August Berg: Promoting an Accessible Luxury Watch via Social Media

Driven by the rise of the Asian economies, accessible luxury emerged as a market in the mid-2000s when the bargaining power of the middle-class consumer had catapulted. With Singapore at the forefront of the luxury market in Asia, Anders Peter Juel Sauerberg and his wife established the Norbreeze Group in Singapore in 2004, to distribute, market, and build international accessible luxury brands in Asia.

The company aimed to promote and build international lifestyle brands that represented the Danish design philosophy of “timeless allure and consistent pursuit of functionalism and quality”. The Sauerbergs intended to create a unique business proposition by introducing the Danish design ethos to the vibrant cities of Asia. The name Norbreeze represented the company’s roots. “Nor” referred to the Nordic region, while “Breeze” referred to movement, prosperity, transport, and communication.

In 2019, Norbreeze ventured into creating its own brand of products in the accessible luxury segment by establishing a watch brand, August Berg, targeting working parents and young professionals. The brand was launched as part of the company’s strategic vision for 2025, by when it wanted to have half of its revenue generated from owned and operated brands and the remaining from the distribution of branded products.

“We analysed the market and tried to place our product as being modern vintage,” said Sauerberg. “The message to the customer was about the lifestyle (mindfulness and time fullness), about how they could spend their time being conscious, being in the present, and being aware and living life with passion, purpose and confidence.”

Sauerberg had already tasted success in promoting Danish brands like Skagen and Pandora in the accessible luxury segment in Asia. He had also gathered significant data about customers in this segment - their behaviour traits, background, demographics, design tastes, and purchase habits over the years, and believed that a house brand in this segment was likely to be a safe bet.

The target customer segments for August Berg, named after Sauerberg’s son, Carl August Juel Sauerberg, were a segment of the Millennials - young parents and young working professionals who were looking for sleek designs. A study showed that Millennials wanted authenticity and craftsmanship in products and preferred brands that engaged in ethical business practices. They were willing to pay for an experience rather than just the product and were concerned not only about the quality of the product but also the meaning behind the brand. Sauerberg therefore wanted to engage this customer segment by coming up with strategic, tactical, and operational strategies to create an impactful online presence.

Keeping its social motto in mind, to “change the world one wrist at a time”, August Berg had implemented a corporate social responsibility (CSR) project to enhance its brand’s image and build its reputation as a sustainable business. August Berg used eco-friendly materials to package its products, and had partnered with the Human Practice Foundation, a Danish not-for-profit organisation, offering quality education to underprivileged children in Asia and Africa.

“I wholeheartedly believe that the starting point to make change happen is by ensuring education for all,” Sauerberg shared. “I believe it is time to make this happen around the world, and together, we can do that. Our ambition is to give everybody, especially children, the gift of time – in the form of opportunity – to be able to live their lives with passion, confidence and purpose.”

August Berg had set up accounts on Facebook and Instagram. It had also collaborated with influencers to spread the word on social media platforms. Because it was a new business, the brand did not have much to showcase in terms of achievements in its CSR storytelling. Sauerberg realised that he would need to implement an overarching social media strategy that would allow August Berg to not only propagate its brand name but also build awareness for Danish design watches in the accessible luxury segment.

The onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic had throttled the brand’s chances of driving sales from its brick-and-mortar stores due to on and off store closures and limited shopper traffic due to social distancing and travel restrictions. Moreover, it had created a ‘lipstick effect’ on the market, with the target consumer segment restricting their purchases to less costly luxury goods. Realising that August Berg would have to rely mainly on digital channels to drive sales, Sauerberg had several questions to consider. Would the storytelling approach of brand awareness work for August Berg? Or would it need a more focused approach like discount codes and the use of high-flying influencers to drive its influencer campaigns? What should August Berg’s digital marketing and social media marketing strategy be, and how could it design its digital marketing strategy to adjust to the new normal?

This case analyses the accessible luxury market, and the social media strategies implemented by firms to promote accessible luxury products. The case also delves into the evolving consumer behaviour patterns in luxury goods, CSR and its attractiveness for a luxury brand, and growth strategies of a luxury product distribution company relative to market constraints. The case is written by Patricia Lui, Lecturer of Marketing, Singapore Management University (SMU) and Lipika Bhattacharya of the Centre for Management Practice (CMP) at SMU.

To read the case in full, please visit the CMP website by clicking here.