Let's Go to the Videotape

May 1998


Let's Go to the Videotape

Underwood's video catalog is about image-building, not just increased sales

'Lights, camera, action" is the war cry sounded each year in the second-floor production studio at Underwood's Jewelers in Fayetteville, AR. For seven years, the store has shot its own holiday video catalog, which is sent to customers all over the country. President William Underwood swears it's the most effective marketing weapon and image enhancer he's ever used. Since Underwood started making the 30-minute tapes, the distribution list has grown from 900 consumers to 6,000. The videos feature scores of pieces (the 1997 version spotlighted a record 106 items), including such carriage-trade lovelies as jumbo tanzanite and diamond enhancers and gem-encrusted Rolexes. Many of the pieces are one-of-a-kind.

Underwood commissioned a study showing 75% of people who receive the tape view it, and half of those show it to at least one other person. Customers regard the tape as a status symbol, Underwood says. They show it to friends because they're proud to be on the mailing list.

Furthermore, 12% of the recipients make a purchase from the video and 32% buy something from Underwood's within six months of seeing it.

But the video does much more than move product, Underwood says. It helps the store establish its name among consumers as a synonym for blue-chip goods and impeccable service. Underwood's mission, he says, "is kind of like what Tiffany did - build the store name as a brand."

To that end, the video includes footage of Underwood traveling the world to find the best gems and jewelry. Viewers see footage of him in a South African diamond mine and examining goods at a De Beers cutting factory in Johannesburg. They see him at a platinum refining plant in South Africa and hear about his trips to Italy for gold jewelry and to Amsterdam for diamonds.

Back in Fayetteville, the video shows the store's craftspeople designing and making custom pieces, as well as its customers testifying to the superiority of the store's merchandise and service.

All of it is designed to promote the Underwood name, not someone else's. In the store's most recent video, the only other names mentioned are Fabergé and Rolex.

It also has a segment on diamond quality that takes the branding concept further than previous videos did. Underwood and his son, Craig, both certified gemologist appraisers, are shown grading diamonds in the store's gem lab. As they do so, the elder Underwood explains that "Underwood-certified" diamonds are better than most others because the store is so strict when evaluating cut, color and clarity. Of all the diamonds shown to them by suppliers, the video says "less than 5% are fine enough to bear the Underwood name." Bill Underwood likes the diamond segment so much he plans to produce a spin-off - an in-store giveaway brochure.

The video campaign began when Craig Underwood proposed it as a way to get more marketing mileage out of the $100,000 worth of cameras and video editing equipment the company bought to produce its own TV commercials. Without that "running start," Bill Underwood notes, the project would have cost a whole lot more. In his market, a video production company would charge about $300 per hour, he estimates, a total of perhaps $85,000 for a 30-minute tape. As it is, though, he pays just $5 per piece for tape and postage - no more than a high-quality print catalog might cost.

Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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