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October 1999

Editorial

Brand View

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 products.

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

e– mail pjdonahue@professionaljeweler.com



Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.



 

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