luxury pr fails

Luxury PR Missteps: A Case Study on What Not to Do or Why Calling Your Luxury Customer a ‘Jackass’ Is a Bad Idea

The uninitiated often dismiss the importance of working with luxury pr agencies and advisors who are specialized in working with luxury products. They think a product is a product is a product and all one must do is stick whatever the product is into a formula for creating marketing campaigns.  

The truth is far more complex than this as you can’t apply the same message you use to get a customer into Target to the customer that goes to Neiman Marcus.

Case in point, after the work I did for WatchBox, one of their competitors invited me to discuss possibly coming aboard to lead the luxury PR strategy for their pre-owned watch company. As is my modus operandi, I did my due diligence prior to the meeting and immediately saw why the company was failing to attract enough luxury watch buyers to make the business profitable.

Where do I begin?

Let’s start with the management team. None of the decision-making senior executives ever worked in luxury.  The CMO of this online pre-owned luxury watch platform was poached from Home Depot and didn’t understand the nuances of luxury PR.  Which might explain their employees – who also never worked in luxury.

I’m a huge fan of Glassdoor, which often reveals weaknesses within a company when disgruntled employees tell all. In the case of the company in question, the employees loved their CEO and hated their customers!

They were frustrated by customers asking questions about the history and make of the particular watch the potential customer wanted to buy. None of the customer service or salespeople were trained in the intricacies of watches, the nuances between various watch brands, nor on the demands of the well-informed rabid luxury watch customer.  

So, again, we have an online pre-owned watch company that employed no one with experience in luxury, luxury PR or watches, staffed with untrained employees who were disgruntled not by the company itself but by their customers asking questions they couldn’t answer. This company then hires a marketing agency specialized neither in luxury PR nor watches to develop an ad campaign for them.

The ad campaign proceeds to call anyone who pays full price for a luxury watch a jackass!

I promise, I’m not making this up. Email me if you want me to direct you to links to the ad campaign.

When I brought all of this to the attention of the CEO during our meeting, he was offended because he personally loved and approved the ad.  He could not understand why calling a luxury consumer a jackass for paying more than they needed to for a watch could offend potential customers.

I’d love to tell more about this meeting, but I’m currently skirting the line of not revealing who the company is.  I will add that I met an Omega boutique manager a month later and discovered there was previously a serious discussion for the jackass-promoting company to manage Omega’s pre-owned watch division. Needless to say, the deal fell apart when Omega realized this CEO couldn’t see the error in his  ass-inine marketing ways.

The company managed to get acquired by a major player in the watch industry.  Last I heard, that acquisition has negatively impacted that major player’s bottom line.

What’s the moral to this story?

The pursuit of luxury is a passionate endeavor.  And when you’re using luxury PR to attract the luxury customer, make sure you understand the emotional psychological depths that steer that pursuit.

Or simply put: don’t call a potential customer a jackass.


  1. Specialization in Luxury is Crucial: It’s important to work with luxury PR agencies and advisors who possess specialized knowledge and experience in the luxury sector. Generic marketing strategies do not translate well to luxury brands.

  2. Truly Understand the Luxury Consumer: There’s a significant differences between general consumer marketing and luxury consumer marketing, as luxury consumers have unique expectations and demands, especially in terms of product knowledge and brand experience.

  3. The Consequences of a Misaligned Marketing Strategy: A lack of expertise in luxury and an inappropriate marketing message can alienate potential customers and harm the business.

  4. The Importance of Brand and Customer Alignment: A brand’s management team and customer service must be well-versed in the nuances of their products and the luxury market to effectively engage and satisfy luxury consumers.

  5. The Sensitivity of Luxury Branding Messages: Insulting potential customers with a derogatory ill-conceived ad campaign can lead to negative outcomes, including lost business opportunities and a tarnished brand image.

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