May 30, 2024

Reinventing Watermark

It’s back – industry stalwart Watermark is rebranding with big ambitions. Managing Partner Kenny Harmel chats about the rebrand and future plans...

Q: For those who don’t know, can you give us a brief history of Watermark?

Kenny Harmel, Managing Partner, Watermark

Kenny: Watermark is one of the oldest aviation product suppliers in the world. We have been around since 1980 and currently do work or have worked, in some capacity, with every airline in the world.

We’re one of the very few suppliers that can design, source and manufacture pretty much any product that a passenger can interact with. So if you were to take an aircraft and turn it upside down, we’re able to design and supply anything that falls out – textile products, meal service items like porcelain, glassware, stainless steel, and, of course, amenity kits.

That is what Watermark has been associated with – and famous for – for over 40 years.

Watermark is associated with many iconic products onboard, including the Anya Hindmarch amenity kit which is still recognised as one of the most cherished and celebrated amenity kits of all time.

Ian Linaker and I started Galileo Products in 2012. Galileo was a smaller company but in a similar space. Our primary focus was around creating curated experiences for passengers, as well as trying to drive the industry forward in terms of sustainability.

Galileo Watermark 

The opportunity arose in 2016 to acquire Watermark, and Galileo Watermark was born.  The merger brought about a range of opportunities but what was most important to us was merging with a brand that had the same values as us. Watermark was not only well established in the industry but had also been associated with multiple innovations over the years.  

Pushing boundaries and really making a difference is what drives us, and together we were well equipped to become a full-service supplier to any airline. 

We decided during COVID it was time to revert to Watermark. Galileo had huge sentimental value for Ian and I, but ultimately Watermark has a long-standing heritage and recognition in the industry.  It felt right to make Watermark front and centre again, but with a new identity. 

Watermark has unveiled its new branding

Q: Was it hard for you to say goodbye to Galileo?

Kenny: What was more important is what we created and became synonymous with over that time. Both Galileo’s and Watermark’s core beliefs and values aligned, which made the merger seamless.  Now that these values shine through, we thought we’d revert back to the name that people were most familiar with. 

The brand was grounded in simplicity, innovation and in technology, and really rooted in sustainability. Sustainability touches everything, not just material, but financial sustainability. That was the foundation for the brand.

Galileo Watermark produced art-themed amenity kits for Turkish Airlines in 2019

Q: You’ve been a bit quiet these past few years! What have you been up to since the pandemic hit?

Kenny: COVID gave us an opportunity to take a step back and think: “What is going to change over the next five to 10 years?” It allowed us to rethink how we were operating as a business, how the industry may change and how we may be able to service our partners better post pandemic. 

We wanted to use the downtime productively to think long and hard about our airline partners’ key problems; to predict how they may change or intensify after COVID, and then map out how we may be able to provide solutions and lend support going forwards.

We see being sustainable as an obligation rather than a choice.

Q: Can you tell us a bit more about your sustainable practices?

We see being sustainable as an obligation rather than a choice. Sustainability should lead everything you do.  

Wherever possible, airlines are seeking to make the change to more sustainable materials. It is ultimately, however, still driven by cost, so it’s up to us to find that balance.  

We’ve long been associated with sustainable industry firsts. Watermark launched the first RPET products onboard an airline; the first bamboo and Tencel products to fly; we launched the lightest and purest glassware in the world and also developed a supply chain for cosmetic packaging made from ocean-recycled plastic. We are constantly pushing to drive sustainable innovation and thinking, but at the same time are realistic to the fact that change happens gradually, we can’t boil the ocean all at once. 

To be truly sustainable requires a completely different approach and thought process. It goes beyond just material choice but involves looking at the entire journey of the product; from the material provenance, to how they are manufactured, to how the product is packed, shipped and, ultimately, its end of its life. 

A common misconception is in order to make a product more sustainable it must come from a recycled material or must be recyclable. This will of course make a positive impact, however a product made from virgin material that is used for 10 years will have a much greater positive environmental impact than a product made from recycled material used just once or twice.  Desirability is such a key cog in sustainable thinking. 

100 year anniversary kits created for Qantas in 2020

Q: What do you hope to achieve through rebranding back to Watermark?

The main goal for the rebrand is to remind people of what Watermark is famous for. We want to be seen as a problem-solving partner. We want to be an extension of the airline. The goal for us is to bring innovation to market and to help our airline partners solve key problems whilst achieving their overarching targets and ambitions. 

The industry has certainly come forward a long way. Different challenges present themselves and old ideas no longer fit. We have to evolve with how the industry and airlines are evolving. 

Q: Finally – in your opinion what sets Watermark apart?

Kenny: Firstly it is our approach and our consideration for each opportunity. 

We will never enter into a new project or opportunity with designs in mind. We always listen to the requirements and drivers of our partners and what they’re looking for. Everything is imagined and designed to meet their exact requirements. 

If the desire is something that doesn’t align with our objectives, or what we stand for, we will not participate in the opportunity and will always make that very clear from the outset. 

Lastly, we feel our culture also differentiates us. We have a team of independent thinkers and collaborators that challenge the status quo and are always eager to support and lend ideas.  It is an incredibly constructive and imaginative environment and one we feel benefits our partners immensely.