Follow Up: Good. vs. Goods, The Other Guy’s Perspective

Well, this is convenient. Hard on the heels of my recent editorial on the current state of marketing in the jewelry industry, a features writer over at Racked (a fashion/lifestyle headline-style site) took on the issue from Signet Jewelers’ perspective — you know, the largest monopoly conglomerate covering such household names as Kay, Zales, and Jared.

The article is worth a read, especially if such figures as “$5.7 billion in annual sales” and “3600 stores” pique your interest. But free advertising and product placement aside, what does Signet try to say about their products and their massive share of the industry? They’re all about the (straight, middle class) man.

Women react to their marketing — all 10+ channels of it — with opinions ranging from “cheesy” and “gimmicky” all the way to feeling downright offended by the way the ads portray women and their relationships with men. The fairytale gifting scenarios and mass-appeal life event celebrations ring hollow for most, as is clearly removes any sense of responsibility on the part of the gifter to make an effort and understand a woman’s unique style. The emphasis is all on a come-hither ease of use, rather than any real meaning, romance, or sentiment.

The idea is to make the experience so comfortable, so ridiculously easy for the (straight, middle class) male shopper that he loses all ability to reason and simply buys what he sees the girl on the TV screen loving and crying about, with no consideration for his (ahem, or her) giftee’s desires and needs.

And this is how those poorly-chosen gifts end up here with us. They need broken delicate chains replaced with something sturdier to stand up to a tugging toddler. A watch strap that actually fits him. Three diamonds replaced in the micropave shank because she’s a hairdresser and they keep falling out. A setting lowered or swapped because the latex gloves she wears to the hospital every day are getting shredded by the prongs.

I appreciate the need for mass-market appeal, as I mentioned in my earlier post, because I believe it helps romance the whole idea of jewelry and not just that particular piece from that particular store. But this… is not what I mean. Offending an entire gender with patronization and general lack of nuance is not helpful. Convincing men to enter a store at holiday time and stand in line, zombie-like, to receive this year’s version of last year’s hit, is not the kind of experience this industry stands for.

My soapbox is starting to bend under the weight of my heavy disdain for these tactics, so I’ll leave you with this thought (from the article) for now: “Every time I see [one of their ads] on TV, I want to throw something at the screen… [t]hey are infuriating because they are an insult to my intelligence and emotions! I am not that easy to buy and gift-giving just isn’t that magical.”

Following Up: Girls in the World

A few weeks ago, I wrote my own response to the current hot-button issues surrounding the ridiculously poor representation of women in my industry. And then I let it go.

Oh, not that I decided to suddenly ignore the problem, or cease to care that my own gender can’t seem to shatter the glass ceiling of business leadership despite decades of policy and social reform. I simply decided to let my feelings simmer, and step away from the rapidly-overheating kitchen argument that the internet can often turn into a firestorm.

But thanks to a deeply-felt and insightful weekly meeting by our (Millennial AND female) owner and a commentary article by JCK Editor-In-Chief Victoria Gomelsky, I decided to briefly revisit the topic that had caused a “mild sensation,” as Gomelsky understated.

It seems that she shares many of my own sentiments, particularly regarding the assignment of blame. As she rightly points out, top-whatever lists are not scientific rankings, but rather a general gathering of people across as industry who wield certain types of power: influence, money, authority, etc. It is blindingly obvious to me that more women would make the list if there were more women out wielding that kind of power, which brings about the inevitable sad conclusion that we simply don’t have it yet. Emphasis on yet.

It’s easy for me to sit here and discuss the members of my gender in the second person — we don’t have it, we need to work hard to get to the top, we need to lead, etc. — but sometimes I fill in that nominative with a silent they instead. In other words, I fall into the exact same trap that many women do, which is to count myself out of an elite group of powerful individuals because I’m not already one of them. Sure, I pay lip service to having “career goals” and “leadership aspiration” but what have I done lately to put my money where my big, hopeful mouth is?

In truth, I haven’t done enough. I wake up and force myself to repeat overused empowerment phrases and pithy mantras, but we all know that if wishes were diamonds, we wouldn’t bother to sell them because the market would be saturated. (Isn’t that how the saying goes?)

Well, forget it. I’m not going to sit back and watch other women become powerful while I sit and watch. I’m going to cheer them on while I run beside them, straight up the seemingly-endless staircase, winding our way to the very top. Together. And I’m not going to just continue to say things like that in an online blog that almost nobody reads. Sooner or later, I’m going to prove it to myself and everyone else. How’s that for empowerment?

I invite your thoughts about this whole subject, because I agree with something else important from Gomelsky’s article: only through honest discussion can these issues come to light, and perhaps, find a path to solution.

P.S. Picture is of an actual fortune cookie I received just after I found out I’d be going to my first show. True story.