It has been called the perfect social media platform for a pandemic, and is also a locked-in fad.
Clubhouse, the $ 1 billion invite-only social audio app, counts Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey, and Drake as members. Beauty, fashion, technology, travel and luxury brands have been experimenting with buzzy platforms, and it is now attracting the attention of the luxury watch industry.
But as that community begins to voice its minds, there are questions about Clubhouse’s relevance to the physical world, the image of luxury watchmaking, and the broader, chances of success. general application.
Currently, Clubhouse only offers audio chat, not content sharing. It is only available on the Apple iPhone, and while you can download the app for free, you can only use it if you are invited by a member.
And it is likely that it will soon be competing with rival products from the social media giants. Twitter is set to roll out Spaces this month, while Instagram responded to Live Rooms, which includes live video, but is limited to only four speakers at a time. Facebook is said to be developing its own platform as well.
However, some watch brands say Clubhouse has the power to amplify their business.
“Clubhouse means a lot to me,” said Christophe Grainger-Herr, the chief executive officer of IWC, who attended the brand’s weekly Clubhouse session, “The Things That Make Us Tick”.
“It’s a talk radio but in an open room format, like Instagram Live, but full of interactivity,” he said. “That looks appealing because you can connect with an audience around the world, 1-1. You have a directness and an instant. “
“Advertising too much”
In April 2020, Clubhouse was featured on Apple’s App Store by an entrepreneur, Paul Davison and a former Google engineer, Rohan Seth. These men had founded a California-based startup, Alpha Exploration Co., just two months earlier.
The concept of an “interactive podcast,” as Clubhouse has been described, offers live, un-recorded chat in a virtual room. Someone said, but moderators can invite audience to join. And the audience can leave the session whenever they want.
By the end of the year, Clubhouse’s membership had grown, but not as quickly as its reputation. In December, UK Vogue published an article describing it as “the exciting new social application for FOMO”. And then in January, it was reported that Andreessen Horowitz, a blue-chip venture capital firm that was once the original investor, invested $ 100 million in Clubhouse, creating a $ 1 billion valuation.
However, this platform continues to be a niche website. Reports say the app has been downloaded nearly 13 million times. However, even if all of those people tried to get the invitation and become users, the audience would still be very small compared to Facebook, the world’s largest social network, ending 2020 at 2.8. billion monthly active users reported.
It also doesn’t make any money either, as both the branding and the audience’s use is free – at least for now.
With viewing-focused chat rooms that only attract audiences by double, sometimes triple, some are questioning why people who like IWC are bothering. “There is too much hype surrounding the Clubhouse,” said David Sadigh, chief executive of Digital Luxury Group, a marketing firm. “It’s a great place if you have a topic you own and can provide an in-depth investigation of that topic. But it is not suitable for all brands at the moment.
However, Mr. Grainger-Herr said he has completed many of the appointments he would normally conduct in the Geneva Watches and Wonders, starting Wednesday, so he can contribute to IWC’s Clubhouse sessions during this event. He said they would run “24/7.”
“Everyone can raise their hands”
Brands on the platform say their use is to explore newer forms of social media rather than for reach. “An important part of our brand’s position is our inclusive, open-minded luxury in our approach,” said Tim Sayler, chief marketing officer at Breitling. Last month, the brand, which also started gaming, started scheduling what it calls #Squadtalks on Thursdays, with speakers discussing everything from aviation to blockchain.
“At Clubhouse, everyone can raise their hands and get involved,” Mr. Sayler said.
Dan Noël, founder of Swiss digital marketing agency Starterland, said Clubhouse has the potential to bring together luxury brands and their consumers. “Even people with money are looking for brands that represent something from a social standpoint,” he said. “There is a change. Customers want to connect directly and authentically with brands. Clubhouse offers two-way communication. “
Businesses say the low cost of social audio also makes it attractive.
Julien Tornare, managing director at Zenith, one of the LVMH Group’s watch companies, says his brand is using Clubhouse because it’s “much easier logically” than creating content. Expensive videos for channels like YouTube and Instagram. Mr. Tornare and his colleagues appeared as themselves instead of the brand, to reflect the more “personal” nature of the platform.
He also said that he is far from believing the Clubhouse will survive, but it’s worth the effort. “We have to be there,” he said. “Right now, it’s one.”
The Clubhouse format poses challenges for luxury homes, in the same way the Internet did for many years after being accepted by most businesses.
“The problem with luxury brands is that they are obsessed with looks and feel,” Mr. Noël said. “Brands have to find a way to create emotions with their words, which can scare them off. And it’s live, so a bad word can really hurt. “(Shortly after Clubhouse’s launch, there were complaints that hate language and harassment were increasing. The app added blocking and reporting features.)
Mr. Tornare said he is not worried about the risks. “There are some CEOs who try to avoid contact with the press or with the audience in person,” he said. “But I believe that if you want to communicate, you have to take some risks at some point and be exposed. That’s part of the job. We must be open to criticism ”.
“Give up pretending”
In general, users of watch-related rooms reported polite audience exchanges. Andrew Carrier, a London-based watch enthusiast wrote in an email: “All the watch rooms I have been in are very civilized and respectful.
Mr. Sayler of Breitling agrees. “At Clubhouse, I only see a constructive, polite, civilized way of talking. Maybe it’s just being invited ”.
Carrier said the unofficial nature of the platform was also attractive. “The only sound and spontaneous nature of experience means that brands have to eliminate the fake and claustrophobic that sometimes accompanies more traditional marketing activities,” he wrote. “There is no hierarchy in the Clubhouse; We’re all just people with a somewhat odd obsession with watches. “
Suzanne Wong, editor-in-chief of watch website WorldTempus and co-founder of Clubhouse weekly WatchFemme, which aims to highlight women in the watch world, says she has had similar experiences too. “You can’t fake your profile and you’re encouraged to connect your other accounts,” she said, referring to social media platforms. “When you make a malicious comment, you are doing it in front of an audience who can see who you are. It restricts trolls that way.
“It’s like a city hall because when you get to the microphone, everyone will see who you are,” she added. “So you get an audience that’s calculated that way. People are not logged in anonymously to troll. Instead, you get people who really care. “
With Clubhouse not providing any insight into user behavior, watch brands and analysts say it is too early and the audience is too small to measure Clubhouse’s effectiveness as a marketing tools. And there is little indication that sessions are attracting new watch buyers.
“I feel like I know 60-70% of the audience,” said Tornare of the Clubhouse that Zenith held to mark a recent collaboration with artist Felipe Pantone. “It’s a way to talk about a topic you like, rather than to learn about watches.”
Starterland’s Mr. Noël says the Clubhouse’s small, intimate nature can benefit both platform and users. “It doesn’t mean that if you only have a few followers you can’t have an influence,” he said. “That is one of the benefits of Clubhouse. You don’t need a great foundation to demonstrate your worth. Go into your room and create a club, not to sell your stuff, but to convey your values to your audience. “
But will Clubhouse – and social media in general – survive when people return to the office and enjoy life outside their living room?
“My perception is that Clubhouse is trying to build a content platform and a platform for creators,” said DLG’s Sadigh, referring to Clubhouse’s March announcement of a new acceleration program to help. Content creators build and monetize their audience. “At some point, people will pay to be part of exclusive groups and chats. And that goes beyond Covid’s time. “
Mr. Noël said he believes social sound has something to do. “Sound is probably the easiest way to communicate between people, and the less friction you get in communication, the more traction you get,” he said. “The Assembly Hall is a place that connects people directly, simulating real life. And we know that when a social network simulates something in the real world, that’s a good sign, it’s not out of fashion.
But he warned. “If Clubhouse wants to be 10 years from now, it will have to find a way to keep traction and make some money from the model. And they will have to provide metrics for brands and content creators.
Others disagree. “So far, it’s a platform for early users,” said Mr Sadigh. “The echo is not reflected in the numbers. Lots of people are involved, but how many are active? One percent is addicted, two percent use it a few times a week, but 97 percent are sleeping. Instagram and Facebook have tried to change people’s habits so that even non-early users check their phones 20 times a day. We are far from this on the Clubhouse. “
James Marks of Phillips Perpetual, a pre-owned watch showroom in London, and a regular Clubhouse user, have gone further.
“It’s just a social boredom,” he said.