made strides in both brand development and marketing outreach, being one of the few luxury retailers to recognize the viability of social media development as early as 2007. Now the venerable institution is faced with a new dilemma; how to maintain its unique identity as one of the last few independent Swiss watchmakers in the face of luxury partnerships and mergers.
The Strategy of Elie Bernheim
Bernheim joined the family company in 2006, serving as strategic development director after a stint as chairman of a successful textile imports firm. In 2014, the 33 year old grandson of firm founder Raymond Weil (who passed away in the same year) took the reins to become one of the youngest CEOs of a luxury brand in an industry that is consistently seeking a rejuvenation of fresh ideas and young talent. And in an era where cross-border global commerce is being re-examined in terms of developing markets, Bernheim remains both enthusiastic yet skeptical about the development of those same markets. Instead, by focusing strategies on existing key markets in the U.S. and abroad and further seeking to refine the brand’s name and image (the brand has been virtually synonymous with the music world; since the launch of its Amadeus collection in 1984, each of its subsequent collections has been primarily named after classical music pieces or terminology) , the young CEO is carrying on a family legacy that retains its legacy of adherence to the arts. Yet, can the strategy work in a landscape that has an innate need to remain flexible to younger generations, for whom refinement and elegance are often overlooked for the sake of flashy gaudiness and gimmicks?
A “Young, Fresh Vision” Merging With Traditional Values
It is Bernheim’s vision that the two worlds may not be mutually exclusive. In an interview with Wired UK last year, the Swiss CEO stated that “It is essential that [we] continue to evolve as a business and keep up with trends and patterns of buying behavior.” Further noting that their customer age base ranges from “25 years right up to 80 years,” the dilemma of combining classical elements with a more contemporary approach to marketing and identity may not be so dichotomous but may provide for a unique perspective on the flexibility of both well established markets and more progressive forms of strategy development.
Recognizing that the company’s identity is largely focused on “a perfect mix of elegance,aesthetic and cost, which is our brand positioning,” Bernheim nevertheless realizes that the most immediate and critical approach to brand interaction with its eighty-five markets is through a digital focus, and estimates over 30 percent of his company’s global marketing budget is spent on digital media.
In a recent interview with DNA India, Bernheim stated that “A Raymond Weil consumer is anywhere between 25 and 40 years old. He belongs to the Gen Y generation. He is very well tuned with social media form of communications… They are looking for out-of-the-box products and something different from their peers.” Could it be that this family-owned luxury watchmaker are among the first to recognize the diversity of this younger, more digitally-attuned generation and may be the first to take a brave new step among luxury retailers to pioneer digital marketing outreach?
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