Seiko “Why don’t you change watches like you do clothes?”

Copywriting and design to produce a new lifestyle

CL: Hattori Seiko Co., Ltd. CD/C: Makio Awano AD/D: Makoto Saito D: Takashi Sakumiya I: Hajime Sorayama
P: Shigeru Akimoto PR: Takamasa Onishi AG: Daiichi Kikaku Co. Ltd.

One afternoon in 1979, I received a phone call from the manager of the Seiko advertising section, who invited me to tea in our usual tea shop. I was expecting the kind of pleasant conversation that we always had, but when I met him his face was tense. “I want a 15% increase in the number of watches owned by women customers,” he told me. This was the orientation. The orientation for a project that was to last for the next 10 years was of a decidedly different form from the two major campaigns in spring and autumn, and most irregularly, it involved just the two of us. I could tell from the section manager’s face how important and serious this orientation was to Seiko.

To explain the serious circumstances, at that time nearly 100% of women in the market owned a wristwatch. One was considered sufficient, and a woman would not think of buying a new watch unless the current one was broken. However with the advances in production technology, there were few watch failures, and the industry was facing a critical situation in which the motivation for buying might even disappear completely. In the case of men’s watches, there was a system of upgrade marketing, buying new watches in sequence for a student → new employee → section manager → division manager. However marketing for women had come to a dead end. Supporting this explanation was the fact that the sales ratio of women’s watches was 15% lower than that of men’s watches.

This was a serious task. The issue could not be resolved by ordinary advertising methods such as new product sizzle ads and ads promoting repeat purchases. We had to create a new reason for women to buy watches as part of their lifestyles.

The NDC presentation was to create the lifestyle custom of using multiple watches. Although unthinkable to young persons today, for women at that time a watch was solely an instrument for telling the time, and there was no concept at all of any need to change one’s watch. The bold strategy which we offered in order to break through this barrier was “Why don’t you change watches like you do clothes?”

The idea was to promote and create a solid position in society for the enjoyment of selecting a watch to match a woman’s clothing for that day, just like she already selected other accessories, a bag, and shoes before setting out in the morning. Both bags and shoes had been the same at first: just one was considered enough, and marketing efforts eventually developed them into products that could be changed to match different outfits. We proposed that by educating women about the enjoyment of coordinating their watches as well as other fashionable accessories, that enjoyment would be accepted naturally.

The powerful impact of the first advertisement, produced with Makoto Saito as the AD, became a sensation.

CL: Hattori Seiko Co., Ltd. CD/C: Makio Awano AD/D: Makoto Saito D: Takashi Sakumiya I: Hajime Sorayama
P: Shigeru Akimoto, Seiichi Aoki (left image only)  PR: Takamasa Onishi AG: Daiichi Kikaku Co. Ltd.

As you can see, against one of the fantastical backgrounds that Makoto Saito was known for is a red gloved hand wearing a watch. At the end of the hand is another watch. These two watches represent proposals for different outfits, just like gold or silver, or a metal belt or a leather belt. This visual pattern was combined with the ad copy “Why don’t you change your watches like you do clothes?” and this combination was used in a broad range of media including television, radio, magazines, posters, and POP, with expressions tailored to suit each of these media types. I had heard that this launch campaign had to break through some considerable resistance before it was carried out, and I was concerned about the results. However amazingly that 15% gap was filled during the first year.

As a result of the first year’s success, the campaign continued for an exceptional long run of 10 years. During this period, the product planning division developed watches for different outfits one after another, producing a series of hit products. The retailers also changed their sales approaches and worked hard to promote sales. These efforts in which the entire marketing section joined together gave greater energy to the campaign with each successive year. Women’s magazines also lent their support with articles promoting the fashion coordination of watches. The position of watches in women’s lifestyle had completely changed from instruments to fashion accessories. As a result, over these 10 years we entered a period where women enjoyed changing their watches, owning on average two or three watches each.

Makio Awano
Born in 1936. After graduating from the School of Commerce at Meiji University in 1960, worked in the PR division of a pharmaceutical company, an advertising agency, and other companies, and was a member of Nippon Design Center from 1964 – 2003. At NDC, worked with clients including Seiko, Wacoal, Nina Ricci, Isetan, Toshiba, Toyota, Nikon, Nomura Securities, Mitsubishi Corporation, Landmark Tower, and Asahi Shimbun Newspaper. Awards received include the Asahi Advertising Award, Mainichi Advertising Award, Nikkei Advertising Award, Fuji Sankei Advertising Award, Japan Magazine Advertising Award, Japan DM Award, TCC Award, ACC Award, Dentsu Newspaper Advertising Award, Dentsu Poster Advertising Award, and consumer-choice advertising awards.