Case Study: Stauer Magazine Ad

Recently I stumbled on a watch advertisement.  I share it because the copywriting is excellent (bigger text version in the next paragraph):

Important building blocks of the ad have been highlighted.  First, the testimonial:

One could not hope for a better endorsement.  It comes from a gentleman who is himself a master craftsman.  I have never heard of Mr. George Thomas but am certainly aware of the Smithsonian.  Excellent, you’ve got my attention Stauer.

Before we dissect the copy please read the original:

Click to Enlarge

I have a confession, I’m a recovering infomercial addict (hi Lars).  I’ve never bought anything but have been known to spend hours gazing at people with British accents sell things I didn’t realize I needed.  But I didn’t watch infomercials because I suffered from insomnia I watched them because I thought they were brilliant marketing tactics.  Alright, now let’s break up this ad (pay attention to the blue numbers around the red boxes):

Click to Enlarge

1. This is a classic marketing play on scarcity.  Got my attention.  Check.
2. This is what we call price marketing, the nucleus of all infomercials.  When the brain encounters a product it attempts to put a value to it.  This ad is about a rare beautiful watch so I expect a price tag between $200 and $2,000.  With that mental anchor $100 is a steal.  This is the exact emotion the advertiser was gunning for.
3. Start by telling a story.  This has an irresistible pull on Humanistic shoppers.
4. This is a classic “but-wait-there’s-more” line.  The prospect is already thinking the watch is a steal and now the advertiser is upping the ante.  This watch is better than the priceless original.  Beat that.
5. Again, a clever use of anchoring.  The company has invested $31 million to produce a $100 watch.  If the brain had constructed the “if the watch is $100 it must be crap” argument it would now feel secure knowing a significant investment has been made toward production.
6. Another play on scarcity.
7. Not only are we selling at the ridiculously low price of $100 we test the watch motor for 15 days.  Note: the use of the number 15 is deliberate.  Every time the brain is confronted with a claim it can do one of three things: believe it, think it’s an exaggeration, think it’s a lie.  Humans would rather assume the other person is exaggerating then brand someone a liar.  Had Stauer said “we test each watch” the reader would have easily assumed they were exaggerating.  But 15 days cannot be an exaggeration, we can either accept it or assume the company is lying.  Most people accept the number.
8. Building desire.  When I was in school I once got stuck with an Amway salesman who asked if I wanted to be a millionaire.  Obviously this was a trick question because the moment I would have said yes he would explain in great detail why his Amway program was the program for me.  This is exactly what Stauer is doing.  By claiming Stauer watches are made for millionaires they are asking if we want to join that exclusive group.  Who wouldn’t?
9. Another “but-wait-there’s-more” line.  At this point most readers in the market for such a watch are sold but the 30-day money back guarantee is another ridiculous giveaway.
10. 4,999 is a classic play on scarcity.  Unfortunately it is the one aspect of the ad I’d change.  I explain below.
11. Save 300% is a math trick.  We are used to advertisers give discounts that represent fractions of the price.  So we’d expect a $10 discount on a $100 item.  A $300 saving on a $100 item is an uncomputable deal; my brain almost fried.  Are you telling me with my savings I could buy three more Stauer Meisterzeit II Timepieces??
12. These is nothing much to talk about here except the promotional code.  MZW140-01 was chosen for a very specific reason.  Think about it, they could have used a promo code like SALE1 but their idea is to give a code the customer has to note down.  It also creates a sense that this is a very special offer.

In the end Stauer wants to communicate one of two emotions-

Emotion 1: Our marketing department has made a typo.  The moment our CEO finds out about this ridiculous offer they’ll lose their jobs and you’ll lose the deal.  So hurry up and make the purchase.

Emotion 2: Something horrible has happened at our company, maybe we are about to shutdown.  We don’t want to cause mass hysteria so we are quickly liquidating our inventory.  This is why we’re willing to take a loss on this magnificent watch.  So hurry up and make the purchase.

Does this ad have an Achilles’ heel?  Yes.  It’s the number 4,999.  I’m unable to get over the fact that they bought a $31 million machine to produce 4,999 watches.  Based on those numbers each watch costs $6,200 to produce.  I would have worded that part of the ad differently.

Bottom line, do I believe this ad worked?  Yes, yes and yes.  I predict Stauer has sold over 50,000 of these 4,999 watches!!

Update: Liked this post?  Follow my copywriting ideas on Twitter @BetterRetail.  Thanks!

15 thoughts on “Case Study: Stauer Magazine Ad

  1. Thanks for the insight, something I always do when I look at these ads in SMITHSONIAN. Yet, when I question it outload, I hear I am too negative…I am with you on this, 100%.

  2. I have the Meisterzeit a Graves 33 and the Reulator 7.
    They get more comments than my Rolex Presidential that everyone asked if it’s fake. All of my Stauer’s keep perfect time and cost less than having the Rolex serviced just once. The Graves 33 is almost 4 years old and the only thing that I have worn out is the band. Stauer sells new bands for $25.00
    Their watches won’t cost you a arm an a leg, they keep good time and they look great. What more could you want for a C-Note.

    • You can buy a Seiko watch for half the price and twice the quality, not to mention better styling. Don’t be suckered by this sleazy marketing.

  3. Just an aside… the product that Stauer is selling is way better than what you would get from China. Yes, it is slick marketing. No, I did not buy the (watches) that I have because they were junk. I bought one under the 30 day return ontract and was please with the value for the dollar. Then, I purchased mnore of the watches I liked. I will keep them and use them and know that they represent a time gone by…

  4. The ad (in National Geographic)has been improved (thanks to your post?): the 4999 watches are gone, the inaccurate 80% off has been replaced by the more accurate 76% (300/395) but the 18k gold has been downgraded to 14 k.
    Very interesting

  5. All the watches with discounted price tag are “Made in China” but the ones NOT discounted are “NOT Made in China” !! This gives the answer for 4999 !!

  6. I bought a Stauer Meisterzeit Automatic about one year ago in 2010. It is a very nice looking watch
    although a bit thicker than most watches I have owned. After one or two months use the screw from
    the rotor fell off inside the case. I replaced the screw myself (whether this became a problem or, not I do not know). The watch worked flawlessly for about six months of intermittent use. I change watches frequently. Now, within the last three weeks, it stops running. I wound it for a short time per automatic watch directions, set it down and let it run out three or four times. Then I wound it to start and wore it. It stops within 5-6 hours every time. Even the best of watches can have a bad one in the lot, but in this case I really think that the Meisterzeit is not worth the money. It is a very smart looking watch overall. When it runs it seems to keep time fairly accurately. When it runs. I ordered a new automatic from a reputable company with equal gook looks at a reasonable price in my estimation. I think its time for a change. Later I will compare the two here.

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