CMO of the Week: Tourneau’s Carina Ertl

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Carina Ertl has been chief marketing officer at The Bucherer Group’s luxury brand Tourneau for almost three years, a role that taps into her love of retail innovation.

Carina Ertl has been chief marketing officer at The Bucherer Group’s luxury brand Tourneau for almost three years, a role that taps into her love of retail innovation.

“There's still so much fascination and so much opportunity about brick and mortar retail, and then the transition into digital and the opportunities that you have for a full 360 customer experience, not just in the stores, but also in your online shopping experience and your UX in general,” says Ertl.

Ertl has been leading the company’s rebranding effort, an effort to tell the story of Tourneau after it was acquired by Swiss brand Bucherer four years ago. The effort started by determining if the heritage brand could sustain a rebrand. “We heard a lot of great stories about, ‘Oh, I was here with my father and now I'm buying this as a graduation gift for my child,’” recounts Ertl. “That was really incredible to understand, the heritage of Tourneau and the brand awareness. We obviously were a little bit hesitant, do we want to do a really harsh rebranding? And then if we do a rebranding at all, what's the story that we are telling to the clients?” 

The company ran a nationwide focus group survey of VIP customers to learn about the forward-looking brand building opportunities on top of the classic heritage brand. They found that consumers loved the strength of the brand’s history: two brothers – one goldsmith, one watchmaker – from Switzerland with an original relationship to Rolex. “We definitely needed to hone in on that whole component about the heritage and Switzerland, and the strengths of that originality and the strengths of the brand,” explains Ertl.

Tourneau also used the survey to leverage insight on how a luxury shopping experience should look for the clients. “You need to really make sure you bring your customers on a journey to help them understand why you're rebranding right now,” she adds. 

The branding that emerged from the research and rebrand is the story of an iconic Swiss heritage brand that is also a modern future-focused New York retailer. This came to life in a campaign that was half Alps, half Empire State Building with both Tourneau and Bucherer names in the effort. 

This effort supported Tourneau’s new three-storey flagship retail store which opened in Manhattan in 2021 in an effort to expand into the US retail market.

“Our flagship store on 57th Street is the new benchmark in what luxury retail should look like,” comments Ertl. “We are trying to grow together and come together. That's why we ended up using this hybrid logo, which we're still using today, because we are slowly rebranding all the stores nationwide, and that's going to be done at some point next year. We're doing this just using both logos to help people understand that going from A to B and take them on that journey.” 

Brand Innovators caught up with Ertl from her office in New York to discuss this rebrand, the future of retail and the potential of Web3. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Can you talk about how you imagine retail being more inventive? 

It's always with your core base. It starts by really embracing the heritage and also craftsmanship. Now I'm working with timepieces, I feel that's almost like art. There's so much richness just in that and so much appreciation from every generation. We have Gen Z right now. They are all crazy for watches.

It's really starting with being more in that space space being a little bit more accessible and approachable, creating an instant experience that is welcoming, that is cool, that is entertaining. And then obviously also transitioning that into your online experience with the brands as well. And for me, what is interesting is that it really depends on maturity. I always like to look at what's the digital maturity of a company –you find them at all stages– and then start with the baseline and then move forward step by step. 

What do you want a customer to experience while online shopping?

There are not a lot of companies out there that really have an online shopping experience that  just blows you away because of the way they deliver it – the time, the speed– the way they follow up with you. The way they put maybe something a little surprise and delight moment into the delivery. I think these are all basic things, we're not even talking about software solutions or anything. But those things that really make the experience special. It's about how you want to feel if you buy a luxurious product, you want to feel special. You want that to be a really cool experience.

As a luxury retailer, who is your core demographic? Are you balancing between an older customer and yet trying to court the younger consumer? 

It's a balance. Five years ago, we were all on these panels on how to talk to millennials and now it's how to talk to Gen Z. I'm sometimes surprised about how interested and how knowledgeable the younger generation is. And there's obviously also a good entry point. For example, I'm in the United States, responsible for the pre-owned business. That's a wonderful opportunity to really approach the younger generation to approach new clients because pre-owned is sustainable. It's obviously also a little bit of a different price point. It's a balance across the board.

What is the inspiration for the store and how are you thinking about the future of retail?

The inspiration was to create an environment where you really feel comfortable. We wanted to really get rid of this intimidating feeling of coming to the store, then there's a case full of beautiful watches, and jewelry. And then there's someone behind that case, we wanted to get rid of that barrier. Now you go in the store, and it's a curation of watch brands, but it's also within that it's a curation of the most beautiful exclusive product. 

We take it even further how we create our wine bar, for example. We have an environment that is inspired by a New York loft. We have a very warm wood, then we have marble, but it's a very warm tone. We have three bars. We just want you to hang out, we want you to not feel intimidated to come and sit down. We want to present the watches in the way you want them presented. So we don't want you to stand behind the case but sit down in a chair, sit down at the bar, sit down in the lounge, and just have an experience. There’s fantastic coloration that starts with the brand and the way we present the product. Then we have a collaboration with Sotheby's. They created our wine bar with a Sotheby's collection of wines. 

We have worked with the only locally only brewery that actually brews in Manhattan. We serve their beers, because they are local. We wanted to support local. We also have a coffee bar. You get your glass of champagne, and so on and so forth. We really want this to be an experience, we go even further by curating so right now we have an event at least once a week with different partners, either with a brand partner or betta wine tasting or be we love to match watches with unique tequila or watches with whiskey. We tell the story of the whiskey and we tell the story of the complimentary watch. with it. 

We have been starting a series of panels and talks. So we really want to make this a place of coming together and being inspired and being entertained. We have an exhibition that is changing. So we just had a new show a month ago, but we'll change it every two to three months. We want you to come back and see something else every time you come and experience something else every time you'd come. 

What about the digital transformation part of that? How are you balancing the in store experience with your digital marketing? 

There's still a lot of opportunities for us. We were one of the first retailers in that segment that actually had a web shop and that went online. But there are definitely a lot of opportunities to create that experience also in the online world. Then obviously, you can even go further and make that much more like Web3. We are also thinking about what that experience looks like. I'm not even talking metaverse or NFTs, that's a medium. It's really how do we want to present ourselves in a Web3 environment? 

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