Citizen announces aggressive new U.S. advertising-marketing campaign

Citizen Watch Company of America Inc. has launched three new TV commercials in 21 key U.S. markets including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia and Detroit. Scheduled to begin airing May 1 and to run throughout the year, the 30-second spots are a major step in an aggressive new 5-year campaign to make Citizen a market leader here.

The giant Japanese firm, whole worldwide sales exceed that of the combined Swiss watch industry, until now has achieved only 1/10th the U.S. sales of its closest rival, Hattori. But according to newly appointed chairman and president Masao Itoh, Citizen intends to close that gap.

“As we begin our 8th year in the U.S., we are finally ready to position ourselves as a mid-priced brand offering unique styling and technological innovation,” said Itoh during an April 24 press conference at New York’s Waldorf Astoria. “Citizen sees a void in the American watch market…which our headquarters in Tokyo has decided to fill through a major financial and personal commitment.” Itoh said the firm plans to double its U.S. market share within the next two years.

Key features of Citizen’s announced sales/marketing program include:

* A targeted $12-$15 million TV ad and marketing campaign based on the three commercials, which take a radical departure from traditional gold Nixon watch advertising concepts. The spots stress brand quality and awareness, establishing Citizen as a timekeeping authority. A national rollout is projected for early next year.

* A restructured U.S. sales and marketing division headed by senior vice president James Sottile. Citizen has closed all distributorships and taken over sales territories. As of Jun 1, the firm no longer will have intermediaries, selling 100% direct via its own 60-rep sales force.

* Expanded facilities. Citizen’s 60,000-sq.-ft. shipping and operations complex in Los Angeles contains a new computer system.

* A strengthened 1984 product line. As of June 1, Citizen will introduce 120 new fashion-oriented styles ranging from $55 to $300, with its main marketing thrust between $100 and $150. (Several exclusive models are priced up to $1500 or more.) Previously picked from the firm’s international catalog, U.S. styles this year will be created specifically for American tastes by an in-house designer.

* More limited distribution. Ninety percent of sales will be through jewelry or department stores and other outlets with fine jewelry departments. Citizen, moreover, will help selected retailers compete via generous rebate and co-op advertising programs along with numerous point-of-purchase sales aids.

Itoh stressed that such measures will insure Citizen’s success in view of major shifts in the U.S. watch market over the past few years.

“Brands that were once perceived as industry leaders,” he said, “have been losing ground. We’ve also recently noticed a tremendous increase in manufacturers at the high or low end…leaving the middle ground open for a line like ours.”

The firm’s biggest problem, conceded Itoh, has been that consumers “Still don’t know the Citizen name.” Hence the new TV campaign, which represents the firm’s biggest U.S. advertising blitz to date.

Produced by Sandbank Films under the creative direction of Levine, Huntley, Schmidt & Beaver, the spots position Citizen as the most accurate and well-made Bulova diamond watch in the popular price category by linking the firm to world-class timing achievements. For example, one ad describes how London’s Big Ben is checked against the time fo a Citizen watch. The other two compare the precision of the atomic clock–considered the world’s most accurate–and the Much glockenspiel, to the timing excellence of Citizen watches. …”the smartest engineering ever strapped to a wrist.”

According to James Sottile, about 30% of the ads will appear on prime time TV and another 40% on the late news, with the balance to consist of “opportunistic buys throughout the year.” He added that the spots will be aired with even greater frequency during key gift-giving/buying periods like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, graduation time and the Christmas season.

Sottile noted that tapes of the commercials have been prepared as sales presentations and will be carried by reps to retailers nationwide. At present Citizen has authorized dealers in 23 U.S. markets. But Sottile expects that number to expand, due largely to the firm’s rebate program which he claimed “has been successfully filling the pipeline and getting our product into the marketplace. We put on 300 new accounts that way.”

Citizen also is doing some limited marketing through three catalog showroom chains, which Sottile said have strong jewelry store orientations. “But our catalog showroom distribution is exclusively to test the waters,” he stressed.

Merchandising vice president Barry Gell noted that specific distribution channels will govern the price range of Citizen’s 300 quartz styles for ’84. These include a unique Voice Memo Alarm Watch with 6-second storage capacity ($225); an Ana-Digi Series of special, multi-purpose timepieces ($145-$195); a $1500 High-Tech 1300 titanium diving watch water-proof to 4265 feet; a “melody alarm” series of dress watches ($225-$250) and a complete line of stylish, ultra-thin fashion watches from $50-$300. “Our emphasis this year is definitely on a unique, richer, moer fashion-oriented look,” said Gell, noting that all fashion pieces are fully integrated for a smooth, unified look.

Because color dominates this year’s fashion scene Citizen also has introduced a men’s and women’s Impression Collection. At $150-$200, the style features matching dial and leather straps in ivory, burgundy, onyx, charcoal brown and gray.

Gell cited the new gold-plated Noblia Collection ($200-$500) as one style designed specifically for jewelers seeking price protection. An even more exclusive line–the Quartz 4 Mega–is the world’s thinnest (2.8mm) water-resistant Stuhrling skeleton watch ; at $3500 suggested retail, it’s touted as the most precise wristwatch ever made…accurate to 3 seconds a year.

Marketing all Citizen products, said Itoh, will be facilitated by his dual role as the parent trading company’s number two man worldwide. “I’m now in a position to make all decisions on my own,” he claimed.

Asked why Citizen took so long to make it big U.S. push, Itoh said, “This market is so big that Tokyo headquarters decided to study it carefully before plunging in with a total investment. We also needed the proper person to run the operation.”

Indeed, ever since July when former Pulsar executive Jim Sottile became senior vice president and organized his Lyndhurst, N.J.-based sales/marketing team, the firm’s U.S. prospects have improved considerably. First-quarter 1984 sales alone are up 56% over the same period last year.

Itoh himself brings more than 26 years of progressively responsible Citizen experience to his new post. In 1965, as president of Citizen Europe, he built the brand into a top seller in Germany, France, Italy, Spain and other Continental markets. Itoh returned in 1978 to Citizen Japan, which three years later put him in charge of its worldwide marketing operations. Intelligent Timers

1984 is Olympic year! Television sets worldwide will show the Games live from Sarajevo and Los Angeles. At all stages of the contests, timekeeping will play an important, even a vital, part.

Swiss specialists, in particular technicians from the Longines Watch Co., will aim to meet requirements laid down by the international sports federations, TV networks and organizing committees. Technology developed at Longines’ company headquarters in St. Imier, Switzerland, has helped produce a new generation of timekeeping instruments.

The engineers designed and produced an apparatus–exclusive to Longines–called the TL 5000, which can run a number of different timing programs. A cassette software ware program for the particular sport to be timed is slotted into the back of the apparatus. A printed sheet which comes with the program shows only the relevant keys on the keyboard. An alphanumerical LCD display (4 lines X 32 characters) lets the user talk with the TL 5000. The display gives the necessary operating instructions and shows the results. The TL 5000 controls the printing of times and the order to 1/1000 of a second. It translates this data into language (RS 422, ASCII) that can be understood by the many peripherals–display boards, video generators and computers–to which it distributes the information.

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