Montblanc Inks a Long-Term Customer Strategy

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When you have 98 percent brand recognition, what do you do? Thrive. Montblanc currently commands 70 percent of the world market in fine writing instruments, according to Jan-Patrick Schmitz, president and CEO of Montblanc N.A. The company has achieved this by focusing on creating "deep positioning and meaning" in the luxury market.

When you have 98 percent brand recognition, what do you do? Thrive.

Montblanc currently commands 70 percent of the world market in fine writing instruments, according to Jan-Patrick Schmitz, president and CEO of Montblanc N.A. The company has achieved this by focusing on creating "deep positioning and meaning" in the luxury market instead of targeting everyone who writes, Schmitz said during his keynote at the Argyle Executive Forum's 2010 CMO Spotlight Forum: Retail and Consumer Goods & Services. This depth in the luxury market helped Montblanc maintain its position throughout the recession. Although the company did "tighten the ship," it didn't drop prices and had the cash flow necessary to carry it through the downturn--and has come back with double digit growth. "In times of uncertainty, consumers look to familiar brands, the top brands that they trust," Schmitz said. "Luxury is not about price; it's about longevity and trust in a brand. It's about the emotional experience more than the function."

Function, however, and craftsmanship are core elements of Montblanc's brand proposition--essential to building that trust. That's one reason the company focuses on products meant to last, even to become heirlooms, he said. Its brand extensions have included desk items, time pieces, briefcases, and jewelry--all linked by the white star. The company hasn't adopted fashion items, because fashion goes out of style, Schmitz said.

As strong as the Montblanc brand is, the company is anything but complacent. Its core audience spends a great deal of time online, so the company is working hard to harness the opportunities the web presents. Its website, for example, offers an audiovisual experience designed to have customers dive deeply into the site.

Ultimately, Montblanc's goal is to create bonds as long-lasting as its products. "We're building relationships, not just aiming for today's sale," Schmitz said. Those relationships hopefully will bring "multiple sales over many years," he said.

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