There was once a great "Saturday Night Live" spoof
of a television commercial in which two people discuss the merits
of the made up product with the brand name "Shimmer."
The first actor argues "Shimmer is a floor wax!" The
second counters "No, Shimmer is a dessert topping!"
Finally, they agree Shimmer is a floor wax and a dessert topping,
to the general amusement of all.
For some reason, the arguments I heard about branding at this
summer's Gemological Institute of America International Gemological
Symposium brought this commercial to mind. During a War Room
discussion on branding and in the seminar "Original and
Trendsetting Jewelry Design," debate centered on whether
to promote all jewelry in branded lines or to preserve name branded
promotion for collections that truly represent the point of view
of an individual artist.
Designer Robert Lee Morris argued persuasively that if all
generic jewelry becomes "branded," regardless of maker
or originality, sophisticated consumers will feel manipulated
and reject branded goods as so much "generic luxury pap,"
he said. As the "SNL" commercial pointed out, when
a brand is fuzzy and indistinct, it no longer matters what the
product does. Floor wax or dessert topping who cares?
Morris said brands should be preserved for jewelry that is
truly more rare and special. "A consumer should feel she
is wearing the artist behind the piece," he said. "It
should be an intimate and personal experience." A true brand
has a unique character of deep dimension supported by a history
of stories and romance and a reputation for quality. "Quality
and reputation cannot be created by a P.R. agency it has
to be earned," he said.
The dilution of branded goods into generic drivel may drive
luxury customers further toward unique jewelry, Morris said.
This is good news for jewelers who promote individual designer
artists with limited lines or their own store's custom made
David Yurman showed how the balance between an individual
artist and his brand can be achieved. Yurman began as a sculptor,
but made the leap from artist to designer to designer name
to designer luxury brand. Though his name is now a brand, Yurman
pointed out, he is a person too. His ubiquitous designs haven't
obscured that he is still an individual who designed the motifs
worn so widely now. If you consider Morris' definition of a bona
fide brand, Yurman qualifies.
Yurman also pointed to a consumer buying tendency that is
the best argument I've heard yet for carrying some brands for
those kinds of customers. "People want to belong to a club,"
he said. Yurman believes today's unprecedented number of newly
affluent consumers need a brand to guide them to quality products.
They also depend on brands to convey to others who they are and
make a definitive statement about their tastes.
What Yurman observed can be applied just as easily to a retail
jeweler's brand name. In your own marketplaces, your store name
can convey just as much of a belong to the club
cachet as wearing David Yurman. For the countless number of jewelers
who don't carry the most sought after brands, burnishing
your own image can be just as powerful.
by Peggy Jo Donahue
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Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.