A Category of One
Updated: Jul 27, 2019
Last month, I traveled to England on a family vacation, as well as to do some business. After the United States, the UK has always been the biggest market for my business, and over the years, I’ve developed friendships with many customers there. Last year we started working with UK retailer Page & Cooper, so this trip was well past due.
The fine folks from P&C were kind enough to organize a get-together for some of our mutual customers to come and meet the man behind the NTH brand. I hope I wasn’t a disappointment to all those who made the time to be there.
Among the attendees was a man named Richard Stenning, the former in-house watchmaker at Sotheby’s of London, and is now one of the proprietors of Charles Frodsham's, royal tenant, and renowned clockmakers since the 1800's. The conversation I had with him was a transformative experience…
For the first time ever, Frodsham's is now making commercially available wristwatches, a whopping 10 to 12 pieces per year, with their 100% in-house double-impulse chronometer, a miniaturized version of John Harrison’s H4 marine chronometer, a nearly-frictionless movement accurate to <5/8 of a second over 100 days, a Guiness World Record for accuracy in a mechanical movement...
Money alone won't buy you one. Richard insists on meeting every would-be customer personally, to get to know them. The serial numbers are all sequential, continued from Frodsham’s clocks, dating back to the early 1800's. Buying a Frodsham's watch is buying a piece of history.
How much are the watches?
Let me ask you this - what do you think is the MOST Frodsham’s could ask for one of 10 to 12 pieces made per year, world-record accurate, made by hand, all in-house, by her majesty's royal tenant?
Is it not fair to say they could literally ask ANYTHING, and have no trouble selling them all? Of course they could! Frodsham’s has a 12-month waiting list comprised of celebrities, royalty from every part of the world, oil sheiks, hedge fund billionaires, and Russian oligarchs.
Because - THERE'S ONLY ONE CHARLES FRODSHAM'S! They’re only making 10 or 12 per year. It’s not an exaggeration to say they're the best watchmakers in the world. They are literally in a category of ONE.
As I was sitting there listening to him, that’s what I was thinking about – the value of being in a category of one. When you’re in a category of one, you have no competition whatsoever.
Everything you just read above, about Frodsham’s - that's a story. It's an amazing story, but it's a story. I had to tell it to you for you to get it, just like someone had to tell it to me for me to get it. I’d never heard of Frodsham’s before I was told the story, and now I’ve told it to you.
The double impulse chronometer? It's a watch. It tells time. People aren't buying it to tell time. No one needs that sort of accuracy in a personal timepiece. That’s NASA-level specs.
People want one because there are only 10 to 12 pieces made per year, and there’s a waiting list, and an interview you have to go through to get one, and because of Frodsham’s history, and the uniqueness, and the prestige.
How many brands can say they’re royal tenants, based in Britain, Guiness World Record holders for accuracy, making watches completely by hand, in-house?
One. Just. One.
Guess what? Whoever you are, whatever your brand, there’s only one of YOU.
Before you launch, you can make your brand whatever you want it to be. Even after you launch, you can work towards putting your brand into a category of one.
With everything you do in your business – product design, marketing, customer engagement, pre- and post-sale support – everything you do, and everything you say about your business and products contributes to your brand’s unique story.
What would you want the label on your category of one to be, then? Cheapest watch with the most specs? Best designs? Most innovative? Best support? Think hard before you start telling that story to the world.
Think about what you want to say, and how you can say it.