Montblanc building business luxury lifestyle brand
In 2019, German writing instruments and accessories brand Montblanc caused quite a stir by introducing a collaboration with edgy Japanese streetwear label Bape. Something more than a mere experiment, the capsule collection, which sold out in a matter of hours, gave Nicolas Baretzki, CEO of the rather conservative German brand, the confidence he needed to redefine Montblanc’s overall strategy.
In this respect, the collection designed in collaboration with Maison Kitsuné and presented during the latest Paris menswear fashion week has made the Hamburg-based brand’s aim even clearer. It all started when Montblanc decided to create a line of high-end headphones with the label led by Masaya Kuroki and Gildas Loaëc - then the project extended to other categories. The new, 12-item capsule collection expresses Montblanc's signature style in a variety of products, from leather goods to connected objects to writing accessories.
“We have a long history of collaborations, particularly in writing instruments, where we have associated our product lines with several artists, as we did with the Beatles and Elvis Presley. Our customers recognize us for our expertise as a century-old luxury [writing instruments] brand, and also for our watches and leather goods. Our logo is a wonderful tool. But we are hoping that our customers will come to appreciate the whole Montblanc universe. We need to evolve from a business luxury brand to a business luxury lifestyle one,” said Baretzki.
To signpost this new identity, Baretzki is focusing on transforming Montblanc’s marketing communications and promoting greater consistency between product categories, and has hired a new creative director. Marco Tomasetta took office last March, with the mission of developing the brand’s lifestyle range, from writing instruments to connected accessories, the most recently launched categories.
“We have reorganised the company to stop it being so compartmentalised,” said Baretzki. “Our customers are changing, we need to adapt. Nowadays, formal wear is increasingly a rarity. China is our leading market. Fifteen years ago, when we presented our writing instruments, it was all businessmen in suits. But in recent years, we started having young people in shorts. [Younger consumers] are increasingly numerous, they are passionate about the products and willing to invest in exceptional items,” he added.
More advertising campaigns have been aimed at these customers, notably featuring well-known names like US director Spike Lee or French actor Pierre Niney in France. The plan is to drop collaborations throughout the year, to make Montblanc's voice heard more frequently. And, in an attempt to be as geared as possible to perceived market expectations, Montblanc has worked to reduce the length of time between product design and commercialisation, from 18 months to eight months.
In 2022, a new milestone should be reached: Montblanc will unveil a new flagship store concept reflecting its novel approach, recognising both the brand’s long-established expertise and today’s widespread digitalization. Baretzki, starting from a worldwide network of 300 directly owned stores and 300 monobrand partner stores, plans to open new addresses in key cities worldwide. The first statement of intent will be made in Paris, with an entirely renovated Champs Elysées flagship.
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