Microbrands are a well-established outlet for horological creativity. Some direct-to-consumer microbrands punch well above their weight, offering high quality work for a fraction of the price of an equivalent mainstream manufacturer’s timepiece. Inarguably, microbrands serve buyers in all segments with valuable diversity. On the other hand . . .
Microbrands are often shameless pastiches of well-established designs and brands. Buying one comes with the very real risk of not getting the goods (RF recently reported that the number of successful Kickstarter campaigns is falling fast). Not to mention questionable quality and very little to no comeback.
That said, there are plenty of honest microbrand companies. But there’s an underlying whiff of misrepresentation in the field. Which is why fans of the genre need an honest and dependable forum for sharing information and experiences. Enter The League of Microbrands Facebook page . . .
With 12.3K members, LoM is one of the larger microbrand communities. Created and administered on Facebook by one Marvin Menke (above), the page appeals to members with the promise of a “safe space” to discuss microbrand matters. Like this:
This group is a space where we can share and discuss the microbrand market as founders and consumers . . . No one in this group will stalk, harass or convince brands that they need to pay money to post about their company here. That money would be better put towards a Facebook advertising campaign with all of it’s targeting and metrics.
In fact, the League of Microbrands “community” is something of a sham. Mr. Menke – its guiding light – is the CEO of Hemel Watches.
Instead of putting his money towards a targeted Facebook advertising campaign, Mr. Menke uses the League of Microbrands’ Facebook page to promote his company’s products. As you can see. This despite the front page’s warning: “Oh, and one more thing. Please, no sales in this group.”
In most countries, marketing must be labelled as marketing and comply with a set of rules and regulations to protect the consumer.
Same goes in The Land of the Free. Ish. The Federal Trade Commission recently ruled “If your company has a material connection to someone endorsing your products, that relationship should be clearly and conspicuously disclosed in the endorsements, unless the relationship is otherwise apparent.”
The ruling was targeted at social media influencers. The League of Microbrands’ Facebook page doesn’t violate any law of Facebook policy, and I guess you could say its commercial interest is “otherwise apparent.” Even so it skirts an ethical line by hosting a page that isn’t clearly identified as being run by and, ultimately, for Hemel watches.
Don’t misunderstand me. The League of Microbrands provides valuable information on microbrands. But the underlying, foundational, partially hidden dynamic is disconcerting at best. There ought to be an obvious indeed explicit line between advertising/marketing and editorial in all its forms.
The Truth About Watches invites The League of Microbrands to add transparency to their Facebook page. And warns readers to always look for the man behind the curtain.