The Zenith El Primero

Posted November 21, 2016

The Zenith El Primero

Like most small business owners, I often struggle with copywriting. And even more often, I struggle with writing a cohesive story. If that sounds like you too, I’d imagine you could learn a lesson from the fine folks at Hodinkee.

Hodinkee is a beautiful magazine celebrating and analyzing watches of, in their own words, particularly high quality.” Telling stories is already in their wheelhouse, but over the past year, they’ve expanded from being just a magazine. Now they make watches as well.

Their latest watch is a nod to 1960s time faces. It’s called the Zenith El Primero, and it’s a beautiful timepiece. It’s a near replica of a watch that’s now decades old, and instead of updating it for more modern” sensibilities, Hodinkee doubled down on the value that a watch with its grace has to offer.

The product page, though, is what really shines here. The story fascinates me, even though I have no interest in vintage watches.

There are some lessons we can learn from this:

  • The story sells the product. I’ve been beating this drum for a long time, but it’s critically important here — more so than the design of the piece, even. One of my favourite parts about the Zenith El Primero story is the beginning: instead of announcing the product, Hodinkee takes their time setting up the tale. They tell us why they wanted to make another watch, and then they start telling us why this watch in particular. At that point, while you’re engrossed in hearing about the process of creation at Hodinkee and their values, you’re also hearing about the watch’s virtues.
  • The product photography is astounding, and often reveals the watch in its natural location: on someone’s wrist. Not every product shoot has to be an iPhone-style shoot on a white background! Authenticity might be more appropriate.
  • The details about the watch are slowly revealed. The story is structured to give you more details only as you need them, or as your interest grows. This keeps Hodinkee from boring you with the details right away.
  • This is a $7,900 watch. That’s expensive. It’s not necessarily crazy expensive for a watch, but most people need a good reason to spend that much money on anything. Smartly, Hodinkee saves the price and availability for last. You’ve already heard their personal story, the pitch, and the details. At this point, you’re interested. And only then does Hodinkee share the price with you.

You could make the argument that Hodinkee only does this because they have the right audience for this sort of story-telling, but I’d argue everybody wants to hear a story when they buy the product. They need to know if the story about the product lines up with the story they tell about themselves.

For some people, this watch will never line up with their own personal story. But for others — hopefully enough for Hodinkee to make a profit — the Zenith El Primero’s story will match what they believe about themselves. It will line up with their values.

That’s why we tell stories. We need to believe the product is right for us, in the simplest sense. We want it to match what we project about ourselves to the rest of the world.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a painter, architect, IT company, non-profit, or a designer. The important part about sharing your business or product with people is telling a story that connects with them.

Read about the Zenith El Primero on Hodinkee’s website.

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