The Story of BENRUS: How Omnichannel Helps Customer Stories Live Forever

The Story of BENRUS: How Omnichannel Helps Customer Stories Live Forever

by Berna Hakimi

It’s time for a history lesson. Benrus was founded as a watch repair shop in New York City way back in 1921. The name Benrus comes from the combination of its founder Benjamin Lazarus’s first and last name. The watch has become a bit of a banner for the WWII era thanks to its prominence in photography of those fighting overseas, and later through its prominence with figure heads in the 1960s.

“The most iconic Benrus watch out there is the one given to John F. Kennedy during his presidential run and it says ‘To Our Future President J.F.K. Benrus,'” Giovanni Feroce informs me.

Feroce, CEO and Chair of Benrus watches, knows the importance of keeping up with the times in the digital market. Benrus has an iconic status in history, thanks to much documentation of its watches through historical photos, and Feroce believes now is the  time to use that content to leverage the next  chapter in Benrus’ own story in the omnichannel space.

“I have so many stories to draw upon and I believe I can show what the visuals of that will look like as we incorporate that onto our eCommerce platforms, explains Feroce. “I envision basically becoming a depository of information, which then would lead to new sales and begin new stories and once it becomes circular in nature that should help us with the future of online purchasing.”

It’s a story that has become a focal narrative for marketers who attend our GDS Omnichannel Insight Summits, as they attempt to navigate the dilemma of how to talk to their customers on each of their platforms from mobile to desktop. For retailers like Benrus, it’s not about the pitch, it’s about the story behind how those objects make customers feel. Marketers are suddenly becoming storytellers and finding ways to craft their tales on the multitude of platforms, each with its own medium’s storytelling techniques.

For Feroce, the technique meant turning things around for Benrus. Literally.

“In my case I came to this GDS Omnichannel Summit with a physical product. I brought one of the new styles of our new watches in the packaging and try to have people understand Im going to sell the back of the watch. Everyone else is selling the front of the watch, Im selling the back of the watch. But, the way to do that is to upload those important pictures and stories and other things so that if I were engraving the back of the watch, what is it going to say?”

Feroce says Benrus used to be the 3rd largest watch company in the United States from 1921 to 1977 but with the fast pace of change in the world of retail and marketing, he’s been on a mission to learn how to stay ahead of the curve.

“I’ve taken on the task of resurrecting Benrus. I came to the GDS Summit, exited to learn about eCommerce and new capabiltiies in this day and age…I think storytelling and authenticity will separate companies amongst each other and those who thrive will know how to do that.”

A recent study by The CMO Club revealed that more than 50% of CMOs are not using an omnichannel marketing strategy while 29% plan to do so over the next year. Feroce clearly sees where others haven’t effectively utilized omnichannel marketing strategy, and is looking to harness the power of the multi-platform storytelling spaces he inhabits.

“Right now I’m getting one-off letters and pictures and emails saying, ‘This is my Uncle Al in Iwo Jima. This is his Benrus watch and he’s next to his buddies in a by-plane.’  That’s great you sent it to me and you put it on a facebook page once—like the GDS Group Facebook—but how does it live forever? Because, I can make it live forever.”

Given that an average employee has 1500+ connections on social media, imagine the potential if they could be your storytellers. Making these images live forever means Feroce is smartly trying to capitalize on an evergreen story with a seemingly endless line of willing narrators.

“Now, having that foresight to understand the value of that information is wonderful.And I also think it’s going to lead to a vintage marketplace for our products. Someone may want to buy Uncle Al’s watch because it was in Iwo Jima and I want THAT watch!

Berna Hakimi