Collaboration and reinvention through marketing can make or break a brand, and paramount to this is remaining authentic and evolving with the times. Retail has continued to boom online over the past decade, and businesses are getting creative as to how they can keep customers loyal. Australian watch brand Maxum recently reopened its online store, providing a direct-to-customer sales (DTC) channel after years of only being available through retail partners. Justin Veil, Maxum’s founder, owner,
wner, and head of design, launched the brand exclusively at Myer in 1999. He was familiar with the industry since his parents founded Designa Accessories, one of Australia’s largest watch and jewellery distributors, in 1984. Maxum stood out from other brands on the market at the time because it offered all-metal products that were 100 metres water resistant. “We really stood for quality and the pieces were influenced by the ocean,” Veil told Inside Retail. “Product started at around the $100 to $200 mark, a price point, which no one did other than some traditional Japanese brands that had the quality and had some reasonable looking product, but they didn’t have the lifestyle. We wanted to bring them both together,” Veil explained. “We utilised lots of different sports stars back then. We had Giaan Rooney and it was a little different in that it wasn’t just going to get a surfer like Billabong and Rip Curl did.” Instead, Maxum worked with figures in what he describes as the action sports area, including windsurfer and four-time Olympian Jessica Crisp, and has always been in tune with the arts and culture, engaging actor Daniel MacPherson and musician Phil Ceberano. “We’ve always had roots in music and have gone back to that more now,” he said. A forced halt to business Michael Lawrence, a business consultant at Designa Accessories and long-time friend of Veil, told Inside Retail, “At the height of Maxum, say, seven or eight years ago, it was turning over maybe $1 million. It was very successful. You would find it in a jeweller or a department store and to a smaller degree online. It had a Nixon-esque quality to it, but it was in the alternative distribution to surf and youth retail.” Sadly, a few years ago, Veil suffered a stroke that landed him in hospital for a prolonged period, and he was forced to step back from the business. “Only recently after two years of not being active with development and being hands-on with the brand, he’s now in the third year coming back and this is his first collection in basically four years,” Lawrence explained. Since coming back to consult for Maxum, Lawrence has been focussed on growing the brand’s online presence. “Of all the great watch brands around the world, 20 per cent of their business has been done online,” he said, noting that this holds even for brands selling $10,000 watches. “To give consumers safety, validation, continuity of your ad campaigns and your voice, you need to have a rocking website, so when shoppers go there, they may not buy it online, but they’ll go to another channel and make a purchase,” said Lawrence. “If you want Maxum to be a global brand, we have to create the hype with the right ambassadors, the right voice and the right website,” said Lawrence. Relaunching the e-commerce offering The Maxum website has had a major overhaul in the past three months and after years of not having a DTC offering, shoppers can now purchase Maxum timepieces online through the brand’s e-commerce site. Veil noted that the thinking around DTC and wholesale has changed significantly since Maxum first launched. “We had direct-to-consumer for the first three or four years, and then we wanted to approach a retailer that didn’t particularly like that, so we pulled back from that and haven’t been online selling for a long time,” he said. A remodelled Maxum website with an optimised shopping experience and digital capabilities went live in mid-October 2023, and Veil confirmed that Maxum still has a “very good relationship” with the retail partner. Collaborations to drive awareness As part of its efforts to create hype around the brand, Maxum is collaborating with Australian surf rock band Hockey Dad. Veil, a self-proclaimed, die-hard Hockey Dad fan, said, “Collaborating with them on this project is a dream come true. The energy and passion they bring to their music align perfectly with the ethos of Maxum.” Originally from Wollongong and now based out of Hong Kong, Hockey Dad has been touring internationally for 14 years now and spends close to 50 per-cent of their time on the road, regularly selling out American tours. The band frequently tours regional Australia and held the number one rotational song on Triple J in December 2023. When asked if they wanted to collaborate with Maxum, the unanimous response from the band was, “Let’s do it.” The collection is yet to launch, but Veil and Lawrence are confident it will have a positive impact on the business. “We talk about hiding the broccoli, which is, let’s just make it about having fun and let people join dotted lines as to what we’re doing from a business perspective,” said Lawrence. What’s next for Maxum Plans to create future capsules are underway with more well-aligned ambassadors in the works. As far as how the team will approach future collaborations, Veil said, “It’s going to happen organically, which will be even more exciting, because it’s not an approach from a manager, which is how we had to do this last time. It’s exciting, there are lots of opportunities that we might even have to say no to, simply because we’re exposed in that market. It’s the best way to do it.” Over the next three years, the brand will be focused on further building its reputation as a watch brand, however, there are plans to take the same ethos and partnerships into complementary categories, such as eyewear.