Citizen watches inspired by Marvel Characters, reveled at New York Comic Con

At this year’s Baselworld, Citizen unveiled a long-term partnership with the Walt Disney Co. as the official timepiece of the Walt Disney World resort, Disneyland resort and Marvel New Media Creative space.

“The long-term strategic alliance relationship affords us both many exciting possibilities, like creating the new Mickey watch and the Citizen X Disney product that you’ll see in the future,” said Cathy Cline, vice president of Disney Corporate Alliances. “The Walt Disney Co. values Citizen’s time-honored craftsmanship combined with their forward-thinking ingenuity. We are excited to bring the brand to our guests and consumers around the world.”

The partnership yields Citizen access to a variety of touch points within the Walt Disney universe, including sponsorship of Marvel Minute and other digital content on Marvel.com, worldwide music licensing opportunities from Disney Music Group, display clocks with the Citizen logo in several Disney resorts domestically and internationally and, most recently in October, participating in New York Comic Con where Citizen revealed eight Marvel timepieces, inspired by some of Marvel’s Avengers, priced from $265 to $625 at retail.

WWD caught up with Citizen chief executive officer Jeffrey Cohen to explain the partnership with Disney.

Citizen CEO Jeffrey Cohen  Courtesy

WWD: What does the “halo effect,” being associated with Disney and Marvel, bring to Citizen?

Jeffrey Cohen: As you can see, this agreement is much more than Citizen going into a product licensing agreement with Disney, Marvel and Star Wars. We are now part of an elite group of brands that are alliance partners with the largest media and marketing company in the world. The collective Disney fan base is large and getting larger, they are dedicated and passionate. All of these characteristics make them very sought-after by any brand selling a consumer product. Disney fans are eager to own anything that connects to their favorite characters or movies. Under this alliance agreement we are able to benefit from the “halo effect” created when Disney/Marvel/Star Wars go full-throttle to promote their latest movie or attraction. Their promotion and advertising generate interest for all things Disney/Marvel/Star Wars, including our watches.

Disney is a multigenerational brand always looking to tee up the next generation of fans. Citizen just celebrated our 100th-year anniversary and like Disney, we are looking to focus on future generations of Citizen consumers.

WWD: What was the planning process to figure out the total strategy?

J.C.: As you know, Disney is a very complex company with many brands under its umbrella, so what we needed to do first was to educate ourselves on all things Disney. In an effort to build out the best alliance agreement, we made several trips to Orlando and attended several conference calls with their Orlando and California teams. One objective was to look for a 365-day-a-year activation with Disney so the in-park clocks is where we started. In addition to the brand exposure we would receive in the parks, we were interested in including in this agreement access to Disney and Marvel creative to enhance our brand storytelling. We were able to negotiate rights to an original Disney song for each year of our agreement and custom-created Marvel comic-book artwork to be used to advertise our more technical watches.

WWD: What are Citizen’s objectives for the partnership?

J.C.: One key objective of entering into this alliance relationship with Disney was to be able to activate a sponsorship that was year-round. Traditionally, watch advertising has been seasonal. A push in the spring for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and graduation and again in the fall for holiday, but the reality is that people purchase watches all year long and with this association, we will be promoting and advertising 12 months out of the year.

Another objective of this partnership was customer acquisition. Over the years we have easily been able to connect with men through our technical watches, but like other traditional watch brands we have had a more difficult time connecting with women and Millennials. Disney has a strong social media presence, almost 60 million monthly interactions, in which many of these are moms who are planning the family vacations or Millennials who are active on Disney’s Music and social channels.

WWD: What level of access did you have to the Disney archive of characters?

J.C.: We have the rights each year to license a Disney classic song to be used in the creation of a TV/video spot and as I mentioned above, Marvel will create for us four times a year a custom-made comic-book ad that we can use to promote any of our watches. In addition, we can also tap into the Disney Imagineers for special projects and programs.

WWD: How did the design process between the two companies work?

J.C.: Disney and Marvel have license agreements with other watch brands so they are very skilled in the process of creating timepieces, but they did not know enough about Citizen and our technologies. The relationship began with us educating them on our proprietary technologies. Then we worked with them on a product plan that would give us a unique voice in the Disney/Marvel/Star Wars portfolio of watch licenses. In order to take advantage of the extensive marketing support that Disney and Marvel plan for their movie and entertainment launches, we looked at their promotional calendars and worked to schedule our product launches to coincide with them.

WWD: Disney has several watch license agreements; what is different with the Citizen partnership?

J.C.: A perfect example of this would be the custom comic-book artwork that is created for us four times a year and the Disney music license that we can use to create videos to promote our own nonbranded Disney product or our licensed products. Both of these perks are part of our alliance agreement with Disney and not offered to other licensed brands.

WWD: How do you measure the impact over the span of the partnership?

J.C.: As this is a 12-year agreement, we do not expect our activations to remain static. Except for the clocks and the global music rights, we anticipate pulsing in and out of activations based on our sales objectives, product introductions and key Disney/Marvel franchise moments.

We will have the opportunity to evaluate the success of individual activations and adjust accordingly. There may be times where the success of an activation is based on direct sales and there may be others that the success will be measured by lifting brand awareness or data collection.

The activations that we participated in this year, New York Comic Con and the Wine and Dine Run Disney Race, were strictly brand awareness activations.

WWD: What has been the “return on investment” so far? Specifically, the timepiece becoming the official Disney parks timepiece worldwide, as well as Marvel watches recently unveiling at Comic Con.

J.C.: Our first licensed products will be hitting the stores in the first quarter of next year, so we do not have any sales to report. However, our retailers have shown lots of excitement toward the products we have shown them, which is very encouraging. Those attending New York Comic Con had the opportunity to preview our first Marvel watches and the feedback we received was very positive. They loved the design details and the subtle nod to each of their favorite characters.

WWD: Since it spans a long period, how do the objectives evolve for Citizen?

J.C.: Just like Citizen, Disney is not a static brand and because of that business model, there is the expectation that the agreement will be fluid throughout the term. Key brand moments like the clocks in the parks will not change, but other amplifications may change based on our product launches, construction and changes scheduled in the Disney parks and, of course, movie and live-action film premiers.

WWD: Can you share any news in terms of new activations from the partnership to come in 2019?

J.C.: Due to the long lead times to create new watches, we will be launching our product in the first quarter of 2019, so our focus for next year is all about product and to fill the pipeline with a complete collection of watches across the Disney franchises.

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