My birthday is coming up and so my girlfriend approaches me:
‘Hey! You’ve always wanted a nice watch, right?’
‘Yeah, actually. I’ve been thinking about buying myself one for some time now.’
‘So hypothetically, if I were to buy a hypothetical person a watch for his or her hypothetical birthday, what kind of watch would that hypothetical person like?’
I never thought about that. I like watches, but I don’t know anything about them.
‘I think I’ll start looking around and I’ll let you know if I see something nice. You know, hypothetically speaking.’
That day I started looking into things. What brands are there? What are the differences between certain types of watches? Wat materials are used? What makes a good watch good? I also send a message to one of my good friends. He’s a fanatic when it comes to watches. He knows everything about them. That and cars. It’s freaky really. I ask him the same questions and he gives me some good answers. Above all, he warns me about drop shipping. For those who don’t know: Drop shipping is the practice of buying cheap goods, rebranding them as something more expensive, and selling them for a hefty premium. This was especially a problem for so called fashion watches: watches that are not build for their quality or features, but only to look good. Not something I would fall for, surely?
The next day my girlfriend showed me some pictures of different watches to get my reaction. She was especially fond of a brand called Sem Lewis. It looked nice, but I was kind of sceptical, because I’d never really heard of them. In fairness, the only names that I really knew were Casio and Seiko (and only because my father owned one of each). But there was something fishy about it. The site it was sold on didn’t really look like a reputable seller. When I googled their name followed by words like quality, durability, and review, I could only find their own site or blog posts who were without a doubt sponsored. I couldn’t find any unbiased review. So, I send a message to my friend.
‘Do you know this brand called Sem Lewis?’
‘The brand doesn’t really ring any bells, but I can say with 99% certainty that it’s a case of drop shipping. All of their watches are generic designs with a logo stuck to them.’
Within a minute he sends me a picture of the exact same model, only without the branding, for about one tenth the price.
Now, at this point it wasn’t about my birthday present anymore. At least not to me. I wanted to know how I could spot the difference between a good watch (i.e. a watch from a respectable brand that was worth the money) and a bad watch (i.e. a drop shipped fashion watch that I could buy for a fraction of the cost in China).
And so, I started scouring the internet for different brands and models, looking at their differences in design, materials used, marketing, and so forth. One of the first brands that popped up was Daniel Wellington; a sleek, stylish, and minimalist type of watch. It did not only show up in my direct search results, but also in my Instagram feed! A perfect indicator that something is a drop shipped product. Most drop shippers promote their products through social media. This is because, at first, no respectable reseller will sell their products. The quality is just too low. This is done in 2 main ways. First: direct advertisements. I think everyone has seen these kinds of ads. They are also clearly recognisable, because they usually have a distinct mark that says sponsored or advertisement. If it’s clothing, tech, or household appliances; they’re everywhere on your feed. My friend even got a Sem Lewis right after he googled the brand.
The second way that these brands market their product is a little harder to spot: sponsored posts. I think nowadays everyone knows what an influencer is, but not all their posts and content is clearly identifiable as an advertisement. If you look up Daniel Wellington on Instagram, you are bombarded with photos of people wearing and praising them for their elegant and luxurious products. I’m serious, try it. But this is a whole bunch of hogwash of course. As it turns out, similarly build designs from other brands are sold at about half the price of a new Daniel Wellington. The quartz movement (the stuff that actually makes the watch do what it does) costs about 5 euros. Estimates claim that the entire fabrication process of the watch is not much more than that, even thought the watches go for about 170 euros online.
Daniel Wellington is so successful with their online marketing that nowadays it, as well as similar brands like MVMT, can be bought in almost every physical store. It has embedded itself in a new generation as THE fashion watch. The company was founded in 2011 by a swede named Filip Tysander. He was not a watchmaker; he was a businessman. Up until the end of 2015, Daniel Wellington had a 3-year revenue growth of 4700% (yes, THOUSAND) and in 2017 Daniel Wellington became the fastest growing private company in Europe. If there was ever a company that showed how effective social media marketing can be, then it would be Daniel Wellington.