When it comes to products, “complicated” is rarely a compliment. Would you buy a computer advertised as “complicated?” A piece of furniture that claimed, “complex assembly required?” An automobile that promoted the fact that it had a complicated fuel injection system? In each case, those descriptions would be a drag on sales, as they suggest either extra effort on the part of the consumer, or a higher probability of needing costly maintenance. Would a maker of fine watches be crazy to advertise a product as “the most complicated” wristwatch?

In addition to calling their 1735 model “the most complicated wristwatch,” luxury watchmaker Blancpain promotes it using a major tab on their website called “Complications.” If “complicated” is often a pejorative, “complications” is even worse. The most common usage (at least in American English) is related to negative medical outcomes. (“The heart surgery seemed to go well, but there were complications…”) It seems that the usage of this word often has an implied “unexpected” prefix, as in, “The firms were ready to sign the merger documents, but complications arose.” I can’t think of a way that the term is used in a positive, or even neutral, sense.

So, is Blancpain crazy?

I think not. Blancpain is building on the strategy I described in Does Your Product Have Enough Flaws?. Complexity is a “flaw” of all mechanical watches. They are filled with little gears and other microscopic hardware. These mechanisms require periodic maintenance, and can fail more easily than a totally electronic model. Rather than avoid the issue of complexity, though, Blancpain embraces it for their 1735 model and the rest of their product line.

With a price in the range of $800,000, the 1735 is not a mere timekeeper. In essence, Blancpain is saying, “Anyone can own a simple quartz watch. Discriminating buyers prefer fine mechanical watches, despite their complexity. And, for the MOST discriminating buyer, we have the most complex watch of all!” Overall, Blancpain seems to trying to establish themselves as the “brand of complexity” in the luxury watch market.

Few of us market wristwatches with a price approaching a million dollars. (Even fewer of us are likely to buy one!) But we can learn from Blancpain’s approach. If your product has an attribute that some might consider undesirable, is there a way to perform marketing jiu-jitsu and turn that attribute into something that might attract a segment of your potential buyers? There’s certainly some risk with an approach that highlights a potentially negative trait, but if successful doing so might be a million-dollar solution.

What do you think of Blancpain’s strategy: crazy, or clever?

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