Thank you, marketing geniuses and PR gurus. Thank you for your creative, imaginative, catchy, pithy, poignant, colorful, and popular efforts in finding a way to sell stuff to people. You are the driving force behind the way business operates today, and the sidecar companion to consumer trends. I can’t over-state how much I appreciate the difficult tasks you’re given, and how beautifully — and often, brilliantly — you carry them out.
In receiving the credit, you are doomed to hold equal share of the blame. Consumer behavior is your wheelhouse, and it’s on your head I squarely place the blame.
In your infinite branding wisdom, you have decided which names mean quality, and which do not. You place one style above another, often at the direction of said brand, without looking at the bigger picture. You push and push for something a client asked for, without ever considering what, exactly, you’re pushing on the unsuspecting consumer.
We, the retailers, are left to deal with your mess. We spend as much time in the day correcting misconceptions and re-educating the buyers as we do actually selling our own product. We have to explain, and present, and demonstrate, and explain again why a sterling silver chain from Big Name Company is totally undifferentiated from the one I have in stock. And why a name on the box means status to you and very little to me. Why our pearls are, in fact, nicer than the ones from the guy’s name you can’t pronounce, and why that is.
Untangling your mess has become a part of my daily routine. While I consider an educated buyer a better buyer, the learning curve can be steep — and that’s only with the willing ones, those who want to get to know their purchases. The rest leave me stuck between an honesty rock and moral hard place, where I won’t bad-mouth another store but refuse to perpetuate one of their many myths, truth-stretches, or occasional outright lies. Consumers’ heads are spinning, and the consequences are lower confidence and fewer purchases.
I think it’s time for advertisers to reverse course and focus on selling what I call, simply, the good. Sell beauty, romance, hopes & dreams, a lifestyle, a destination. Sell my customers on individuality, unique style, stunning color, attainable quality, and above all, sell them value. In doing so, your rising tide will lift all boats, allowing the entire industry to reclaim its previous place as worthy of trust and esteem. The fashion world is leading the way for individualism, constantly making room for personal expression and edging away from the concept of “out vs. in” culture. Jewelry is a branch of the fashion tree — a strong one, at that — and should be following suit.
We can’t afford to encourage the widening of the luxury/disposable gap, and that’s what your offhandedly thoughtless, us-versus-them advertising copy gets us. Allow consumers to embrace an idea, not just ideology, and they will return the courtesy by trading hard-earned dollars for dream fulfillment. A diamond was once forever, and should be again.
It’s time for an update, marketing mavens. Jewelry at all levels should sell because it is desired and loved, a symbol once more of occasions, commitments, successes, and my personal favorite… just because.