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Time to Drive Your Tribe?

X, the social media channel formerly known as Twitter and word-of-mouth-marketing isn’t quite dead yet. And it’s down to storytelling. It’s not often you see traditional word-of-mouth marketing strategies succeed, as most marketing managers kill them, because they can’t, or don’t see how it translates into tangible sales. Product teams tend to also ignore it as – for them – there’s no opportunity to amplify strong brand values, or product-channel messaging. Maybe is time to disrupt and go back to basics.

Let me explain. I’m deeply passionate about motorsport. It started with my grandfather, who worked for Ford, and my father, who worked for F1 teams such as McLaren and Lotus, Cosworth, Ford, Lister and so on. He was on first name terms with Bruce and Colin, Keith and Mike and knew most folk in the paddock as he helped build the engines that went in their cars from the 1960s to the early nineties. No parts, no race day. You get the idea, especially when it came to them paying the bills. I also like watches. Not Rolexes or IWCs, but quirky ones that tell a unique story, starting with the Swiss watch my parents got me when I was 18. It’s razor thin, delicate and there’s only about 200 in the world and it’s made by the same watch company my dad loves. I’ve also got a Russian railways worker fob watch, traded for some Levi jeans on a train journey in the old USSR between Leningrad and Moscow. When I hit 40, I bought a Swiss watch from a store in Zurich and recently started looking for my next milestone timepiece. Win on Sunday, sell on Monday

Enter, Shami Kalra, Founder and Designer of Omologato®, a British watch company based in Windsor, UK, with the ethos of bringing affordable high-quality watches to people who live for Motorsport. I was drawn to Omologato’s unique blend of motorsport heritage limited-edition hand-crafted timepieces a few years ago after spotting a friend wore one. I loved the design and brand story – based around a historic car, legendary driver, or circuit – and got introduced to the range. This is where it gets interesting. The company was founded in 2015, and has quickly established itself as one of the pre-eminent watch brands in the world of racing, mainly through word-of-mouth marketing (WOM). No fancy PR-ad campaign. Just recommendation followed by recommendation. The service is old fashioned. If you call the office, or message them via their website, unless he’s asleep (rarely it appears), it’s usually Shami who answers. Try this. If you’ve got an issue with your Rolex or swanky Swiss watch. Call the company, and see if Nicolas Brünschwig, or CEO answers! For the people, by the motorsport people So, this this week, Shami announced the company had spare capacity via X/Twitter, and asked customers via his 6,324 following “what you’d like us to do with a watch design. You design it, I’ll make it”. Endurance racing driver Peter Cate, author of ‘Racing Hell’ and five-time Nürburgring 24 hours class winner at the Nurburgring Nordschleife entered the chat. He had a great design tucked up his sleeve (don’t we all?) and casually dropped it into the feed. Omologato followers and the company liked it – so much they decided to go further with the idea. Within two hours, Shami had refined the design, and sent a simple message to potential customers via social channels: “OK, if I get 500 orders for this, I’ll make it. The best bit? Peter Cate Racing will get a share of the profits to go towards his racing. Standby”. By the end of the business day, Omologato had no working drawings or sales blurb, or finalised production, but ‘the people’s watch’ had a rough design and a name – Green Hell 25.378km. With some tiny design changes, the company created a page and link to their website for reservations. From what the team thought was just a tweet, turned out to be something quite interesting. People are buying it and Omologato are truly humbled. The first one sold within a few minutes of the link appearing, with more orders made in the coming hours. Live for the moment What’s in Omologato’s secret sauce? The answer is simple. Find your tribe, build it, and they will come. While there are watch brands who sponsor elements of the sport with big budget signs only at F1 circuits, run hugely expensive ads in car mags featuring products worn by actors and ambassadors with little or no m-sport connection, that’s as far as it goes. Whether you're a racing enthusiast or a watch collector, Omologato’s appeal is to offer a way of connecting with the thrill of motorsport. Omologato is the ultimate WYSIWYG brand, what you see is what you get, and they’re all-in with their customers who are hard core motorsport – passionate and dedicated to the teams, cars, and brands they follow. They live for their own personal motorsport moments, whether that’s driving to the tip of Scotland to sit in a hedge to watch a single round of the British Superbike championship in the pouring rain, or camping out Glasto style to watch 24-hour endurance racing at Le Mans in France or Spa in Belgium. The brand also has a cult following among American motorsport teams such as Chip Ganassi Racing and fans at the Indy 500, Laguna Seca, and a few other places you’ve never heard of, but are known to affectionardos. Being a bespoke brand, Omologato’s value is in customer base and service delivery – I’m yet to see another brand keep to company values. The same CEO who manages customer queries, also frequently makes random calls to customers, just to chat about watches and motorsport. A substantial part of the profits goes back into motorsport, so interest in the brand funds everything from young drivers, to partnering with Nielsen Racing for the 100th 24h of Le Mans, where names of every Centenaire Chronograph Collector’s Edition customer were part of the LMP2 car’s race livery. With commentators naming the brand every time the car appeared on TV and stream screens for 24 hours, Omologato has engaged and connected with a new global audience, and also raised a few eyebrows in the horology world.

Thanks to Shami’s unique approach, Omologato's unique blend of motorsport heritage, limited-edition offerings, and dedication to quality craftsmanship has made it a notable player in the world of motorsport-inspired watches in a very short space of time. And the future’s bright, with more motorsport brands, circuits and teams connecting with the company for 2024 and beyond. To see the ultimate example of how to grow a brand from scratch by WOMM, follow @OmologatoOro on X and Insta via #omologato and #TeamOmologato. If you’re interested in seeing the Green Hell 25.378km, the good news is that it is still available, but #050 has been taken by someone. Whoever that is, he’s a lucky guy.

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