Longines shifts to a transformative, modern marketing strategy and taps Vanity Fair for an immersive Derby experience

August 2, 2016 | Glossy | by Roberto Villazón

Equestrian is a prestigious, pretentious sport — it has catered to the wealthiest societies around the globe for centuries. Roaming a racing tournament or jumping event, the scents of fine leather and linen waft into the room and drown out any forbidden natural instincts from the nags. This elite world made for a natural alignment for Swiss watchmaker Longines, a brand with the tagline “Elegance is an Attitude.”

With the menacing combination of traditional competitors and wearable technology brands entering a space with minimal market share, luxury watchmakers are being pressured to expand beyond traditional marketing tactics. This is certainly true for Longines, though in their case the change represents a shift not only from conservative brand positioning, but also from a wholly conventional marketing strategy. Understanding the volatility of the industry, they and their counterparts recently demonstrated their willingness to explore a change in approach, and mindset.

Shifting to a more direct, inclusive program required a multi-faceted approach: Beyond shifting their print budget to digital, there was also the gap between editorial and social influence to address. In order to maintain brand heritage, and to complement their big picture, Longines layered their standing partnerships and traditional strategy with new media activations. For example, as the official timekeeper of the ultimate equestrian event, The Kentucky Derby, the brand has successfully aligned their equestrian positioning with the tagline “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports.” This phrase naturally reached broadcast exposure, positioning print buys aligned with the betting and results schedules and adjusting creative to expose their involvement for digital banners.

Building on this strong brand alignment, Longines sought to reach consumers more directly than is possible through the pages of a magazine by placing themselves at the center of the Derby’s festivities (including celebrity pomp and circumstance). Their goal was a greater lifestyle and influencer involvement with the brand at the event, and potential mass reach through social media and editorial. Hoping to activate an elegant and highly anticipated party, what better group was there to join forces with than Vanity Fair?

“Working with the classic print and online magazine, we organized an exclusive first annual Derby party, synonymous with the style and clout in which comes with a Vanity Fair event. This positioned Longines as a lifestyle brand with a youthful influencing demographic” explained Roberto Villazon CEO of hi-gloss, Longines’ media agency of record.

In addition to the event, Vanity Fair developed custom content surrounding the weekend, plus onsite editorial coverage. Longines’ traditional digital plan supported the content as traffic drivers, with both the digital and print creative specific to the Derby weekend. A social strategy was developed including Vanity Fair’s Social Club and a local blogger Grace Wainwright @a_southerndrawl participated in the festivities alongside the editorial team, in order to provide a thick layer of social media buzz surrounding the event.

These partnerships garnered a comprehensive strategy with branded content, digital traffic drivers, social media, and customer engagement. The results are still out, but the broad-reaching, on-the-ground activations, working together with traditional media buys indicate a true shift in strategy — demonstrating a strong way forward for luxury heritage brands.

All Press