Retailers Don't Have to Be Sheep


July 1998


Retailers Don't Have to Be Sheep

We are going brand crazy in this country. It's now hit the diamond world, with ads for branded "ideal" cuts and De Beers' talk of branding its own. Yet some of the brightest public relations and advertising professionals in America are beginning to wonder in print whether branding of specific products is dead.

Why? Because if everyone does it, where's the exclusivity? While walking down a street in Philadelphia recently, I passed a jewelry store with a 70%-off promotion, and then I noticed another sign touting the store's branded diamond cut (it wasn't any of the brands currently advertising to our trade).

This is not to say selling good diamond cuts (whether you call them "ideal" or some other name) is a bad thing. In fact, the sexy appeal of great cut (which good jewelers have always understood) is a marvelous way to individualize diamonds and help consumers choose a diamond that's a good value and of high quality.

Neither are name brands a bad thing if approached within the context of your store's brand. I just find myself wondering whether branded diamonds are going to retain their pizzazz if every independent jeweler, jewelry chain and discounter has one. You'll begin to hear customers say things like, "Yeah, yeah, everybody's got their diamond brands – what else can you tell me?"

What else, indeed. For the independent jeweler, at least, there's an opportunity to establish that the only brand a consumer should trust is the jeweler himself or herself. Whether you sell loose diamonds, platinum, watches or silver, your store should be "the only cause I'm interested in," to paraphrase Bogie in Casablanca. The brands you do carry should be secondary to the message that you are the consumer's guiding light and can wade through the mind-boggling array of advertised products to offer the best value and highest quality.

I'm reminded of two of my favorite cartoons. One is a picture of a herd of sheep, with one sheep in the middle standing up on its hind legs yelling, "Wait a minute! Wait a minute! We don't have to be just sheep!" The second shows a family of lemmings driving in their car on vacation, with the daddy lemming shouting, "So help me, if you kids don't shut up, I'm going to drive this car right off a cliff!!"

Sheep and lemmings, they both travel in packs and sometimes go in problematic directions. Jewelers don't have to, if they build an image and nurture relationships in their communities. Then no matter what brand craze surfaces, that bond between jeweler and customer will outlast them all.

– by Peggy Jo Donahue

Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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