Love & Diamonds

We publish courtesy of: National Jeweler

Author: Michelle Graff

The American consumer who shows up at your jewelry counter will look a little different this holiday season.

With values changed by the recession—and perhaps permanently so, as some experts predict—shoppers will be more focused on family and experiences, so those diamond drop earrings or that tennis bracelet they may buy will create a memorable moment and express love—not serve as a prop to flash in front of friends and neighbors.

Yet, regardless of the emotion behind the purchase, in this economy, the price of a piece of jewelry will surely play some part in the buying process for the vast majority of consumers. But jewelers need not let price dominate the discussion.

The five companies whose sales and marketing techniques are described below have done an outstanding job of subtly reminding their customers that they buy jewelry for one reason alone: It is the ultimate expression of love.

 

 

1. Pay it forward

Bridal couple

Photo Above: Joe and Angela Rotella of Three Bridges, N.J., were the winners of the first “Roman Jewelers Wedding” contest. The couple outdid other finalists with a fundraising plan that yielded more than $33,000 for Special Olympics New Jersey. Photo: Transposure.com

Roman Jewelers, based in New Jersey, was celebrating its 30th year in business by reaching out to both local charities and bridal consumers when it came up with a concept that one marketing expert describes as sheer “genius.”

“The Roman Jewelers Wedding,” now in its second year, is a contest that has 10 couples battling it out for one grand prize: a $100,000 wedding, which is fully paid for by Roman Jewelers and a host of other local wedding vendors that the jeweler recruited to be part of the contest.

The Roman Jewelers bridal competition is not quite like others that the jewelry industry has, of late, tested out. Couples do not go on a scavenger hunt through New Jersey neighborhoods in search of a diamond ring, nor do they coast to victory by having the best “How We Met” story. In order to win, a couple must put their heads together and develop a plan that will help out a local charitable organization.

“We are all about love and romance, and our way to bring the couple’s love and romance together is to give them an opportunity to do something good for charity,” says Sophie Shor, who co-owns Roman Jewelers with husband Roman.

The contest requires already-engaged couples to audition by telling a panel of judges how they met or how the groom-to-be popped the question. No American Idol-like banter takes place at these try-outs, and it is the judges who end up in tears.

“I had a box of tissues with me, and I think I used it all up,” Shor says of this year’s audition.

Based on both the couples’ stories and their ability and willingness to help a charity, the panel selects 10 pairs to vie for the grand prize.

Next, each couple pulls the name of a charity out of a hat, learns about its mission and is charged with creating a “Good Deed Plan,” to raise funds.

Six weeks later, another panel of judges picks the winning couple, based upon the creativity and success of their plan, Shor says. Last year’s winners raised more than $33,000 for Special Olympics New Jersey.

One added bonus of the contest: Thanks to word-of-mouth marketing among the contest’s participants and their friends, there has been a noticeable uptick in the number of young men visiting Roman Jewelers’ Flemington and Bridgewater, N.J., locations to shop for engagement rings and wedding bands.

To many in New Jersey, Roman Jewelers has become synonymous with one very romantic word: wedding.

“Things like ‘come,’ ‘buy,’ ‘price,’ I don’t think that works any longer,” Shor says. “I think you need to find a subtle way of getting people to come into your store.”

Expert’s take: Donna Jolly, founder of Interact Social Media in Los Angeles, says emotional branding is about building a trusted relationship, making customers regard their jeweler in the same way they would their family doctor.

“I can’t help think about how this is going to make these couples think about Roman Jewelers, how they’re building a relationship [with these couples],” she says. “They’re doing some very subtle relationship-building. It’s very genius.”

Jolly advises jewelers crafting their own unique events to take advantage of all the free publicity they can get. Contact the local newspaper, television and radio stations to see if they’ll pick up the story. And don’t forget social media: Put the contest details and photos on Facebook and provide updates on the store’s Twitter account.

“If there’s a contest going on like this, this is real news,” Jolly says.

 

 

2. Calling all Romeos

Love Story

Photo Above: When it revamped its Love-Story Diamonds program in 2000, buying group Leading Jewelers Guild decided to include a mini-book of love stories with the purchase of each diamond engagement ring.

The Leading Jewelers Guild’s (LJG) trademarked, branded Love-Story Diamonds have been around since 1958, but the mission of the collection of engagement rings and other diamond pieces remains the same.

“We try to take the conversation away from the Four Cs and talk about why the guy is in the store,” says LJG Executive Director James “Jimmy” West.

The Love-Story line is comprised of five collections, each of which is connected in both design and spirit to one of five iconic couples who are the stuff of romantic legends: Romeo and Juliet, the Duke of Picardy and Claire de Lune, Orpheus and Eurydice, Tristan and Isolde, and Antony and Cleopatra.

Love-Story engagement ring purchasers receive a tiny book containing condensed versions of all five love stories along with a leather-bound book housing a certificate of authenticity for the stone and a note from the hopeful groom to his beloved.

West says customers can either personalize an already-drafted note or pen their own. “It forms the basis of creating a customer for life,” West says. “Obviously the people on the store level have to do their part … but we’ve given them all the tools to do it.”

One retailer who has enthusiastically embraced those tools is Julie Sather-Browne of Sather’s Leading Jewelers in Fort Collins, Colo., the No. 1 retailer in Love-Story units sold per store.

“The whole concept is brilliant,” she says. “We focus on the fact that love has been a driving force since Romeo and Juliet, since all these great love stories.”

The collection’s tagline also speaks volumes to customers, serving as a simple, eight-word reminder of why they’re buying an engagement ring: “For the one great love of your life.”

“That says it all,” Sather-Browne says. “What would you do? Don’t you want it to be romantic? [Or] do you want to open the box from FedEx and say, ‘Here, marry me?’ You don’t.”

She says her success with Love-Story and other bridal brands begins with her staff, who are trained to insist that diamonds should not be treated as a commodity and who, therefore, do not flinch when customers whip out Internet printouts of diamonds.

Instead, they listen to customers’ style and pricing preferences and walk them through the brands best suited to their needs, whether that means Hearts on Fire, Tacori or one of the five collections of Love-Story diamonds.

The stance at Sather’s: If customers really liked what they saw on the Internet, they wouldn’t be at the counter.

“We don’t really allow the conversation to go there,” Sather-Browne says. “If people felt that what they found on the Internet was so great, they wouldn’t be standing in front of you. They want a relationship.”

Expert’s take: “There’s such a history and romance with diamonds,” Jolly says. “This is a very clever idea that they came up with. It gives the salesperson an opportunity to have a conversation with [the customer]. They get to have a little more interaction than just talking cold, hard facts.”

The downside to this program: Love-Story Diamonds are only available to LJG members, so it’s not something every retailer can embrace.

Jolly, however, says that any time a retailer can connect their brand to a theme that elicits emotion, it will strike a chord with consumers. She recommends that retailers peruse advertisements from diamond suppliers in industry trade publications and consumer magazines and look for spots that appeal to their own romantic sensibilities and provoke a response. Search for themes that are universally understood, such as passion and enduring love.

“If it appeals to you, it may well appeal to your customers, too,” Jolly says.

 

 

3. Taking a slogan digital

Helzberg logo

Photo Above: Helzberg Diamonds’ “I Am Loved” buttons have been a staple at the store since 1967. Today, the retailer has brought the slogan and the buttons into the 21st century by using the phrase on Twitter.

Anyone who has entered a Helzberg Diamonds store over the last four decades probably walked out with at least one item and didn’t pay a thing for it. Talk about turning the conversation away from price.

Since 1967, Helzberg has been known for handing out its iconic “I Am Loved” pins in store, a trend started by third-generation company President Barnett Helzberg Jr. As Helzberg lore goes, he hatched the tagline after his then-girlfriend thrilled him by saying “yes” when he popped the question, causing him to have an emotional epiphany: he was loved. It was a perfect message to introduce at a jewelry store.

Forty years later, “I Am Loved” is no longer limited to being an in-store novelty. The slogan has found its way onto one very hip medium: Twitter.

Todd Chandler, Helzberg’s divisional vice president of learning and performance, says when the chain was looking for a fun way to engage customers online, the team saw no need to stray from this longtime catchphrase. The store’s Twitter page picture is an “I Am Loved” button, which encourages people to type “#iamloved” in Tweets about how they are loved.

Twitter hash tags are similar to other Web tags in that they help to add tweets to a category, gathering them all into the same place. By clicking on any “#iamloved” Helzberg can see other hash-tagged tweets that have used the phrase, whether they’re referencing Helzberg or something else.

Chandler says if the tweet is appropriate, Helzberg will re-tweet it, sometimes adding a personal message for that user. It’s hard to say if the practice has earned the retailer more customers, but with social media, it’s not all about making sales.

“We just think it’s a fun and engaging thing to do and we know any noise you make out there can be helpful,” he says.

Expert’s take: “It not only builds emotional equity but it’s proprietary,” Bill Daddi, president of Daddi Brand Communications, says of the campaign. “It’s unique to Helzberg.”

Another strong aspect of the effort is the integrity and sincerity of the story behind “I Am Loved,” which Helzberg is certain to share with customers. “There’s something very genuine about the back-story, which they’ve made an effort to communicate,” he says.

So every retailer with a long-standing, successful tagline should take it to Twitter, right? Not so fast, Daddi says.

“Sure, jewelers should take a look at that, if that works for them in their market and with their customers,” he says.

Daddi, however, cautions against applying money and resources in a blanket manner to a campaign just because it worked for another company. If a retailer starts a Twitter campaign only to find its ability to follow through is lacking, it could damage the store brand.

“Before you undertake something like this, you really have to have a good analysis of what your resources are,” he says.

 

 

4. Open Hearts do not miss a beat

Open Hearts

Photo Above: The story behind Sterling Jewelers’ “Open Hearts by Jane Seymour” collection was so compelling that is spawned a story-sharing Web site, KeepAnOpenHeart.com, and an Open Hearts Facebook page for Seymour. This Open Hearts pendant featuring 1 carat total weight of diamonds retails for $1,449.

It would be difficult to get into a discussion about equating jewelry with love without mentioning what one expert cites as the industry’s most emotional endeavors of all time: Sterling Jewelers’ “Open Hearts by Jane Seymour” collection, available at Kay Jewelers stores nationwide.

Sterling spokesman David Bouffard says the collection got its start in the fall of 2007 when Chief Executive Officer Mark Light ran into actress and artist Jane Seymour at an event and noticed she was wearing a necklace with a very unique design. Seymour explained that the open-heart motif was inspired by a piece of now-famous advice her mother used to give: Always keep your heart open, because that’s the only way to give and receive love.

Light was immediately sold.

“That was the beginning of the Open Hearts message: If your heart is open, love will always find its way in,” Bouffard says. “There were these underpinnings to the message that we thought would resonate with consumers.”

The Sterling team’s instincts were right. The Open Hearts collection debuted at Kay in holiday 2008 and has been on a well-documented roll ever since.

“We believe it’s been the most successful program not just for the company but perhaps the industry in terms of customer response to that message,” Bouffard says.

Expert’s take: “It’s probably the best example of [equating jewelry with love] that I’ve ever seen,” says Gemological Institute of America (GIA) Senior Industry Analyst Russell Shor. “It is brilliant.”

One reason: Seymour is very relatable in the widely broadcast television commercials for Open Hearts, which debuted alongside the collection in late 2008, he says.

“She comes off as very natural and sincere and reaches you,” Shor says. “Every time that commercial came on, I liked watching it. Those inspirational stories, there’s a huge market for them.”

Independents looking to inspire their customers are unlikely to snag a celebrity like Seymour to lend their artistic talents and name to a line of jewelry. What they can do, though, is figure out how to touch customers in their market, Shor says.

“It costs money to get a Jane Seymour but you can get people just talking about their lives,” he says. “Jane Seymour talks about her life and mentions Open Hearts but she’s not saying ‘Go to the store and buy this.’ If [retailers] have an imagination, they can try to put these things on a local level.”

 

 

5. Unforgettable

Do you remember your first school dance, your first date or your first kiss? Hot Diamonds hopes so. This fall, the London-based diamond jewelry brand aims to jog customers’ memories—and hopefully pry open their pocketbooks—via its new marketing campaign, “Do You Remember the First Time?”

The edgy advertising venture launched worldwide, offering Hot Diamonds-carrying retailers co-op advertising materials and a brilliant way to suggest additional occasions for giving a piece of diamond jewelry from Hot Diamonds, such as first dates, kisses and the first time someone said, “I love you.”

Hot Diamonds’ Peter Bur Andersen, who created the campaign via his Copenhagen, Denmark-based marketing agency, Bur Retail Intelligence, says all the images used in the campaign are designed to elicit emotions as people recall past experiences.

To wit: one ad shows an attractive young man securing a sterling silver bracelet around the wrist of his equally attractive girlfriend in a bucolic setting. Viewers get the sense that they are getting an intimate peek as a “first” takes place between this lovely young couple—presumably, the first exchange of a gift of jewelry–and it propels their minds back in time.

“All the first times we have in our life, we should celebrate them,” Andersen says. “You want to create emotion around it.”

Expert’s take: Daddi says the Hot Diamonds campaign motivates consumers to focus on the emotional value of their purchase as well as the emotional significance jewelry can play in one’s life.

“That’s a good thing. We want the consumer to reflect upon their lives,” he says.

The challenge to jewelers is to figure out how to participate in the campaign beyond just hanging up co-op signage in their store. They need to “make it come alive, make it tangible,” Daddi says.

 

Elements one through four of this story first appeared in the September 2010 print issue of National Jeweler. The fifth element, “Unforgettable,” is an online-only addition to the story.


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