Movado's CEO Efraim Grinberg (center), with MVMT's Jake Kassan (right) and Kramer LaPlante (left)

Movado chief executive officer and chairman Efraim Grinberg is on a quest to sell product that “connects to people’s hearts and not their phones.”

With this in mind, he has spearheaded the Movado Group’s acquisition of two Millennial-geared watch companies within the last two years. Women’s watch brand Olivia Burton was purchased in July 2017, followed by Mvmt, acquired in a $100-plus million deal revealed in August.

On Tuesday, Mvmt founders Jake Kassan and Kramer LaPlante — visiting New York from their Los Angeles headquarters — sat down and talk with Grinberg to review the strategies that have contributed to their success.

Established in 2013, Mvmt has resonated with the social media generation — counting some 4.5 million followers across its digital channels. That audience has propelled Mvmt to selling close to two million watches since the company’s founding. Last year, the company clocked $71 million in sales. The brand, which also offers a limited range of jewelry and sunglasses, prices the majority of its watches at less than $200.

Grinberg considers Mvmt’s social media savvy a best practice model for today’s retail and media landscape. “We have always sold product that has an emotional connection with the consumer. Great brands have emotional connections. What has changed is the messaging — how you reach consumers has changed. It’s no longer about just magazines, it’s online. It’s just different vehicles about how you relay different messages and content — these guys produce fantastic content that the consumer emotionally connects with,” he said.

While he declined to reveal specific projections for the company, Grinberg noted he is eager to bolster Mvmt’s international presence, which accounts for 40 percent of brand sales. Mvmt’s women’s offering is a category that’s ripe for expansion. Though launched as a direct-to-consumer line, Mvmt has enjoyed a successful retail partnership with Nordstrom. Grinberg plans to expand the brand’s retail presence on a global scale.

In a world where “content” has become a cliché term that’s integral to every brand’s marketing strategy, Mvmt has cut through the noise with engaging tactics. To celebrate the launch of its L.A.-inspired collection, Rise, the company set a scavenger hunt around the city — revealed through its Instagram stories. Mvmt annually compiles a crowdsourced video that explores what the term “movement” means to its many consumers. The company received 1,000 video submissions for its most recent movement campaign, which was aired across its many digital channels.

“I think we are always trying to show people something they haven’t seen before. We wanted to make sure our Instagram is not heavy on high-res images of watches. It’s showing a lifestyle,” said Kassan.

“We do a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff that really connects with people. It lets people get to know the brand better, they enjoy seeing that it’s authentic, that there are real Millennials behind the brand. This is going to be in our DNA forever, whether it’s our intern or one of us on there. It’s about storytelling to create an emotional connection with the brand,” added LaPlante.

That said, Grinberg cautioned: “If you don’t deliver on the promise of your product, you fail. Mvmt makes beautiful product at a really high-quality and really accessible price point. We would hope to continue or even improve to deliver on that promise.”

Mvmt being a Millennial-run company, some may assume that Kassan and LaPlante are eager to jump into the smartwatch market. However, they think quite the opposite. The brand this week introduced a line of $300 analogue watches that became two of their site’s top-selling styles upon release.

Grinberg remains skeptical of the notion that smartwatches will overtake the traditional watch market. “We have a Movado smartwatch, it performs very well, but it’s a small part of our business and I think will continue to be. Smartwatches have really evolved to become a fitness device. I think there is no reason a traditional watch and smartwatch can’t compliment one-another,” he said.

Noted Kassan: “I think for us, we still want to build our collection of watches from a traditional perspective. We have other categories as well — jewelry and sunglasses — so smartwatches have not really been a focus for us.”

While Movado has been on a Millennial-targeted buying spree, Grinberg said the company’s job now is to “help nurture those acquisitions and help them grow globally. We want to give them the resources so they can continue to focus on the creative stuff that really connects with the consumer, and we can take some of the headaches off their plate like global distribution, IT systems, supply chain and manufacturing. We can do that on a different kind of scale than they could do on their own. It allows them to focus on doing great initiatives and helping the brand grow organically.”

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